Sunday, 2 December 2007

Bees are not 'products.'

I was listening to the radio this morning, to CBC's "The Sunday Edition" with Michael Enright. Apart from playing a bit too much jazz music for my taste, I quite like this program and the host. Mr. Enright seems to be a bright and open-minded sort of guy, who asks more than just the standard, basic questions of his various guests, really getting to the heart of the matter on a number of complex topics.

I started listening to the program halfway through one of his interviews this morning, while he was speaking with guest Dr. Mark Winston, a professor of biology at BC's Simon Fraser University. Dr. Winston also used to be a beekeeper, with an apiary consisting of 200 bee colonies. The professor and the host got to talking about colony collapse disorder, and how beekeepers sometimes go to check their colonies and find 90% of the bees are just gone. Dr. Winston says he has seen this coming for decades, due to changes in the way beekeeping has been conducted. In short, using insecticides and other chemicals to kill the mites and other things harming the bees, rather than recognizing and addressing the bigger reasons the bees were becoming susceptible to such pests (i.e., the mono-culture of Agribusiness, genetically modified mega-crops, etc.) Essentially, bees have had virtually nothing other than genetically modified canola pollen on which to conduct their bee activities.

Michael Enright then asked, (and I'm paraphrasing here because I can't remember it verbatim), "Why do humans take these shortsighted approaches when we have a problem with a product?"

To me the answer is in the question itself. Bees are not "products." Just as fish and trees are not mere "stocks" to be "harvested." Oil and water are not just "reserves" in storage for human extraction whenever we want. Humans take shortsighted action because, by and large, we don't see that we are NOT separate from the bees, the fish, the trees, the water, the oil. We are all part of the wholeness, the oneness of things.

I believe that when a person comes to know this in their heart and bones and mind, it becomes impossible to see some things/beings as "products" and other beings as the rightful consumers/exploiters of that "product." Because it would mean that you are exploiting and hurting yourself, literally and directly, not just metaphorically or philosophically.

Think about it for a minute: we're all made of the same "stuff." Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, salts and minerals. All things are made of these basic elements and their compounds. Why is a carbon atom worth more in me than in a dog or a fish or a tree or some oil?

It's not.

Humanity's short-sightedness transforms into global, long-term vision when we see ourselves as part of this interconnected oneness. Humans used to know this in their hearts, minds and bones. We need to know it that way again.

Back on the radio, Professor Watson replied to Mr. Enright's question by saying that humans need to become more aware of the cumulative effects of their short-sighted actions. The host concurred, saying that the Buddhist concept of mindfulness would be another way of looking at it. I submit that an understanding of the Taoist concept of the interconnectedness of all things would preclude having to even ask that question.
The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things
Thus, constantly without desire, one observes its essence
Constantly with desire, one observes its manifestations
These two emerge together but differ in name
The unity is said to be the mystery
Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders

Chapter 1, Tao Te Ching as translated by Derek Lin
Picture courtesy this website


daharja said...

What a wonderful post.

I don't understand why so many humans seem to think of themselves as separate from the rest of life either. It's shortsighted, and so, so wrong. Not only that, I would find it depressing to not be connected in a complete and meaningful way to the rest of the planet.

Bee colony collapse scares me. Because it is so much an example of what is wrong with how we relate to the planet and to other species. There is so little time left to us to change our ways, and I fear for myself and for our children that we won't.

Theresa said...

Thank you daharja. It was one of those jarring things that happens to me more and more, like the Christmas tree in the square where they cut down all the trees.

I think I'm only just beginning to understand what it's like to be connected to the planet/creation/universe in a complete and meaningful way. I do hope we as a species can regain this connection soon. I'm trying not to let the fear crowd out the hope, but it's not easy.

daharja said...

There is hope everywhere - all we have to do is have the courage to see it.

Example: I'm not Christian, but I had hope when I saw this:

Be strong. Have hope. We need people like you to have hope, to inspire everyone else.

Theresa said...


Thanks for that, daharja.

Indeed, there is much to be hopeful about. I was outside today walking in the snow, stacking wood and feeding the birds -- I can't help but feel hopeful when I'm in direct contact with nature that way.

daharja said...

I know.

Whenever I feel depressed, I go out and do some gardening.

The problem with our garden is it is soooo small! I'm just aching to start our food forest, in our next home. Lots of work to keep me busy and happy - I'm always happiest when I'm busiest.

We're currently debating whether or not to have electric lights in our next house:-)

Theresa said...

Ah, very interesting! I have recently bought one of those hand-crank lanterns from Freeplay, and I've been using it to read instead of turning on the regular lights. What would you do instead of electric lights?

daharja said...

Go back to the old - lamps and candles. But we're going to be trialling non-se of electric lights in our current home to get used to it and see what happens/how we cope. Should be interesting. We'll be trialling a month first, to see how we go.