Are We Destined for the Endangered Species list?

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Bee Pictures, Images and Photos

This morning’s headlines included a feature story by ABC News, onimously entitled, “Honeybees Dying: Scientists Wonder Why, and Worry About Food Supply.”

Albert Einstein was once quoted as warning, in reference to the importance of honeybees…

“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination … no more men!”

There are a number of sites on the web disputing the validity of this quotation, however, whatever the truth of the matter, the precipitous decline of our honeybee populations is at best cause for grave concern.

An online article, entitled, “List of crop plants pollinated by bees” can be read here.  Take a look down the extensive list, particularly noting those plants for which the pollinator impact is great or essential.  Then imagine going to your local supermarket, food co-op, or farmer’s market, only to discover that none of these items are available and will not be, at least for the foreseeable future.    

A series entitled, “Top 25 Things Vanishing From America II” is quite fascinating and can be reviewed here. The article underscores many aspects of our lives that have already disappeared, or are destined to in the near future. Many of the inventions that defined our earlier lives will seem as quaint to the next generation as spinning wheels, corsets and buggy whips were to us. This article from July, 2008, highlights the potentially dire consequences of a continuing die off of the world’s bee populations…

Perhaps nothing on our list of disappearing America is so dire; plummeting so enormously; and so necessary to the survival of our food supply as the honey bee. ‘Colony Collapse Disorder,’ or CCD, has swept beekeepers throughout the U.S. and Europe over the past few years, wiping out 50% to 90% of the colonies of many beekeepers — and along with it, their livelihood.

Why is this occurring?  Ten suspected causes are presented and described here.  It would seem that human activity is directly related to at least nine of the potential causes, and perhaps indirectly to the remaining suspect, “Parasites and pathogens”, particularly given our extremely heavy overuse of antibiotics, fed to livestock in huge quantities, not to treat disease, but for prophylactic purposes.  Many other as yet untested techologies could eventually be added to this list.

Meanwhile, the tabloid news media attempts to treat us as a rodeo clown does an enraged bull, diverting our attention away from the legitimate causes for concern of our day.

It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.  John Philpott Curran (1790)

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  1. The film, “King Corn”, is available on Netflix on an instant view basis and addresses at least one or two of the ten suspected causes of CCD, as described in the preceding essay.  This writer saw it for the first time a couple of evenings ago.  Although I’ve attempted to inform myself about such matters, the film still included a few surprises, along with confirmation of what I already knew.

  2. because we placed the rest of life there to satisfy our appetite…..

  3. …. perfection, I am reminded we are an oasis of pollen here for a reason. And I let some things go deliberately to provide more habitat.

    Really not wanting to see more genetically modified major food crops for a reason, inspite of all the negative pushback by the Monsanto apologists and proponents, they cannot prove that the overall effect of GM is not having a bad effect, either.  

    We have a lot of wing nut Republicans in this area of NorCal who make very flippant remarks all the time about how it doesn’t matter if any one species goes extinct, because it is too expensive to waste tax dollars on things that don’t benefit humans and stifle expansion of suburban sprawl building and increased population growth inspite of a limited amount of water.  I just wish the Dems in office had enough guts to call them out on their desires to commit mass homicide and then suicide for all species, but they are too timid to risk offending certain theologies.    

  4. But no need for food if you have no water. Glacial retreat is just as dire.

    • RUKind on March 26, 2010 at 2:49 am

    I didn’t see a honeybee for over five years minimum from 2000-2005. My pollinator are bumble bees and small wasps and a mix of other insects. Honeybees are rare but I have seen some return. I’m going to try to get an apiarist to do a hive in my back yard this year.

    My backyard this year will be garden and clover for ground cover. If I can get my wife to agree, the front yard will be about half clover. Somebody has to start the change somewhere.

    Big green expanses of lawn are one of the biggest wastes of energy and fertilizer and insecticides on the planet. You can’t even compost the stuff for all the chemicals in it.

  5. United States of America who said, “If you’ve seen one tree

    you’ve seen em all.” It’s hard to comprehend that anybody

    could be so fucking stupid and be elected. But we do it all

    the time. Reagan was the dumbest president in the history of the country until Bush II. Now it appears we don’t even need one. Anyhow, my garden is looking good right now, and my peach tree looks like  gigantic, pink cotton candy. However, I don’t see as many bees as I did a few years back.

  6. At this point, rather than respond to each one individually, I’ll try to respond to several in this comment.

    While bees are not necessary for a number of vegetables and fruits, I’ve found accounts stating that if bees disappeared that 1/3 of the food supply would vanish, not an insignificant amount.  The loss of such a large segment of our present ecodiversity would certainly have an impact on many other plants and animals.  

    A link was included in the essay itself for an article listing the plants that are dependent to varying degrees upon bees and other insects for their survival.  

    The list of those plant species which were pollinated by bees and for which pollination by such means was listed as of great or essential importance was quite lengthy.  Such a list does not include many other species for which the impact is less, however, those areas could be of potential concern as well.

    The following was gleaned from that website, an includes those species for which bees are a major, if not sole, pollinator, and were considered to be of great or essential importance…

    Kiwi, Brazil nut, turnip, canola, watermelon, coriander, cantaloupe, melon, cucumber, squash, pumpkin, gourd, marrow, zucchini, buckwheat, fennel, macadamia, apple, passion fruit, avocado, allspice, apricot, sweet cherry, sour cherry, plum, sloe, almond, peach, nectarine, pear, rosehips, raspberry, blackberry,  blueberry, and vanilla.

    This article from 2008, entitled, “Commercial bees spreading disease to wild pollinating bees” is worthy of consideration, and quite likely, concern as well.

    Nature, when given time, has remarkable regenerative powers, however, many species have not been able to adapt quickly enough and have become extinct.  In fact, we are informed that the polar bear and the tiger (at least in the wild) are both headed for extinction.

    Most scientific accounts list the age of the earth as 4.54 billion years old.  Modern man is thought to have first appeared 200,000 years ago.  By its broadest definition, the Industrial Revolution began about 250 years ago.  The Industrial Revolution ushered in a new era where the actions of humans began to significantly impact the earth on far more than just a local level.  

    If one were to compress the age of the earth into a single day, and that day were to begin at midnight, modern humans would not appear until 11:59:56 P.M.  The Industrial Revolution would not begin until less than 1/2 of 1/100th of a second remained in that twenty-four hour period.  Humankind has only been a factor on the planet earth for a very brief period of time in relation to the earth’s history.  

    Many would be absolutely astounded to learn that our Mother Earth flourished for such a long period of time without us. When we consider that we need Mother Nature, but she doesn’t need us, we have an important opportunity to learn humility.

    Upon hearing about kudzu, I cannot resist an opportunity to comment about it.  I recall witnessing its destructive impact in the Everglades several years ago, and saw considerable evidence of its ability to transform a landscape.  

    In late October, 2007, while visiting in the Asheville, North Carolina area for several days, I was surprised to drive through beautiful forested locations in the surrounding area, only to find these areas inundated with kudzu.  If one were to set up a camera in such an area on an extremely lengthy slow motion time-elapse video, a very frightening visual could be produced, worthy of a B horror flick.

    Joy B., you seem to describe kudzu with what seems like a far greater degree of acceptance than I believe I could.  In fact, if I were engaged in a personal battle with it, I seriously doubt that I could include the word in a sentence without adding at least a couple of four-letter words.  Although I haven’t had to live with it, and as such, perhaps haven’t learned to develop an appreciation for it, from my vantage point, its potential destructive power seemed quite threatening to me.

    The area in which you live is quiet beautiful, Joy B.  I doubt that I’ll ever forget the drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway from Boone to Asheville, which included a stop at the Moses B. Cone Memorial site, which, if memory serves correctly, is near Blowing Rock.  

    The cloud cover was low enough that it was not possible to see the upper portions of Mt. Mitchell, which is the highest point east of Harney Peak in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  As such, it would seem that it has a very unique ecosystem, or rather, quite a variety of ecosystems as one travels from top to bottom, or vice versa.

    I also seem to recall that this area, which is also home to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, is host to perhaps the richest diversity of flora and fauna in a temperate zone to be found anywhere on earth.  

    There are many places I’d like to revisit and spend more time enjoying at some point in the future, including the Mast General Store in Valle Crucis, several of the area waterfalls (the stream flows were diminished in 2007 due to drought conditions), Hendersonville (home to Carl Sandburg in nearby Flat Rock and the angel from the Oakdale Cemetery, which was the subject of Thomas Wolfe’s first novel, Look Homeward, Angel; and many other fascinating locations in the area.  

    The mention of Lake Lure (location of the resort in “Dirty Dancing”) and “The Last of the Mohicans” bring back pleasant memories of hiking at Chimney Rock State Park.  The hiking trail provided a bird’s eye view of the lake, and an up close and personal look the 404-foot Hickory Nut Falls, one of the highest east of the Mississippi River.

    I would be very pleased to learn definitively that my concerns are overstated, however, I fear that such is not the case.  One consideration that I apply when making a choice (such as conservation versus development) is that of weighing the potential consequences of making a incorrect assessment.  

    If my concerns were overblown, I’m not sure that the conservation efforts would cause much harm, and would cause some good.  If I were to dismiss such concerns, and eventually discover that I was mistaken, the consequences could potentially be quite dire.  

    Again, I very much appreciate all the thoughtful comments.

    • Robyn on March 26, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    It is estimated that one transperson is murdered somewhere in the world every two days.

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