Monday, October 29, 2007

Bees Obscene and Not Heard


If there's anything I hate more than crap science, it's crap journalism. Gone are the days of Hunter S. Thompson, Joan Didion, and Tom Wolfe, savvy observers of the American political, social, and cultural scene who before ever putting pen to paper, first totally and fearlessly immersed themselves in the topics they were covering, whether those topics included California car culture, Russian revolutionaries, or the inner workings of the Hells Angels.
Today, we rely primarily on television "news" shows to bring us investigative stories and in depth profiles. And for ages it seems, 60 Minutes has been considered the cream of the crop. But over the past couple years, the show I've been watching has slowly devolved into something with all the journalistic integrity of The Tyra Banks Show.

Witness last night's coverage of the collapse of hundreds of bee colonies across the United States. Most of us know the gist of what's happening: over the past several years, millions of bees have simply up and left their colonies. Not died, but just, well, left.

While no one has as yet discovered the reason our bees are disappearing, no one is in dispute that they are. (I don't dispute it, either, although, oddly, my own garden has never been as lush, as healthy, and as overrun with bees as it has been these past 2-3 years. Hmmm . . . )

Like almost all of the newspaper, magazine, and online coverage of colony collapse, last night's show focused exclusively on the disappearance of honey bees from commercial colonies. That is, those colonies which are cultivated by professional beekeepers – like Dave Hackenberg, profiled in the show – to travel across the country to pollinate commercial farming operations. Like the bazillion acre pumpkin farm owned by Brian Campbell of Berwick, PA. When asked by reporter Steve Kroft what would happen to his operations if he didn't have tens of thousands of bees on the job, Campbell answered: "Well, my business wouldn't be as profitable." AS profitable, Party People. In other words, he wouldn't be able to grow mass quantities of pumpkins. Pumpkins headed not for our dinner tables, but for Wal-Marts throughout the eastern seaboard as eventual Jack-O-Lanterns for Halloween.

So.

After listening to about half the story, it occurred to Moi that maybe the bees are disappearing because they are continually being carted thousands of miles across the country on flat bed trucks, plunked down in the middle of hundreds – many times thousands – of acres of one single crop, and forced to spend the whole season pollinating not just said single crop but also one most likely treated with God only knows what kind of chemical(s).

In other words, the very industry that relies on bees for its profit may be stressing its main workforce right the hell out. And we all know what stress leads to. It leads to the fight or flight response. And the last time I checked, honey bees don't wear little honey bee boxing gloves.

Surely, if that theory occurred to lil' ol' Moi, it would occur to the Powers That Be at 60 Minutes. Right? Uh, that would be a big NOPE.

Never once in his report did Steve Kroft point out this irony. Never once did he wonder aloud at industry-wide reports suggesting that, unlike traditional industrial beekeeping operations like Hackenberg's, organic beekeepers, even those who operate at the same commercial level, are experiencing NO instances of colony collapse. Never once did he point out that this particular practice of beekeeping is still in its infancy, and we are only just now beginning to study it's implications for bee health and behavior. Finally, Kroft never once wondered if feral bee populations in non-agricultural areas (like the one that includes Moi's garden) were undergoing the same colony collapse (it seems they are not).

So, a story that should have been inspired and of-the-moment ended up just feeling kind of shabby and way too much like yesterday's news. Yes, we all know the bees are splitting for parts unknown. But tell us something new, why don't cha? I have a feeling that someday soon, you'll see 60 Minutes reporters undergoing their own kind of collapse: from boredom, disinterest, and lack of ideas.

13 comments:

Meghan said...

I couldn't agree with you more. I don't even watch TV news anymore. I scour the web for actual reporting of worth. Which, is extremely hard to find.

I find that I find some of the most interesting news and speculation on the blogs of the informed.

Meghan said...

Did I really just type "I find that I find..."?

My brain is officially mush.

Meghan said...

Okay... that was a freakycool. I do believe you were at my blog while I was at yours.

(I promise this is the last comment I will leave on this post.)

moi said...

Uh, great minds? Either that, or your Shrimpster is highly adept at mommy mind control . . .

Doris Rose said...

Let me say just one thing...squirrels. Anasazi...Mogollon...I'm just saying.

Wicked Thistle said...

Interestingly, the same topic was being covered last night on PBS. Had I been paying the least bit of attention to it, I could make you a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting the two specials. As it stands, though, all I can say is that I had PBS on the telly last night and doesn't that count for SOMETHING?!

Wicked Thistle said...

Doris Rose, do you think the squirrels are taking the bees hostage and using them for their own evil purposes??

I wouldn't put it past them. Little squirrel slave bees.

Anonymous Boxer said...

My garden was also full of happy bees this summer.... and I no longer bother getting my news from commercial (as in FOR PROFIT) news sources. All nicely written,

But this line:

"honey bees don't wear little honey bee boxing gloves"

Just made me happy!

moi said...

DR: Gah, that's all we need. Pre-Columbian GHOST Squirrels munching down on the bees. Somebody call Al Gore.

Wicked: Have you noticed how, lately, you and I are on the same television wavelength? Scary.

AB: And wouldn't that just be so cute – bees with boxing gloves? Moi, I'd sic 'em on Al Gore :o)

she said...

outstanding!

you should read about the corn blight that happened in the 30's...essentially what happened was there was this one superior seed stock that was like you discuss now...promoted by monolithic super growers. (like monsanto today...and buddy dont get me started) it was very insect resistant, it was big and tasty. however...it was vulernable to a certain blight...and because there was a lack of diversity of corn grown at that time the blight wiped out a huge world feeding swath.

meanwhile, some rebellious seed saver types grew their own varieties...many were heirloom corns...and they survived the blight.the only corn that survived. lesson: food diversity is a good thing. for people and bees.

these lessons as with the bees and corn is the fundemental misundertanding of the INTERCONNECTEDNESS of all living things...and that more efficent and better for big industry is not better at the human scale.(i am looking forward to moving to my place in the country in a full time. i will grow as much of my own food as i can. it will be my job)

this over-management of natural order is a rampant problem in more ways than i can bloat up this comment box...kudzu brought in to stop erosion and now has choked out native species, exotic pet (!) eels released by dumbasses into rivers killing native fish, switch grass in florida, malalueca trees draining the everglades almost as fast as miami, introductions of non native species to solve one problem creating 10 new problems.

dumb selfish pricks want what they want when they want it.

i hope that jack o lantern from wal-mart was worth it.

and media journalism is a profession for good looking talking heads now. real journalism now is this post of yours.

one final thing. i like ron paul too. but he hasnt a prayer in hell.

great blog! glad i came here.

she said...

oh and one or two more things:

i love natural born killers too. i love the scene where they are shooting up the diner and the guy pauses long enough to take a bite of some alien green wiggly piece of pie..love that.

"are yeeeewwwwww flerten with mayyyyyyyyy?"

and i love pit bulls too. mine was killed by a train. long terrible story. gray brindle dog...wonderful pet.

okay enough of me...thanks for stoppin by the yard i bookmarked ya.

moi said...

She: Hey, thanks for dropping by! I've been lurking at your blog for weeks and really enjoy it, especially the rappin'. "let beauty and grace be our highest calling" has been bouncing in my head for days.

~MAGILL~ said...

still thinking about what you wrote and saw this link to a new article

http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2007/1102/2?rss=1