For such clever critters, we can be remarkably dumb

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Photograph by Johan J. Ingles-Le Nobel

Yesterday, Treehugger reported on a scientific study on bee deaths. Bee populations have been declining alarmingly all over the world in recent years. Find the original research article here (the abstract is not complicated) and Threehugger’s article here.

Basically, the study reports that a mix of pesticides and fungicides found in pollen collected by honey bees increases their susceptibility to nosema ceranae, a parasite that is believed to cause Colony Collapse Disorder, one of the major causes of hive destruction.

Although I am pleased that there is now  hard scientific evidence to support this little piece of common sense, I am wondering how it can apparently come as such a surprise. Were we not once just about the cleverest things on earth?

Even the simplest household chemical comes with a warning: DON’T MIX WITH OTHER CHEMICALS!

It stands to reason that any living creature exposed to a mix of chemicals (which are known to be toxic individually) would die eventually. I think our bees have done a pretty good job staying alive to date.

So when are we going to wake up? If pesticides, fungicides and intensive modern farming methods are collectively killing our bees, what do you think they are doing to our children?

What can you do?

Start in your own homes and gardens. Seek out natural, environmentally safe alternatives to any household chemical you are using. There are plenty of ecologically sound options to replace pesticides and fungicides in your gardens, as well.

Visit your local farmer’s market or buy organically grown produce at your supermarket. Yes, your apples and bread may cost a bit more but that will only encourage you to stop wasting food – definitely not a bad thing if you know that fully one third of the world’s entire food production goes to waste every year!

To help bees (and butterflies) survive, plant shrubs and sow flowers (preferably from organically reproduced seed!) that provide pollen for bees. Most garden centres can tell you which varieties are best and many even sell bee mixtures suitable for your climate and region.

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I live in Holland and use Tübingermengsel from De Bolster, a biodynamic seed production company.

It is time for us to accept that we cannot have it all. The modern economic system has tried to convince us that we can, but there is always a price to pay.

I, for one, am thoroughly ashamed I lived for so long without thinking about who and what was paying the price for my convenience.

What are you going to do to save our bees?

What caught my eye today

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[This was actually said by a character called Socrates in Dan Millman’s book ‘Way of the Peaceful Warrior’]

This quote caught my eye on Facebook today. While I think it is applicable to pretty much every aspect of human society, I first interpreted it in terms of myself. (How egocentric? Yes, and gladly so, as you’ll see.)

Reading the quote was a bit of an AHA moment for me. For as long as I can remember, tThere have been many things I wanted to change about myself. Often because I suffer from the plague called perfectionism, but just as often because others wanted or expected me to be different or criticised (part of) who I was.

In the past year or so I have been working on shifting my attitude from ‘trying to be someone or something else’ to ‘liking (and even loving) myself just the way I am’. And to hell with the rest of the world. And to hell with perfectionism, too!

Somehow thinking of change as building something new instead of fighting the old makes a real difference. Fighting is hard. Building, however, is a challenge and a privilege.

My challenge today is learning to love myself. Instead of trying to change the old, I will learn to look at myself with new eyes and figure out what I want to build: new skills, new friendships, new confidence, new joy. And somewhere along the way, I will find back many pieces of myself that I lost along the way, as well.

What caught your eye today?

Courage is love

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I have never felt I was a particularly courageous person. Even as a young child, I tended to be aware of all the risks involved in any undertaking. Climbing rocks? What if I slipped and fell and broke a leg? Or worse, my neck? Swimming in the sea? Those waves looked really big and scary, what if I drowned? I fear that my countless fears have kept me from many wonderful experiences. I have often felt (or been made to feel) like a coward.

I was also a hugely sensitive child. I cried easily (and still do, which I hate), feeling the pain and suffering of animals and people around me. Whether in a movie or in real life, I tended to get overwhelmed by their misery, drowned in their sorrow. Or so it seems when I look back at my childhood, and beyond. I have also come to believe that I unconsciously absorbed the emotions of others, which accounts for some of my inexplicable mood changes and the fear that I could not really rely on my own judgement.

I never learned to shield myself and boy, the sorrows of the world are way too big to carry for a young child. Or anyone else, for that matter.

Curiously, I was also totally fearless in the face of injustice. As a teenager, I faced down the doctor parents of a girlfriend who suffered from the advanced stages of anorexia and yelled at them that they should stop seeing only what they wanted to see because their daughter needed help. I told off bullies who harried my friends (quite naturally, I tended to befriend the bullied).

Aged 11, writing my first essay for school, I asserted that the civilisation of the American Indians (which fascinated me) may well have been more civilised in many ways than our so-called Western civilisation. My essay was assessed by the head of my school and I remember being totally pissed off that he had not recognised how completely and incontrovertibly true that statement was (and for not giving me a higher grade). Such unfairness! Can you tell I was also a tiny bit precocious?

I was a little slip of a girl with a big mouth. And way too big fears. An unhappy combination, I often think. Particularly if you do not get the spiritual guidance such children require.

Today I look at my children and wonder how I can help them love this big, bad world and its teeming mass of defenceless creatures while refusing to get so caught up in its suffering that it incapacitates them. The two eldest are just like me, particularly my daughter. The youngest, I think, is more self-contained.

I am 42 years old and only now learning how to keep the world’s suffering at bay, how not to be overwhelmed by it. It would have been easy to become a cynic, to withdraw into myself and give up on the world. I understand how this happens. I was sorely tempted. But it would have made me even more miserable to cut myself off from the world when it needs all the help it can get, as do I.

I know it sounds crazy, but it is true: I am learning to encounter the negativity with love. When I talk to someone who is suffering or needs help in whatever way, I offer what I can from my own experience, however humble that wisdom may be. And I give them all the warmth and love I have in me, and some that is offered through me.

While I am unsure that it eases their pain or helps them solve their problem, it is sometimes all that I have to offer. An added benefit is that it helps me be stronger and keeps me from being overwhelmed.

Perhaps this is my particular kind of courage. To get up and struggle on against the odds, to persist in seeing light even in the darkest hours of my life (there have been a few), to speak up for what I believe even if it makes me an annoying firebrand. And to love beyond reason.

Thank you, Oscar.