Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Disappearance of the Bee and Humanity?

I heard a quote some believe has been erroneously attributed to Einstein that predicted the demise of humanity within 4 years of the disappearance of the bee. ”If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.” Honeybees are dying at alarming rates in North America and Europe. There is also documentation that they are disappearing in Taiwan. A large percentage of plants depend upon honeybees for pollination to remain a viable species. Therefore, I can see how the disappearance of all bees could produce a concomitant collapse of some species, and possibly, ecosystems. Although we don't know the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder, I am concerned that we humans are at the root of the collapse. Some scientists believe it is caused by insecticides, herbicides. other toxins, and/or pollutants; others believe the collapse may be caused by genetically modified crops.

I believe our agricultural system is in disarray. Agribusiness has decreased the diversity of plant species through their farming practices. Also due to their farming practices, large tracts of once arable soils are no longer fertile and are so polluted by pesticides, I question if large-scale remediation is possible. We have disregarded the "simplistic and unscientific" wisdom of our ancestors, who through thousands of years of trial and error, determined that crop rotation and letting fields lie fallow to rest, maintains soil viability and fertility. I hope that we can return to a larger percentage of small farms growing diverse, natural, non-gmo crops and using healthier, organic or permaculture-type methods of farming. We are also destroying our marine food supply by overfishing, pollution through oil spills, the dumping of waste, trash and chemicals, and the purposeful killing of whales and sharks, the top marine predators.

Our food supply has been contaminated with the introduction of genetically modified organisms (gmo's), which have also been allowed to cross-contaminate natural plants. Gmo's were not subjected to long-term independent scientific testing to determine their long-term health effects on human health (or that of other species) before they were introduced into our food supply. The use of Monsanto's genetically modified, patented seeds and plants require the use of Monsanto's poisonous pesticide Round-Up. Small-acreage farmers, into whose fields the gmo seeds blow and grow without any intent of those farmers, are being sued by Monsanto for patent infringement. Another problem is that one chemical company owns the patents to a large percentage of natural seeds in the western hemisphere. This company can withhold selling these seeds in favor of its own. He who controls the food supply... Who allowed them to patent life? I hope that I, as an American citizen, didn't fall asleep at the wheel and that I don't share the blame. Can we have these patents found unlawful, unconstitutional and be rescinded?

The diversity of all plant and animal species have been dramatically reduced partly because of the encroachment of humans into their natural habitats. If you look at a population map of the human species, our population growth over thousands of years used to be predominantly linear and sustainable. However, our population growth increased substantially with the Industrial Revolution and the introduction of antibiotics and modern medicine. It has been exponential, in fact, almost vertical since around the 1970's. Potable water is less than 1% of all water on earth. Habitable land is approximately 4% of the earth's surface. There is no longer enough potable water or arable land to sustain our still-growing global population. When we compete with all the other species for what's left of habitable land and potable water, they lose. Yet, so do we, although on the surface, we appear to win.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature, based in Switzerland, recently released the results of a five-year study that concluded almost 1 in 4 mammals on our planet are at risk of extinction. When the top predators are gone, the trophic cascade spills down to the smallest of species, adversely affecting entire ecosystems. In the 1920's we eradicated wolves from the Yellowstone ecosystem, unwittingly setting off the trophic cascade. The recent reintroduction of wolves, the top predator, into Yellowstone has led to a natural balance in that ecosystem and a significant increase in the diversity of plant and animal species found there. We humans often arrogantly disrupt the balance and rhythms of nature, thinking that a)we have the right to do this, b)we "know better," and c) it is in "our", but actually one group's, best interest. Our huge population increase, in and of itself, has put the balance of nature into a downward spiral. Will nature create a way to bring our population into a more natural balance with the rest of the species?

These are dangerous times for all who inhabit Planet Earth, mostly by our own hand. We consistently see reports of how something we've done adversely effects other species and our environment. We also see reports of human illnesses that have been attributed to the increased concentration of pollutants, toxins and heavy metals in our environment. Many different allergies, cancers, asthma, COPD and other pulmonary disorders are being reported at increasingly alarming rates. How can we continue to commit specicide?

I haven't even introduced CO2 emissions, global warming, or climate change into this discussion and we're already in trouble. When these issues are included, our problems escalate exponentially. When global temperature increases and sea levels rise, the percentage of habitable land decreases. Considering the fact that more than 50% of humans live along or close to coastlines, there will be mass migrations. Where do we put all those people? Do we believe these migrations will all occur peacefully? What role in all of this will storms have; storms that are predicted to increase in both strength and frequency? Will there be water wars over what's left of unpolluted potable water? What happens to all the other species affected?

Can we humans, somehow, come together in peace to discuss and formulate global initiatives to control our population growth, as well as the pollution and destruction of our common home? Will corporate executives stop their seemingly unquenchable greed and quest for power? Will they also end their unhealthy and unsustainable policies and actions and, instead, start caring for the beings of this planet? Will governments finally start penalizing these people and their behaviors, as well as their own? Why can't a free economy benefit all sentient beings of this planet? The current huge and still-expanding gap between rich and poor is immoral. Why do we reward uncontrolled greed and power that so clearly benefits the few and harms our planet and all life? Has our quest for more "stuff" been worth it? Are we already too late to even attempt to repair the damage we've caused? Is this last-minute bid for our own survival yet another form of human arrogance? What do you think?

Check out the following:
Human Population Maps
The Future of Food
The IUCN Red List
http://www.iucnredlist.org/Population Along Coastlines
The Story of Stuff

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