Dying bee, Save the bee: Food rights and Environmentalism

  • Posted on
  • By Andrew Mackie

Save the Bee! First off, thank you to everyone who joined us this past weekend for our screening of Queen of the Sun. The event was an overwhelming success. The venue was packed, people enjoyed the film, the mead and the snacks, and we danced late into the night. It is great to be a part of an event that brings so many Calgarians together. There are so many amazing things going on in the city, from permaculture, to beekeeping, to CSA’s, to the ‘green’ movement toward better building practices.


The film itself was at once beautiful, frightening and inspirational. The well-known fact is that bees are in trouble. To what extent they are endangered is not well understood, but any occurrence of hive-collapse is scary. We certainly understand that as the bees go, we go. Increasing evidence is showing that the disappearance of bee colonies is linked to our actions, specifically chemicals, pesticides and pollution. The moral of the story is that we need to make better choices.


The movie showed alarming images of industrial farming: monocrops expanding over endless land; bees being trucked across the country to pollinate these crops that can’t support their own ecosystem; bees being force-fed a diet of high-fructose corn syrup to make up for the fact that they are pollinating non-nectar producing crops such as almonds. It showed the difficulty for even biodynamic beekeepers in keeping their bees safe from chemicals sent aloft by airplane crop-sprayers.


The movie described the importance of diversity, and of fostering vibrant ecosystems that are minimally impacted by organic and biodynamic farming. The film reinforced the power of positive action. From biodynamic beekeeping to fighting to legalize beehives in New York City, action is being taken to further understand bee society and to give it a place to continue.


For the layman, the film concluded with a handful of recommendations:


1. Plant bee-friendly flowers and flowering herbs in your garden and yard.

2. Don’t use chemicals and pesticides to treat your lawn or garden.

3. Buy local, organic food from a farmer that you know.

4. Bees are thirsty. Put a small basin of pebbles and fresh water outside your home.


These are all great recommendations, and we suggest connecting with one of our local permaculture designers to discuss creating a productive and symbiotic garden in your yard, and also contacting Eliese from A.B.C. if you are interested in learning more about beekeeping. We are by no means bee experts, we wanted to be part of bringing this film to Calgary because we feel that these issues go beyond the importance of food production. Interestingly enough, we were criticized by one of our loyal customers this week for sponsoring a film based on the exploitation of bees. She is a vegan, and while we respect this philosophy, we also felt obligated to defend ourselves. In our discussion we had to point out that the film went beyond simply using beekeeping for the sake of gathering honey. It showed how all bees, including honey bees, bumble bees, and dozens of other varieties, as well as other pollinators (beetles, etc.) are basically essential to life as we know it, not only for ourselves, but for the majority of plants and rest of the species that depend upon them. Now, one can argue that nature should be left alone, and can take care of itself. And this is true, bees and insects can thrive on their own. But the fact remains, as humans we continue to disrupt a good portion of the earth’s surface for agriculture and development. This paradigm is one that isn’t about to change. We are a ways from returning to a hunter-gatherer culture. As such, our hope is that vegan, vegetarian, omnivore and carnivore alike can all agree on the importance of making better choices, not only with food sourcing, but in all aspects, whether it is the clothing you wear, your skincare or your mattress. Recommendation 2 from Queen of the Sun speaks to the true issue: use less chemicals. Recommendation 3 falls short in that it limits its scope to food alone. We try to supply options where this issue has been considered across the board. Making a choice to purchase a cleaner, healthier product has only positive implications all the way down the chain of production. Whether or not the perfect local option is available (unfortunately, we can’t find a local solution for everything) we stress the importance of all these choices, and Queen of the Sun was a clear reminder.


I heard a talk on the radio this week on CJSW’s ‘Alternative Radio’ program by local farming advocate Joel Salatin. He is always an engaging speaker, but made a point that was particularly relevant to my mindset after watching Queen of the Sun. It was that if people could see where their food was coming from, they would not abide it. They would not tolerate it; would refuse to purchase this food and would seek out the alternative, until the alternative became the only way. I hope that this is true. I certainly want to believe that this is true. Seeing movies from this genre (Fast Food Nation, Food Inc. etc) has been an informative experience for many people I know, but for others it seems to have little effect on lifestyle choices. Perhaps this is because many people who eat fast food/processed food/industrial food aren’t under the illusion that their food is healthy or coming from a good place. Perhaps it would take living next to the feedlot, the processing plant, the chemically sprayed fields; seeing this everyday to ensure that we can’t put it out of mind. At least we have films like Queen of the Sun to serve as a window into this world that we rarely see.