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Bees, money and saving the planet

A couple of days ago, GC and I dropped in to Sir Guy Carleton High School for their annual open house. There were burgers and bake sales and plant sales and raffles and all kinds of thing, but the thing that captured our attention for the longest period of time was the honey bee exhibit.

One of the shop teachers is a beekeeping hobbyist, and he built and brought in an exhibit for the day. It’s basically a beehive sandwiched between two pieces of glass in a wooden frame. You can see all the bees doing their bee chores. The cleaner bees are cleaning, the builder bees are building, the nurse bees are nursing and the queen bee is laying eggs.

GC and I spoke to the teacher for quite awhile. It was pretty clear that he loves talking about bees.

The most interesting thing for me was this: Bees always act in the best interests of the colony. Their survival instinct is not individual, but collective. They don’t care about themselves. They care only about the colony.

I keep thinking about this. What would human society would be like if we were like bees? Maybe we could save the world if that was everybody’s only priority. If other things – like getting ahead and accumulating money and possessions and satisfying our own appetites – weren’t so important to most of us. Maybe the bees are on the right track.

On the other hand, bee society is pretty chilling when you really think about it. Bees aren’t very tolerant of imperfection. If a bee is born with a disability, they kill him. They want to ensure that no bad genetics are allowed to proliferate in their colony. It’s all about survival of the fittest, because that supports survival of the colony. It’s a very cold and utilitarian system, but it’s based entirely on instinct. They don’t sit around and debate it or do studies or consider the ethical implications.

Human societies of course also operate on the principle of survival of the fittest, but the measure of fitness is different, as is the definition of ‘survival.’ Weakness could be physical, mental, financial or other. We don’t literally kill our weak (as a general rule), but we don’t usually let them thrive either.

If we were all to act in the best interests of the human race, who would we kill? The sick? The disabled? The poor? The rich? Some people might argue that the poor aren’t pulling their weight. However, the poor consume very few resources. The rich, on the other hand, have voracious appetites and consume far more than their fair share. Who would we kill?

Maybe we should kill the economic system. Kill money. The endless pursuit of money is keeping us from identifying and pursuing things that are more important to our survival and well-being, both individually and collectively.

Here’s another thing I’ve been thinking about. The planet. This might sound weird, but all the people who are trying to save the planet – have they considered that the best thing for the planet might be to let nature take its course and eliminate the human race?

The annual Sheep-Shearing Festival at the Experimental Farm runs all this weekend. Knitting, weaving, border collie agility races, sheep-shearing, finger-weaving, felt-making, all kinds of stuff.

6 comments to Bees, money and saving the planet

  • Yes, Zoom, sometimes I think it would be best if the human race disappeared. I would not do anything to hasten it, mind you, but it seems like, as a species, that is where we are heading, despite efforts to the contrary.

    On a happier topic, I have been contemplating starting a hive of bees. I am reading “Farm City” right now, about a couple who start with an empty lot, a garden, a bee hive, and a few laying hens in Oakland, CA, and progress to fruit trees and livestock for meat.

    Glad you are feeling better these days!

  • Yup I think the rest of the planet would be better off without us…but I feel I have a responsibility as a parent I don’t want my children or grandchildren to suffer through “the end of days”…and I like to think that the current crisis will bring us together as a species and help us grow spiritually.

    I LOVE bees and my regular stops include beekeepers who blog. Hives are SO expensive though, the initial outlay is about 600.00 (not including smoker and gloves and outfit). Maybe in a few years we can start beekeeping, right now the chickens and goats are more in our price range!

  • I’m not trying to save the planet as much as keep my children from inheriting a bigger mess…I don’t want them to suffer the “end times” like Mudmama wrote. Now that Stephen Hawkins started saying we should be worried about hostile Aliens arriving on earth I have a whole new topic to worry about. Back to bees…I love them. Last year we planted a whole bunch of flowers to attract them to our garden. (There are many bee keepers in Lanark county outside of Ottawa that make delicious honey – yum)

  • The planet just is, there is no better or worse for it. It eventually will be swallowed up in the sun, I think, in a few billion years.

    As for us, the humans, if we don’t take care, we may kill a lot of ourselves off as we flood the lowlands with melted icecaps, or fight each other with nukes. Even a few score exchanged betweeen Pakistan, India, or China may lead us into a nuclear winter that will starve billions.

    And if we have such disasters, the remaining few will have a hard time recovering our civilisation since the easy oil is mostly gone.

    Even if some magical invention (safe nuclear cars/tractors/trucks, magic seeds that grow in snow, sand or drought, etc.) saves us, it is foolish to depend on such luck. Better/cheaper/safer to conserve our resources, slow any global warming, reduce pollution, live more economically, both as a personal choice and as a society.


  • This might sound weird, but all the people who are trying to save the planet – have they considered that the best thing for the planet might be to let nature take its course and eliminate the human race?

    We may well wipe ourselves out, but we will be among the last to go.

    Our greenhouse gas emissions are probably already going to kill all the coral reefs. If we keep emitting ever-more greenhouse gases, it is likely that we will trigger a catastrophic global mass extinction event.

  • One interesting thing about bees is that the males only have one set of chromosomes. That means any particular bee is more related to its siblings than it would be to its own children.

    The natural extension of that is a hive where most bees are sterile, but where they do everything they can to maximize how many offspring their parents have, and thus how many siblings with 75% of their genes end up running around.

    This situation is discussed at length in Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene.