Of Bees and Being Human

Yesterday I saw a Monarch butterfly! What a perfectly named creature — regal, majestic, elegantly attired. Yes, I saw a butterfly. Remember when we were kids? We’d see hundreds of Monarchs along with many other kinds of butterflies, moths, bees, wasps as well as other flying bugs that only God knew what they were.

Sighting the solitary Monarch yesterday frightened me. Yes, a butterfly scared me! Where have they gone? And what about the birds? In our neighborhood, the incidental cardinals outnumber the sparrows — how crazy is that? Robbins evoke as much excitement from Minneapolitans in July as they do in March. Something is really wrong in The City of Lakes when we start valuing creatures by their absence!

The wholesale collapse of bee colonies is beginning to get some attention because of the essential role their pollinating serves in human food production. Wouldn’t you think we’d show more care and solicitude for “the help” who keep our lives functioning? As brazenly self-centered as it is, wouldn’t you think the demise of honeybees would wake us up to the fact that our own well-being might be similarly threatened?

The honeybee is a remarkably resilient species that has thrived for 40 million years but now they are in widespread collapse. They are like the proverbial canary in the coal mine. An [article] in the NYTimes corroborates why a solitary Monarch and the conspicuous absence of songbirds should be seen as harbingers of a larger catastrophe in the making.

It seems that any creature that flies is threatened by factors similar to those afflicting honeybees: heavy pesticide use, destruction of nesting sites by overly intensive agriculture, a lack of diverse nectar and pollen sources thanks to highly effective weed killers, wanton disregard for the eco-system bees depend on for nutrition.

According to the author of the NYTimes piece, the real issue is not primarily the number of problems but the interactions among them. Bees offer a lesson we ignore at our peril: the concept of synergy, where one plus one equals three, or four, or more.

“A typical honeybee colony contains residue from more than 120 pesticides. Alone, each represents a benign dose. But together they form a toxic soup of chemicals whose interplay can substantially reduce the effectiveness of bees’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to diseases.”

Our problem extends far beyond the tragic truth about bees.   The fatal effects of our agricultural obsessions (obscenities?) are reflected in the disappearance of butterflies and birds as well.  If they starve, we starve!

But it gets worse… a [study] released last month from UC-Davis is only the most recent to link proximity to agricultural pesticides in pregnancy to increased rates of Autism and other types of developmental delay among children. Regardless of age, we are what we eat.  And what we eat might just be killing us!

Those of us from a sacramental faith tradition, indeed all who profess faith in the God of Genesis, recognize that humans (literally, earth-creature and cognate of humus) have a special role and bear a unique responsibility for creation. Eco-spirituality is not a fad — it’s a moral duty!

Humility is a virtue hard to come by for most of us. The word has the same root as human and humus. We would do well to cultivate more of it. Humans have no “being” apart from this creation.  We begin by acknowledging that we are merely one part of God’s creation — one part, and one with sacred responsibilities.

The etiology of humility, human and humus affirms that at some deep intuitive level we “get it.”  We know in our bones that the way we relate to creation mirrors the way we relate to God.

We pray as we live… may it be “on earth as it is in heaven.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s