To Bee or Not to Bee?


Colony collapse disorder sounds so elementally human. A recent 60 Minutes segment featured the disappearing bees. Too bad bees can’t talk.

Come back, bees! You’re part of the hive that humans have made of the planet. I was thinking about bees last night, driving and at the same time looking at my brightly lit, new cell phone named for a fruiting tree pollinated by bees.

One of the theories, unproven!, is that a new class of pesticides has simply knocked the bees and their exquisite navigation system off kilter. Sounded good enough for me.

I’ve had it with corporations whose products are so woven into my habits of consumption and so destructive, the dissonance makes me feel like I’m driving on a dark road and reading a cell phone screen at the same time.

Of course, there are plenty of powerful people who take the opposite point of view: that the only way society can organize is by doing so many things at once that the fruits of our labor create wealth far in excess of whatever costs are incurred.

One of the interesting features of the IPhone is that it continually searches for WiFi connections and tells you s much earnestly, its tiny machine heart burning hotly in the quest to latch onto the nearest and best carrier of information that I need, or not, as the case may be.

So as I’m driving–now scrolling through messages from Nigerian widows, from Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s Department, invitations from political parties and foam parties–I notice how many WiFi locations want to mate with my phone.

Hundreds of millions of people, maybe even billions, are piling similar tiny electronic pulses, each with a unique identifier into the world faster than snowflakes melting.

So, what if I were a bee and I navigated from far-flung flowering trees and plants to my queen and hive, back and forth, communicating with my bee brothers and sisters what’s up, and what if by coincidence I helped to pollinate 1/3rd of the food supply of humans, and what if cellular communication scrambled my exquisite sense of vibration to the point that I disappear and take 1/3rd of the human food supply with me?

How would we, humans, account for that cost?

What if we discovered cell phones are chasing bees from the planet? What if our impact wasn’t just bees, but other species that singly or in combination make our own survival possible?

If we had to choose between cell phones and bees, what would we do?

I posit this question in the cheerful spirit that it may never need answering exactly as posed, and yet it is precisely the order of inquiry that smashes the notion of we can just somehow slide by the impacts of global warming, without modifying our patterns of consumption in any substantive way.

The opposing perspective was neatly articulated in the Sunday New York Times, in an interview with John Bolton, the controversial former UN Ambassador and neoconservative mad dog, ” even if there is global warming, the notion that you are going to reduce carbon emissions enough to have an impact on it is just-serious people don’t believe that’s true.”

Serious people? Really? The kind of serious people who sold American taxpayers on a trillion dollar war in Iraq based on an informant named Curveball, who was lying just to secure his green card to Germany? Those kinds of serious people, Mr. Bolton?

Mr. Bolton and his posse are of the Manichean world-view that evil reigns: there is no power or wealth but that which can be nailed down, here and now.

Americans may choose to lie, cheat and starve before banning any other form of consumption that has been deemed to be a prerogative of economic organization: building tract housing in wetlands, organizing transportation around gas-guzzling SUV’s, you name it-but saying so, doesn’t line me up with John Bolton.

Mr. Bolton’s posse will be heading for the hills, soon, to rally for another turn at the wheel.

The bees can’t tell us what is stressing them. We can’t adapt to what is stressing us, even though our ability to communicate is limitless.

But a growing number of our kind is angry as bees.

ALAN FARAGO of Coral Gables, who writes about the environment and the politics of South Florida, can be reached at



Alan Farago is president of Friends of the Everglades and can be reached at