The Bee Series: Introduction


It often feels like we're afraid to engage with anything outside ourselves. We pour our attention into the technology that's served before us, shiny, crisp and animated, getting us through the day without collaboration from the outside world. It has the power to connect us to our peers, our favorite media and the daily events of the world but simultaneously divides us from each through the limitations of a screen and an organization of pixels. I've definitely lost days to absurdly simple devices, apps and fantasy narratives that are less of a comfort and more of a hindrance to my physical awareness and my cultural identity. Every level of Candy Crush that I clear removes me further and further from my relationship with the world that I live in.

Attending college with over 10,000 intelligent, technologically savvy people is often strange and disturbing through this collective, myopic attitude. I watch my peers stay awake in lecture by checking their Facebook profiles or texting their friends, where a slideshow on Impressionism or a psychological case study is painfully boring to the point of resentment. So many instances of informational conveyance are met with ambivalence throughout the day, and all we'd rather be doing is tapping and clicking and staring until our eyes get blurry and red. And the most ironic part is that, through our smartphones and laptops, we've got instant access to all the information and education we will ever need.

Ultimately, my generation (I'm represented in this, too) as well as anyone entrenched in the millennium's autonomous technology revolution may often forget about the world outside tweets, texts and bitcoins. As humans, we share our environment with every other living organism but often ignore the detriment we cause to everything but ourselves. Often, even, we're numb to our own species' issues-according to a University of Arizona in Tuscon study from 2004, over forty percent of all American food ready for harvest never gets eaten. It's this idea of our "throwaway society", directly in juxtaposition with our careless desire to consume and waste whatever looks healthy or pleasurable, that inspires the postcolonial, painfully clichéd 'there's a starving child somewhere' line. It's awful and stigmatic, but there's truth in it; if we become more educated and interested in the world directly around us instead of just what's in front of our faces, perhaps we can become inspired to support our environment, our national health and our natural world.

Thus, through a series of posts beginning with this one, I'm initiating a new awareness for myself and my fellow readers who may feel out of touch with the world around them. Specifically through my family's unique and rare profession and knowledge about agriculture and biology, this feature series will focus on exposing real facts, benefits and struggles of the commercial honey bee industry in America and the entire world. As an example of the fragility of the environment on a species and our influence as an often greedy, monetarily fueled product of capitalist materialism, the American bee industry as well as commercial honey producers, pollinators and apiculture in general illustrate a myriad of benefits for the environment as well as problems for our national culture. My upcoming research and discovery of various aspects of the industry will hopefully debunk many common misconceptions about the honey bee as a species, the beekeeping profession and the authenticity of a plethora of fetishized commodities that the twenty-first century has generated in response to the industry's newfound attention and prominence.

For example, beneath the rampant marketing and inauthentic "honey" infused, beeswax incorporated products you'll find in every aisle at the grocery store, there's a world of fascinatingly complex agriculture and husbandry as well as environmental struggle involved in apiculture. And as prominent as it is in American culture, commercial beekeeping's locations, risks and bi-products are often incorrectly reported and understood. I'll be researching various aspects of the industry as well as more specific instances of environmental problems over the next few months in the hopes that, through the process of investigating and writing, I can expand my perspective of the natural, environmental world with you.

From an investigation of the real dangers of pesticides and fungicides in honey bee colonies and yards to an examination of honey production on American soil versus internationally produced products, I'm interested in finding out how chemicals and human interference in the process of honey production effects the finished product itself. Furthermore, I'll be talking directly with authorities about changes in habitats for the honeybee, as well as learning about the rise in Africanized bee populations and their dangers to national bee populations. Lastly, I want to expose the recent influx in Almond pollination as an economically fueled gauntlet for many commercial beekeepers and think about the specific problems that arise through the plant's seasonal pollination industry.

Ultimately, being exposed to apiculture through my father Adam Finkelstein's queen bee breeding business (VP Queen Bees) with my step-mom Kelly Rausch, I've been bestowed with an incredibly unique perspective on the natural world that surrounds me; however, I'm not only still wary of being stung, but criminally unaware of the vast amount of work, care and knowledge that goes into every aspect of queen bee rearing, honey production and pollination. I'm excited to share my discoveries about each with you here, and hope that you'll expand your environmental consciousness with me.

-Jonathan Finkelstein

Next: The Bee Series: Identifying The Problem