Vanishing Bees

I’ll be completely honest, I’ve never been interested in bees. I’ve been terrified of them.

Really I don’t like bugs. I’m highly arachnophobic, I absolutely hate wasps, and bees are just the absolute worst. I understood, from a young age, that bees were important to the ecosystem and pollinated flowers and plants all over the world, so I appreciated what they did. Basically, bees and I had a very strict agreement: You don’t bother me, and I won’t bother you. I had no idea, however, how sensitive these insects were.

Illinois isn’t exactly bee pollination central. As I said in my “Food Diversity of Southern Illinois” post, almost every crop here is Monsanto, and they aren’t meant to be pollinated. There are still some bees because of the garden flowers and things like that, but never anything like a whole hive or swarm.

When I heard about this bee disappearance thing, I didn’t think anything of it. It was almost a good riddance for me, like I said I really don’t like bees. But when I saw what a monoculture environment and pesticides were doing to their colonies, I was horrified. Why people think it’s okay to expose bees to these chemicals just boggles my mind.

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Indian beach

I had never really liked Indian Beach. In my eyes it was just a mass of muck and rocks. But on this class trip, my eyes were opened. There were sea urchins and horseshoe crabs and all sorts of fish and birds. But what got me most of all was extremely tiny.

Once I was brave enough to get close to the green algae muck, I discovered something rather interesting. These little black slug-like things the size of the head of a pin. They were feeding and thriving of the algae and were absolutely EVERYWHERE. These little things that people would just walk all over and barely even notice were creating what almost seemed like society with the algae.

As we get older, we always forget about the little things. Life starts moving so fast that we barely see what is around us and instead just speed right past something so incredible. This trip really has taught me to appreciate the little things more and to stop and smell the roses every once in a while… or at least stop and inspect the algae.

 

The Cove

If you had met me 10 years ago and asked me what my favorite animal was, I would say dolphins without hesitation.

Well duh, Kristin, any 10 year old girl would love dolphins, they’re in every mermaid movie, featured in so many tv shows, and they can do cool tricks, why is this such an important thing about you?

Hear me out on this one, because we’re delving deep into the mind of young Kristin, a very dangerous and confusing place to be, but don’t worry! I’ll be your guide.

I always wanted to believe, as a child, that animals were trying to communicate with humans and that if we would just listen, we could learn so much about the mysteries of life and more about ourselves as well. It’s not that they’re almost human, but that we’re all, in our most natural sense, animals. We have instincts, needs, means of survival. If we just tap into those senses, I thought maybe a breakthrough could be made. I first experienced this with my friend’s guinea pig one day. I was crying, and we had it out to play with it so I could cheer up and the second the little guy was let out of his cage, he scampered right over to me, waddled his way up my arm, and started nuzzling my cheek from my shoulder.

What really sold me on this idea was the time I went to Sea World. There was an area where you could pet dolphins and feed them as well. My dad, being the amazing awesome dad he is, bought me treats to feed the dolphins. As I reached my hand out to drop the fish into the dolphin’s mouth, a seagull came from behind and snatched all the fish from my little hand, dropping the paper wrapping into the tank with the dolphins. The dolphin I was feeding snorted at my empty hand and swam away. I was sad, yes, and my sister had already gone off to tell dad how I let the seagull get the food even after he warned me to be careful, but I was also curious as to what the dolphin was doing. He hadn’t swam off to another small child with a fish in hand, he had gone out into the tank. Next thing I know, the dolphin is swimming back to me with something dangling from his mouth. As he lifted his head up, I could see the wrapping from the fish treats that the seagull had dropped in the attack. I put my hand out and pulled the paper from his mouth, slightly in shock at what was happening. Once I had the paper, the dolphin tapped it’s snout against my hand almost as if to say “there, there” and then swam away.

This is why The Cove struck me so hard. I know the feeling of having a connection with these creatures, even if it was ever so fleeting. It’s like they jumped out of a fairytale and thrived in our oceans, just to add that extra bit of magic in our lives. To watch them be treated with such heartlessness, forced into the commercial world for the entertainment and profit of mankind, is absolutely heartbreaking. I never went back to Sea World after that encounter for that very reason. There was a look in the animal’s eyes that even a 10 year old could see was utter depression and longing. I am so glad The Cove was made to show people what these beauties go through. I wish more was being done now because of the exposure of the truth behind dolphin shows and enclosures, but once something is engrained so much into cultures and economies, it’s very difficult to cut out entirely.

I hope one day that more people in the world experience and see what I got to at such a young age. Maybe then they’d see the dolphins differently.

Food Diversity of Southern Illinois

I literally live across the street from a corn field.

Whenever I tell people this, they automatically assume I’m this country farm girl that grew up with cows and goats and sheep and fields of all sorts of different home grown fruits and veggies to sell and eat. They don’t know how wrong they are.

I said corn field instead of farm for a reason. Yes there is the stereotypical plowed field and barn and silos off in the distance behind the rows of freshly turned soil, but that is it. No cows graze the grasses, no sheep roam the yards, and certainly no other crops are even considered to be planted. Just a massive monoculture. There are plots of land with cows on them, but that’s all that will be in that “farm.” Crops aren’t grown with livestock anymore. Varieties of plants aren’t grown under the same land owner. The only variety you will see is when the corn crops exhaust the soil and they have to plant soybeans for a year instead to replenish the nutrients that the corn needs.

It’s not exactly something you really think about when you’ve seen it for 20 years of your life. It just seems like a normal, everyday farm because it’s what we’re used to. It wasn’t till my mom started becoming super homegrown loving that I realized what a huge difference there was. It all started with our neighbor’s tomato plant. They had always had one growing in their back yard, but it never really gave much produce. One year though, it flourished. The family had tomatoes galore and were doing everything they could to get rid of some. By this point my mom had become known on the street for her home made tomato sauce (it has spoiled all other tomato sauces for me ever in my life, I could honestly eat it like a soup without complaint) so they came over with this basket filled to the brim with real home grown tomatoes. To my 12 year old self, these tomatoes looked rather strange. They were lumpy, all sorts of odd shapes, and their color wasn’t the perfect bright red I was used to seeing. But nonetheless, my mom made her ever so yummy sauce with the strange tomatoes for dinner that night and we never looked back. Since then, we all as a family have tried to find local, non-Monsanto farmers that actually grow proper homegrown crops. We also started our own herb garden, cutting back on store bought, overly dried herbs. Doing this was alot harder than we thought, however. Very few farmers had their own seed to grow from since the market was so full of the big name seeds with the pesticide or genetic enhancements, so it was difficult to find people selling crops. We started eating with the seasons, on a minor scale, having loads of root vegetables at one point, then a surplus of corn and tomatoes the next.

Places like Florida, however, don’t get to experience food seasons like this, however, since their land isn’t entirely conducive to crops and vegetables like the midwest. Alot of things have to be imported from far off fields, some not even from the same country. And really, that’s a shame. I enjoyed eating with the seasons while I was home and going out to the apple orchards in the fall or the pumpkin fields around Halloween or the berry patches in the spring. It was something to look forward to in the year, like Christmas or your birthday. It makes those little things that much more special

I wish more people could live like this, I think they’d see nature in a new light if they could.

Vanishing of the Bees : Factory Farming

Factory farms dominate U.S. food production, employing abusive practices that maximize agribusiness profits at the expense of the environment, our communities, animal welfare, and even our health. Animals on factory farms are regarded as commodities to be exploited for profit. They undergo painful mutilations and are bred to grow unnaturally fast and large for the purpose of maximizing meat, egg, and milk production for the food industry. Their bodies cannot support this growth, which results in debilitating and painful conditions and deformities. The factory farming industry puts incredible strain on our natural resources. The extreme amount of waste created by raising so many animals in one place pollutes our land, air, and water. Residents of rural communities surrounding factory farms report high incidents of illness, and their property values are often lowered by their proximity to industrial farms. Also antibiotics are used extensively on factory farms, which can create drug-resistant bacteria and put human health at risk. Places like Sarasota are starting to let people keeps their own chickens, a good start in the fight against factory farming, but not nearly enough.

 

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GMOs : Farmer Markets

The American tradition of the family farm is in danger of fading away as there are now less than a million people in the U.S. that claim their primary occupation to be farming. Buying from the local farmer not only financially benefits the farmer but the community as well. Today’s farmers receives less than 10 cents of the retail food dollar. When farmers sell directly to the consumer, the middleman is cut out thus producing a higher profit for the farmer. It ensures healthier and better tasting food. Studies prove that fresh produce loses nutrients quickly. Produce purchased locally was probably picked within the past day or two and provides crispy, sweet and flavorful food. Eating healthy, locally grown food not only strengthens your family but your community as well. Food that is shipped long distances is bred for a longer shelf life, not for taste. Buying local helps to protect genetic diversity as well. There is little genetic diversity in the produce grown to meet commercial standards. Only varieties that can survive shipping, transporting and have a long shelf life are chosen. Therefore, only a few hybrid varieties of fruits and vegetables meet those demands. I want to make it a goal to shop for my produce at local farmer markets!

 

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No Impact Man : Over Consumption

The concept of cutting everything out and seeing what you really need to live is something I think all people need to do! Over consumption is a global problem that is being caused and worsened by a small fraction of the population. America and its consuming habits are the biggest contributors to the world’s global consumption problem, but unless it is brought to most people’s attention it is not a problem someone would really think about. The main problem is that Americans have lost the meaning behind the phrase “waste not, want not.” We want and desire more and more because advertising and corporations tell us it is what we need to be fulfilled. As that happens, the waste we produce starts to pile up, as broken objects, out of fashion items and packaging. Each American on average throws away four pounds of trash per day. Now multiply that number by the population of North America, which is about 274 million. That equals about a billion pounds of trash per day! In learning about where your products come from and how they were created you will realize that what you do affects everyone around you. We as Americans need to start walking lighter on the Earth and by learning about this problem we take a step in a better direction. Just remember “live simply so others may simply live.”

 

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Climate Change : Energy from Thorium

Thorium is a naturally occurring radioactive chemical element. Almost all thorium is natural, but thorium isotopes can be artificially produced. Thorium occurs at very low levels in virtually all rock, soil, and water, and therefore is found in plants and animals as well. Energy from Thorium that is produced in a LFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor) is the closest thing to green energy on planet Earth. Many other energies such as wind and solar need a complimentary power supply that, unless it is a LFTR, is dirty or produces carbon dioxide. While carbon dioxide may or may not cause global warming there are medicinal benefits to having more oxygen in the air than carbon dioxide. Thorium is up to 200 times more energy dense than uranium and as common as lead. Therefore Thorium energy is a fraction of the price to produce than fossil fuels or solar and wind power.

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