Simplicity vs. sensationalism in the media

Kirk at KPCC last June.

Kirk Anderson, co-founder of and chief guru to the Backwards Beekeepers, was a guest on KPCC's Patt Morrison program last Friday. Kirk's done a lot of media appearances in recent years (such as this interview with KPCC's Madeleine Brand last June), and I'm always impressed with his ability to clearly communicate our group's philosophy while remaining his natural and charming self. It can be difficult to stay on message and still have a personality, but Kirk's an expert at it.

Yesterday's appearance came about because Patt and her producers wanted to discuss the recent publicity surrounding the phorid fly, which a researcher at San Francisco State University thinks may be causing declines in bee populations. They wanted a local LA beekeeper to weigh in on the topic.

It's unfortunate that the segment was so short, because while the other two guests (the above-mentioned John Hafernick of SF State and David Hackenberg, a commercial beekeeper) were articulate with their viewpoints, there wasn't time for Kirk to point out that while terms like "Zombie Flies" and "Colony Collapse" make great headlines and stimulating talk radio, they're kind of beside the point.

Food production over the last few decades has moved to an industrial model that plants mono-crops by the square mile and relies on commercial pollination services that deliver bee boxes to the fields by the tens of thousands. These beekeepers, in turn, are so economically squeezed that they're forced to breed for quantity rather than quality, to stress their bees through endless travel, and to supplement their bees' mono-crop diet with cheap junk food that leaves the bees susceptible to parasites and disease.

The industrial model gives us cheap food in the short term, at a high cost in the long term. The bees' plight is one indicator of this.

LA Backwards Beekeeper Ruth made this comment on KPCC's Patt Morrison web page (and, to her credit, Patt read it on air):

This is a tempest in a teacup! Bees have been around for 70 million years, and they will overcome this if we stop feeding them [high fructose corn syrup], loading them with antibiotics and antifungals, and otherwise weakening their immune systems. Bees get rid of all kinds of critters from their hives, from skunks to mice. They'll get rid of these too if we stop messing with their wild genetics.

At least we're getting this point of view into the discussion now. Little by little, we're making progress.

Link: Zombie bees: what’s really to blame for colony collapse? (KPCC)