Monday, July 12, 2010

Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum "A World Without Bees"

Just what is up with the vanishing honeybees?

The mysterious ailment with the X-files worthy name of “Colony Collapse Disorder” has scientists stumped since the spring of 2007 when American bee-keepers opened their hives to find a whole lot of nothing. Pretty soon European bees were disappearing too.

“A World Without Bees” is a fascinating, if unsettling book, which for some reason, I really didn’t get into when I first got it, a couple of years back.

I opened it again recently and became enthralled – sometimes you have to pick up a book at the right moment, I guess.

Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum have put together a very readable, detailed and interesting overview of CCD, that is also an exposé of modern agricultural practices and our very civilization’s dependence on bees.

Think I’m exaggerating? Well, consider that bees are responsible for pollinating something like 70% of crops: everything from most fruits and vegetables to cotton, needed for clothing manufacture, and coffee, not to mention most crops used as animal feed. No more bees = no more steak, milk, etc. Scary, hum?

In “A World Without Bees” several usual suspects are carefully looked over: monoculture techniques of growing crops, the massive transport of beehives to sites, viruses old and new, pesticides, climate change.

Even if scientists have yet to understand the mechanisms at work in the mysterious disappearance of honeybees one thing is made clear by the surprising picture painted by Benjamin and McCallum: agriculture these days is sounding more and more like a soil form of fois-gras production. We can’t expect to keep up it up without something going very wrong. For all intents and purposes it seems it already has.

A great book.


Jeane said...

I am definitely going to read this book, thanks to you! I've heard about the bee decline, but not read anything on it yet.

bookworm (inês) said...

I liked this book so much, I'm now reading "Robbing the Bees: a biography of honey" - it made me want to know a lot more about honeybees!