Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Introduction

I remember when I first heard about the bee epidemic that has since been labelled "CCD". I was up early on a cold windy morning in either February or March engaged in my normal pre-work rituals: packing up my knapsack, making some hot tea and eating a granola bar so that I could rush out to teach my 7:45 class at the university. As usual, my partner and I were listening to the news on National Public Radio, waiting primarily for the weather report. Most of the news was rather expected, mostly concerned with violence in Iraq or domestic economic woes, but then I heard a report that made me stop and listen more carefully; Beekeepers around the nation were reporting the mysterious disappearance of bees.

This was very disturbing news to me, a "pit of the stomach", "end of the world" type of anxiety. I was not a beekeeper at the time but did recognize the importance of bees to the "community of life". Emotionally, I felt a particular fondness to the insect, remembering those days growing up in Brooklyn, New York, watching bees forage in a backlot near my house I was fascinated by their diligence and appreciative of their tolerance of me as I touched and examined them. A decade or so later, my interests turned to the human species and I pursued advance degrees in sociology but a concern and study of other species remained. I bred Angel fish in graduate school, and kept a number of exotic reptile species as pets throughout my lifetime. I was obsessive about the research on any species I kept, studying all I could find about the animal.

After hearing the report, I began to research on the web and at the university's library what I could discover about the epidemic . My research took me far beyond the species itself to its imposed relations with human beings. I found that the plight of the honey bee illuminated those abstract concepts, processes and practices (e.g. agribusiness practices and IMF policies) I had bored my students with in Global Issues courses. Those frames beekeeper's of all stripes were constructing to explain the crisis offered concrete examples of frame building for my Introductory Sociology courses as well.

The connections I was drawing did not go unnoticed to those around me, especially my partner. Dinner and driving conversation changed as I shared my new found knowledge. Finally, after one of my long, and animated monologues on bees, Monta suggested that I pursue the research more systematically even, perhaps, creating a course in Global Issues which focused entirely on honey bees.

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