BILL MOYERS: You can add clairvoyance to the list of Wendell Berry’s many talents. Eleven years ago, in an essay for Orion Magazine, he wrote, “If we make the world too toxic for honeybees, some compound brain, Monsanto perhaps, will invent tiny robots that will fly about pollinating flowers and making honey.” This spring, Harvard University announced the first successful controlled flight of a “RoboBee” that could take the place of real bees and natural pollination.
Full Show: Wendell Berry, Poet & Prophet
October 4, 2013
This week on Moyers & Company in a rare television interview, Bill talks to visionary, author and farmer Wendell Berry to discuss a sensible, but no-compromise plan to save the Earth. We also examine the critical role of honeybees in our food supply and the threats they face in The Dance of the Honey Bee. And after the antics in Washington this week, Bill shares his views on the government shutdown.
Wendell Berry, one of America’s most influential writers, who has written more than 40 novels, books of poetry, short stories and essays, has become an outspoken advocate for revolution. He’s calling for immediate action to end industrial farming and return to the sustainable farming methods of years past. In his interview with Bill, Berry says: “People who own the world outright for profit will have to be stopped; by influence, by power, by us.”
The short documentary Dance of the Honey Bee, narrated by Bill McKibben, takes a look at the determined, beautiful and vital role honeybees play in preserving life, as well as the threats bees face from a rapidly changing landscape. “Not only are we dependent on the honey bee for much of what we eat,” says Bill, “there is, of course, a grace and elegance they bring to the natural world that would diminish us all were they to disappear.”
And this week’s government shutdown has consequences for all of us, costing an estimated $300 million each day that the government is closed for business. Many Americans have voiced their frustrations with the fallout from the shutdown on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter using the hash tag #DearCongress. Here, Bill Moyers shares his own frustrations, admonishing the Republican Party for holding the country hostage via an irrational “ransom list” of demands, while sabotaging democracy in the process.
Learn more about the production team behind Moyers & Company.
BILL MOYERS: Wendell Berry, thank you for…
You can add clairvoyance to the list of Wendell Berry’s many talents. Eleven years ago, in an essay for Orion Magazine, he wrote, “If we make the world too toxic for honeybees, some compound brain, Monsanto perhaps, will invent tiny robots that will fly about pollinating flowers and making honey.” This spring, Harvard University announced the first successful controlled flight of a “RoboBee” that could take the place of real bees and natural pollination.
It would be funny if it were not so sad. This past winter, a third of US honeybee colonies died or disappeared in a phenomenon scientists call Colony Collapse Disorder. More and more, the culprit is believed to be certain pesticides, fungicides and herbicides that may be killing bees or adversely affecting brain and nerve functions. In April, Europe announced a ban across the continent, the first in the world, to prevent the use of a kind of pesticide known as neonicotinoids. Activists in the United States are suing the EPA to impose a similar ban.
The world would be a lesser place without the honeybee. A quarter of our diet depends on their pollinating skills, but we also admire their beauty, and grace. Observe. The environmentalist and writer Bill McKibben narrates this short film, “Dance of the Honeybee.”
BILL MCKIBBEN: Let’s think about bees in a hive, they go out every day when the temperature is high enough. There’re not like other farm animals, they’re this weird wonderful cross between wild and domestic and they head out into the open world and they come back as it were, with reports about that world, you know, what it’s like miles away. So one little bee yard some place is a kind of hub for understanding whole huge swath of territory. Understanding whether it’s been farmed well, or treated as kind of a monoculture. Whether it’s being saturated in pesticides or whether it’s producing a wide beautiful variety of flowers of all kinds.
There’re sort of accomplices in figuring how healthy and together our landscapes really are. One of the reasons I like being out with bees is that you do sort of slow down and enter their world a little bit. I think they’re quite beautiful, I like watching — I confess — I like watching in early spring the first few days of bees coming back with pollen and just sort of looking at the pollen in their saddle bags as they return and seeing what color it is and figuring out where–what tree it must of come from whatever. And there’re beautiful and that you get a sense of indefatigability, I mean, this is an impossible task to, you know, three grains at a time produce enough honey at time to keep the colony alive over the winter, and yet they do it and there is something quite beautiful about that too.
I think most beekeepers are fascinated by bees themselves. This perfect example of the idea that humans could cooperate with another species to both of their mutual benefit we don’t have very many examples of that in our society but that’s what a beehive is.
I mean honeybees are, like everything else on our planet, under all kinds of duress. I mean, the world in which we jointly inhabit is changing with enormous speed, so none of the patterns that any of us are used to exist in same way anymore. Bees are under treat because landscapes keep changing, we get better at everything that we do and take more cutting of hay, you know, we leave less time for clover to just sit there in the field. Life is speeding up for them just like it is for us and really neither us is coping very well with the results of that.
So, I mean, what we could do to help bees is exactly what we can do to help ourselves, try to slow down the pace of change in the world around us. Human societies aren’t going to be able to cope with rapid climate change and neither can most animal societies, bees included. Human societies can’t cope, turning everything into monoculture, neither can bees, they are a remarkable reminder for the need for a certain kind of stability, in terms of things like climate and the need for a certain kind of variety, in terms of landscape and what’s around us. We need to be making at this point in our society some wise decisions about the years ahead and so we need to be using some of that same focused and determined decision making that bees has successfully employed over a great many millennium.
BILL MOYERS: And now to the people who refuse to let democracy work. The people who hate government so much they’ve shut it down. Unable to abide by the results of democracy when they don’t win, they turned on it.
Republicans have now lost three successive elections to control the Senate and they’ve lost the last two presidential elections. Nonetheless, they fought tooth and nail to kill President Obama’s health care initiative. They lost that fight, but with the corporate wing of Democrats, they managed to bend it toward private interests.
So we should be clear on this, ObamaCare, as it’s known, is deeply flawed. Big subsidies to the health insurance industry! A bonanza for lobbyists! No public option. And as The New York Times reported this week, “Millions of Poor Are Left Uncovered by Health Law.” Largely because states controlled by Republicans refuse to expand Medicaid.
As far as our bought and paid for legislative process goes, Obama’s initiative made it through the sausage factory. Yet even after both the House and Senate approved it, the president signed it, and the Supreme Court upheld it, the Republicans keep insisting on calling the law a “bill”, thumbing their noses and refusing to accept that it is enacted legislation.
Now they’re fighting to prevent it from being implemented. Here was their order of the day on Thursday from the popular right wing blog RedState.com:
“Congressmen, this is about shutting down ObamaCare. Democrats keep talking about our refusal to compromise. They don’t realize our compromise is defunding ObamaCare. We actually want to repeal it. This is it. Our endgame is to leave the whole thing shut down until the President defunds ObamaCare. And if he does not defund ObamaCare, we leave the whole thing shut down.”
Once upon a time when I was a young man working on Capitol Hill, it was commonplace that when a bill became law, everybody was unhappy with it. But you didn’t bring down the government just because it wasn’t perfect. You argue and fight and vote and then, due process having been at least raggedly served, on to the next fight.
That was a long time ago. Long before the Tea Party minority, armed with huge sums of secret money from rich donors, sucked the last bit of soul from the Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln. They became delusional, then rabid like this:
SENATOR STEVE KING: If ObamaCare is ever implemented and enforced, we will never recover from it. It is an unconstitutional takings of God-given American liberty.
BILL MOYERS: That’s false, of course. Just like those right-wing talking points that keep grinding through the propaganda mills of Fox News:
AINSLEY EARHARDT on Fox and Friends: Thanks to ObamaCare, doctors will be forced to ask patients about their sex life, even if it has nothing to do with the medical treatment that they are seeking at the time.
BILL MOYERS: Not true.
MICHELLE MALKIN on Fox and Friends: That healthcare plan puts a discount on the lives of elderly people and would result in the redistribution of health away from the elderly and the infirm to other special favored interests and patients.
BILL MOYERS: Again, not true. Nor is this, from the multi-millionaire fabulist Rush Limbaugh:
RUSH LIMBAUGH from the Rush Limbaugh Show: What we now have is the biggest tax increase in the history of the world. ObamaCare is just a massive tax increase, that all it is.
BILL MOYERS: That’s just a tiny sample of the lies and misinformation perpetrated by the right with the song and dance compliance of its richly paid mouthpieces. Sarah Palin set the bar for truth at about ankle height with those fictitious “death panels” that she still insists will decide our rendezvous with the Grim Reaper.
SARAH PALIN on Cashin’ In: Of course there are death panels in there, but the important thing to remember is that’s just one aspect of this atrocious, unaffordable, cumbersome, burdensome, evil policy of Obama’s and that is ObamaCare.
BILL MOYERS: Despite what they say, ObamaCare is only one of their targets. Before they will allow the government to reopen, they demand employers be enabled to deny birth control coverage to female employees. They demand Obama cave on the Keystone pipeline. They demand the watchdogs over corporate pollution be muzzled, and the big, bad regulators of Wall Street sent home. Their ransom list goes on and on. The debt ceiling is next. They would have the government default on its obligations and responsibilities.
When the president refused to buckle to their extortion, they threw their tantrum. Like the die-hards of the racist South a century and a half ago, who would destroy the Union before giving up their slaves, so would these people burn the place down, sink the ship of state, and sow economic chaos to get their way. This says it all, they even shuttered the Statue of Liberty.
Watching all this from London, the noted commentator, Martin Wolf of the capitalist friendly Financial Times, says, “America flirts with self-destruction”.
This man is the biggest flirt of all, Newt Gingrich. It was Newt Gingrich, who twenty years ago spearheaded the right-wing’s virulent crusade against the norms of democratic government. As Speaker of the House he twice brought about shutdowns of the federal government once, believe it or not, because he felt snubbed after riding on Air Force One with President Clinton and had to leave by the backdoor.
It was also Newt Gingrich, speaker Gingrich, who was caught lying to congressional investigators looking into charges of his ethical wrongdoing. His colleagues voted overwhelmingly, 395 to 28, to reprimand him. Pressure from his own party then prompted him to resign.
Yet even after his flame out, even after his recent bizarre race for the presidency bankrolled with money from admiring oligarchs, even after new allegations about his secret fundraising for right-wing candidates, Gingrich remains the darling of a fawning amnesic media.
NEWT GINGRICH on Crossfire: I’m Newt Gingrich on the right.
BILL MOYERS: On CNN.com the other day he issued a call to arms to his fellow bomb-throwers, “…don’t cave on shutdown.”
At least let’s name this for what it is, sabotage of the democratic process. Secession by another means! And let’s be clear about where such reckless ambition leads. As surely as night must follow day, the alternative to democracy is worse.
At our website, BillMoyers.com, there’s an exclusive video interview with environmental activist Bill McKibben. That and a lot more are at BillMoyers.com. I’ll see you there and I’ll see you here, next time.
Harvard’s ‘RoboBee’: Wired For Flight?
Or Is That A Robobee Leash?
Maybe Harvard Should Rethink This –
Wireless Would Be Nice!
TABACCO: How could I have overlooked this! The Honeybee is disappearing – and fast! But before you gush, “Whew! Thank God for Harvard – we dodged a bullet this time!”, you’d better use your imagination and realize this is Capitalist America!
To LURE Honeybees, you only had to grow posies with pretty colors they can see. At the grocery store, there are many different types of honey, generally named after the flower that those particular Honeybees pollinate, which gives that particular honey brand that particular flavor. But this is a new day!
When the HoneyBee goes, so goes FREE POLLINATION! Harvard will sell its new invention or franchise it, and you can buy, rent or lease all you can afford. However, wild flowers will become extinct – who would buy Robobees to do that job! Your outdoor flower garden will become extinct unless you spring for some Robobees yourself. And who knows what the price of one will be!
And the cost of all honeys will increase dramatically! Why? Because the RoboBees will not be FREE like HoneyBees. Beekeepers will have added expenses, and those expenses will be passed on to you, the consumer – fear not! And Robobees won’t procreate like HoneyBees. That means when they wear out, you will have to buy, rent or lease more.
Capitalism ADORES Repeat Buyers! I think those Capitalists have PRIVATIZED THE HONEYBEE!
They forgot to mention that the Harvard RoboBee, unlike the live HoneyBee, would pollinate only one special flavonol flower. No other flower will attract the Robobee!
You, who want pollinated flowers or homegrown honey, will have to start growing this special genus of flowers – Picture Below:
The only Flowers that Harvard’s Capitalist Robobee will pollinate!
Tabacco: I consider myself both a funnel and a filter. I funnel information, not readily available on the Mass Media, which is ignored and/or suppressed. I filter out the irrelevancies and trivialities to save both the time and effort of my Readers and bring consternation to the enemies of Truth & Fairness! When you read Tabacco, if you don’t learn something NEW, I’ve wasted your time.
Tabacco is not a blogger, who thinks; I am a Thinker, who blogs. Speaking Truth to Power!
In 1981′s ‘Body Heat’, Kathleen Turner said, “Knowledge is power”.
T.A.B.A.C.C.O. (Truth About Business And Congressional Crimes Organization) – Think Tank For Other 95% Of World: WTP = We The People