Home

Photo Challenge: (Climate) Change in Progress

Leave a comment

This week’s photo challenge from WordPress is to “show us change in progress.” Sad to say, these cheerful photos of bumblebees sipping nectar reflect profound change . . . climate change.

Bumble Bees in Trouble

Bumblebee on Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana) in my Maryland garden

You see, scientists say that bumblebees are abandoning their southern habitats due to the warming climate, but they are not expanding their northern range. In other words, they could be squeezed out of existence.

And when bees are in trouble, the crops and wild plants that depend on them for pollination also suffer. And who is at the top of that food chain? Yeah, the species that builds coal plants and fracks for oil.

“We play with these things at our peril,” says bee ecology expert Jeremy Kerr of the University of Ottawa. “The human enterprise is the top floor in a really big scaffold. What we’re doing is reaching out and knocking out the supports.”

Kerr says that the shrinking bumblebee habitat is clearly related to climate change, and he’s amazed at how fast it’s happening. In the past forty years, some bees have retreated more than 185 miles from their southern homes. They’re also escaping to higher alpine altitudes — but all is not well in the mountains, either.

Another study shows that the deep, tubular flowers that alpine bumblebees prefer aren’t surviving the warming temps — up 3.6 degrees fahrenheit since the 1960s — so the bees now have to rely on more general foraging. Amazingly, in just forty years, the tongues of bees have shrunk 24%, which enables them to drink from different flowers. The pace of this change is “dramatic,” reports study author Professor Candace Galen in the journal Science.

“The finding of rapid adaptation is a glimmer of hope for bumblebees, whose populations worldwide are declining,” Professor Galen says.

And we can sure use the hope.

I’m hoping there is another type of change in progress, too, brought on by the straight climate talk from Pope Francis last week. It’s the old-fashioned concept of repentance, defined as “to feel such regret for past conduct as to change one’s mind regarding it.” The word is derived from the Latin “to think again” or to “re-think.” In ancient Greek, it’s translated as “to turn around.”  All of this would be appropriate for humankind when it comes to our environment.

Greed, denial, and creaturely comforts are tough to turn away from, but I think the Creator of the Bumblebees is up to the challenge, and so I pray: Great Lover of the Bumblebees, please change our hearts and minds and make us instruments of peace instead of purveyors of destruction. Amen.

Bumblebee on New Hampshire wildflower

Bumblebee on New Hampshire wildflower

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Pollinators, Pain, Gay Guys, and Gratitude

1 Comment

This morning I sat on a bee, which is troublesome since I’m looking at a 10-hour drive tomorrow. As I stood in the kitchen smearing baking soda paste on my posterior, I thought of Ferdinand the Bull. Do you know him? Ferdinand is the children’s story of a gentle bull who didn’t want to leave his wildflower meadow to compete in bullfights. All the other bulls would snort and kick around, putting on a show for scouts on the lookout for fierce fighting bulls. But Ferdinand just liked to sit in the meadow and smell the flowers. Then one day, he sat on a bee and went rampaging across the field and so ended up at a bullfight where he wouldn’t participate, no matter how much they abused him. (Read an interview of a bullfighter turned animal rights activist http://www.vice.com/read/bullfighter-152-v15n10) This being a children’s story, he was brought back to his wildflower meadow in a cart and lived out his days sitting peacefully beneath a tree.

Ferdinand at Peace

I loved the story of Ferdinand, and my Dad loved to read it to me. The story is a metaphor for so many things. I don’t wonder that might father treasured it. He was a gentle man, born with a withered arm that left him unable to work on the family farm or fight with the other men in World War II. Instead, he became a college English professor and then spent the war years as a cryptanalyst, pondering and puzzling over words (it’s in my blood).

The story of Ferdinand also brings to mind a gay friend of mine who was forced to charge around the athletic fields with the other guys instead of taking drama class and then was beaten up in the showers for his efforts. And it makes me think of the lure of simplicity and the fruits of a contemplative lifestyle – I’ll no doubt be going there soon on my page, The Spiritual Life.

This morning, though, my mental meandering leads me to contemplate gratitude, a huge gift of the spirit as I see it. One you can cultivate through various spiritual practices, like fasting (makes you grateful for french fries!) or spending time in nature. Unless you are in a deep clinical depression, it’s hard not to feel gratitude if you are paying any attention at all to a natural setting. Colors, cloud shapes, a deep breath of air. All so simple, yet so complex.

I was born with a grateful bent, so I don’t have to cultivate it as much as some people do. Gratitude as a default setting is a tremendous gift, because it makes one prone to joy, as well. I’m also prone to the downward spiral, but that’s part of living life to the full – I’ve worked hard to escape my denial of childhood wounds and the resulting adult dysfunctions. I want to feel all those emotions, high and low. They’re mine. So I can even feel gratitude when I’m “down in the dumps,” as my Mom used to call her depressed days. Even a bee sting on the butt can offer food for thought and growth.

What I’ve learned from this little inconvenience is that blogging can be a spiritual practice. Just as I see pain and suffering as opportunities to look at things from the broader perspective of the spiritual realm, so, too, is blogging such an opportunity. If I’d gotten a bee sting on my butt two weeks ago before I began this blog, I doubt my response would have been a reflection on gentleness and gratitude. So thanks, God, for this blogging experience and for Ferdinand and for my Dad. And for bees and the meadows of wildflowers they pollinate. Amen.

Best Not Sat Upon

%d bloggers like this: