What honeybees, humans, and art have in common

Question of the day: How many honeybees are in a bee hive? Answer: 50,000 – but who’s counting?
Matt Willey, for one. A highly-regarded mural artist, he’s been commissioned during the past two decades to grace the walls of homes and businesses. And now he’s asking you and me to commission 20 new murals by him in various cities, with each wall-sized painting being different versions of a common theme: “The Good of the Hive.” In particular, these murals will include a total of 50,000 hand-painted honeybees!
Willey was motivated by a brief encounter with a single honeybee a few years ago. The tiny creature was crawling slowly across his rug. “She was dying,” he says, “and for some reason, I hung out with her until she died.” This wholly unexpected spiritual connection with a bee prompted him to do a bit of research, finding that when a honeybee realizes it’s sick and could infect the hive, it immediately departs, flying away to die to protect the health of the interconnected bee family.
Bees don’t just live in a hive, they are an integral, functioning part of it. The pulsing hive itself is alive, an organic body nurtured by – and, in turn nurturing – every bee in the community. It dawned on Matt that this natural truth applies to our human communities, as well. “When we connect, we thrive,” he realized, leading him to launch “The Good of the Hive” mural project. Using art, social media, film, music, and discussions, he and a happy band of travelers will swarm into communities for several weeks each to (1) raise awareness about the unique importance (as well as some special problems) of bees; and (2) connect people to our human hive and the essential need to work for the good of all.
To connect with Matt, the project, honeybees, and the idea of our shared community, go to www.TheGoodOfTheHive.com.

America’s good food movement

What better day than Thanksgiving to celebrate our country’s food rebels!
I’m talking about the growing movement of small farmers, food artisans, local retailers, co-ops, community organizers, restaurateurs, environmentalists, consumers, and others – perhaps including you. This movement has spread the rich ideas of sustainability, organic, local economies, and the Common Good from the fringe of our food economy into the mainstream.
It began as an “upchuck rebellion” – ordinary folks rejecting the industrialized, chemicalized, corporatized, and globalized food system. Farmers wanted a more natural connection to the good earth that they were working. Meanwhile, consumers began seeking edibles that were not saturated with pesticides, injected with antibiotics, ripened with chemicals, dosed with artificial flavorings, and otherwise tortured.
These two interests began to find each other and to create an alternative way of thinking about food. Today, more than 19,500 organic farmers produce everything from wheat to meat, and organic sales top nearly $39 billion a year. Also, about 8,000 farmers markets operate in practically every city and town across the land, linking farmers and food makers directly to consumers in a local, supportive economy. Restaurants, supermarkets, food wholesalers, and school districts are now buying foodstuffs that are produced sustainably and locally.
This shift did not come from corporate or governmental powers – it percolated up from the grassroots. And it’s spreading, as ordinary people inform themselves, organize locally, and assert their own democratic values over those of the corporate structure.
Family by family, town by town, this good food movement has changed not only the market, but also the culture of food. As you, your family, and friends sit down for a good meal this Thanksgiving, celebrate this change, which is truly worthy of our thanks.
“Organic Sales, Farm Growth Soar in 2014,” www.ofrf.org, April 15, 2015.
“New Data Reflects the Continued Demand for Farmers Markets,” www.usda.gov, August 4, 2014.

Watering America’s food factories

Water scarcity is getting scary, and banning long showers is not even a drop in the solution bucket.
The biggest water sponge by far is food production, and agri-giants continue to pour it on their vast fields like there’s no tomorrow. In a May 31 column, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times reports that the Pacific Institute and National Geographic have calculated how much water today’s industrialized food system sucks up. For example:

• One little almond: 1 gallon
• A single walnut: 5 gallons
• A head of lettuce: 12 gallons
• A cluster of grapes: 24 gallons

But wait – America’s Big Oil frackers say not to worry, because they can offer a gusher of H2O to food producers. Believe it or not, they’re selling their fracking wastewater to agribusiness for irrigating fruit and vegetable crops.
This is water that ExxonMobil and other drillers mix with a witch’s brew of some 750 toxic chemicals before power-blasting it into underground rock formations. The drillers have had to reclaim and store this contaminated water, but – “Eureka!” someone shouted – rather than store it, put it on America’s salads! It’s perfectly safe, the always-trustworthy oil industry tells us, because they treat the water to remove all the cancer-causing nasties. But studies have found toxics remaining in some of the “treated” water, and a California science panel found that state regulators have no adequate testing process, nor any controls in place to stop contamination of crops.
Fed up, California Assemblyman Mike Gatto has introduced a bill to require warning labels on all state produce that has been irrigated with fracking water. This would empower consumers, rather than Big Oil, to decide whether fracking chemicals belong on our families’ dinner plates. For more information, contact: www.WaterDefense.org.