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The Second Half: Save the chocolate and coffee!

March 16, 2011

By Kathleen D. Tresemer
Columnist

It’s funny how some things jump out at you. A mysterious experience has led me to beg my readers for help in a very specific cause: saving chocolate and coffee from extinction!

To get to this critical environmental disaster, I must get philosophical. It was Deepak Chopra who helped me understand there are no coincidences, just synchronicity. What the heck is “synchronicity”? Wikipedia describes it:

“Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner.”

OK, honestly, it was Carl Jung who first came up with the concept, but suddenly I understand how this works. My eerie experience with synchronicity began in late February at a class about bees—yeah, bees. Honeybees, to be more exact.

The Rock Valley College (RVC) Center for Learning in Retirement (CLR) held a class by Beekeeper Greg Sparks, describing the life cycle of a bee colony. We were also treated to a viewing of the fantastic NOVA film exploring life inside of a beehive, filmed from a bee’s perspective. It was a totally cool experience, like riding on a bee’s back!

An additional draw to take the class: free samples of locally-produced honey. “Free samples?” I thought, “I’m in!”

This class was amazing! I learned, among other things, that bees are like our “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to the environment. The class instructor reminded us that, while bees are generally not known for their hospitality, start losing bees, and you are sure to lose the many, many things that the little darlings pollinate. And it isn’t just food, either…how much cotton can we grow without bees, do you think?

Think for a minute what would happen if you went out to Edwards Apple Orchard and didn’t see a single apple on the trees, or if you went to Village Green, and there were no berry bushes or tomatoes to plant this spring.

This is the message, people: no bees, no food.

That was the first event.

Next, my National Geographic magazine came in the mail the day after the class. One of the cover stories: “Gold Dusters: the Earth’s Pollinators.”

The article, by Jennifer S. Holland, claimed that pollination, especially by bees, is worth “more than $200 billion worldwide.” The crops that are most dependent on bees for pollination in the U.S. are almonds, onions, sunflowers, alfalfa and cantaloupes. Alfalfa feeds the majority of meat animals—personally, I have fed it to cows, sheep and goats, not to mention our horses (well, some people consider them meat animals). That impacts dairy, too, including cheese and butter.

It is impressive to think about—farmers who own apple orchards, for instance, may hire hundreds of thousands of rented bees to pollinate their crops. The article went on to discuss “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD), the rapid die-off of the world’s honeybees. This is a scary thought. Producers of so many crops require bees. Besides apples, the list is huge: peaches, pears, raspberries, blueberries, alfalfa, canola, watermelon, pumpkin and…OH, NO! Coffee and chocolate!

“We wouldn’t starve,” the article encouraged me gently, but I was not fooled. Who would want to live in a world without coffee and chocolate?!

That was the second event.

Finally, I was watching the Stephen Colbert Report March 7, and his guest was a guy named Mark Moffett. Turns out that guy was the photographer from the National Geographic article, the guy who took the close-ups of those pollinators as well as a wistful view of a potentially-endangered apple orchard. Moffett told Colbert that, without bees, he would not have his sport coat, “a cotton/wool blend.” He added, “And certainly no coffee or chocolate.”

Ah-ha! That was the third event, the one that cemented it for me: the universe is telling me that coffee and chocolate could disappear from the planet if I don’t do something right away.

“Aren’t you overreacting a bit?” my Second-Half pal Peg asked me. “This is just a distant possibility, right?”

I don’t think so. I also believe there are no coincidences. Let’s examine the facts: first, the CLR class in February; second, National Geographic magazine’s March 2011 issue; and third, the Stephen Colbert interview by Mark Moffett March 7. Each of the three “unrelated” events occurred in a 10-day period, initially separate, but now irrevocably tied together by their dire warning: without bees, my two favorite things will disappear forever.

The universe compels me to protect the chocolate and coffee! “But how do I do it?” I wondered.

With bees dying out, we’ve learned a few things. We know pesticides did a number on bald eagles—remember the horrible video of the egg shells breaking and the tiny eagle chicks dying? It’s logical to assume bees are affected by pesticides, too.

Then, you have to consider nourishment—with huge, single-crop farms like alfalfa, how can bees get a good diet? Diversity is necessary for sound nutrition, which leads to a healthy immune system. I don’t think it is much of a leap to assume that bees in our current environment are getting sick.

Here’s the plan: this spring, everybody plant flowers, herbs and trees that support honeybees. My instructor Greg Sparks says bees love cilantro and Mexican sunflowers—plant ’em!

Do it for future generations, so chocolate and coffee don’t disappear from the planet.

And I will do it for Hubby…because, as he so sweetly put it, “There’d be no living with you, otherwise.” Amen!

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at kdt-insights@hotmail.com.

From the March 16-22, 2011, issue

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