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" One touch of nature

makes all the world kin "

William Shakespeare

Human Colony Collapse and Bee Sanctuaries

April 30th, 2009

From the 100 Monkeys column by Adrienne Campbell in Viva Lewes:

I’m getting pretty alarmed about the lack of honeybees this summer. The giant rosemary bush on my allotment is spookily silent – in years gone by it would have been covered by flying insects of all kinds especially honeybees. Who Killed the Honey Bee, a documentary on telly a while ago (watch back here) points the finger at pesticides, lack of habitat, the Americans’ habit of moving bees around and, I would add, micro-wave radiation. But perhaps the biggest cause of stress in honey bees is, I believe, the way that we are managing them.
The current practice of western beekeeping hasn’t changed much since it was introduced by the Victorians. I’ve been keeping bees for 15 years, after a training course at Plumpton, and I’ve never felt entirely comfortable with the degree of intervention that this entails. In order to stop colonies from swarming and taking the year’s honey supply with them, beekeepers open hives regularly in the summer, thus disrupting the bee atmosphere, with its powerful yet delicate matrix of pheromones, heat, smell and Goddess knows what else. They smoke them, they take off almost all the honey stores, replacing them with sugar syrup for feed, and they treat them with antibiotics and pesticides when the bees get ill. Perhaps most damagingly, honey bees are encouraged to create cells on a foundation of wax made by man, in order to harvest more honey, which is often about 10% bigger than the cells that bees make naturally, and they can’t make many of the larger drone cells. Far from being natural, traditional beekeeping is highly intrusive.
So I was delighted last year to find out about the Top Bar beehive, a model adapted from an intermediate technology approach used in Africa. I’ve just finished building my first top bar beehive, with my friend Steven. With the top bar beehive, you leave the bees alone to do their thing, including making cells of the size of their choice. With the Top Bar you take only a small proportion of the honey, leaving most for the bees to overwinter on. And if they want to swarm you let them, instead of destroying their new queen cells. With the colony in the woods I’ve decided not to open the hive at all other than to treat them naturally for varroa mite twice a year. Basically, natural beekeeping – or bee caretaking – is about learning about what bees want to do instead of bending them to our will, for our own profit. A few beekeepers are starting to listen to the bees. We’re generally vilified by standard beekeepers as allowing disease to enter the population. But given the facts – 30% of British bee colonies have been wiped out in the last two years – I reckon there is a call to create bee sanctuaries.
Rather than focus on the human colony collapse that might well follow from the bees, I will just bless and thank our honeybees. May you flourish and multiply. May you teach us about how to live in balance.
And since I am now looking to populate our new hive, I now sing to the bees and if anyone hears of a swarm in this swarming month for our new hive, please contact Viva Lewes, and they’ll get in touch with me.

Adrienne Campbell

Save the Crewkerne Lucombe Oak

April 29th, 2009

Video of the saturday 18th April protest about the proposal to fell the third largest (possibly higher ranking) Lucombe Oak at Henhayes Crewkerne. The species was cultivated in 1762 by William Lucombe. The Crewkerne Lucombe Oak is probably about 200 years old based on its trunk diameter. And has the potential to live another 50-100 years and become the largest in Britain and the World – if sympathetically managed. Crewkerne Town Council have decided twice to fell it, because of a fear of litigation by their insurers – if it falls and cusing damage – due to the not accurately known quantity of root decay. The tree is undoubtedly in good health. There is no die-back or large deadwood and no history of past failure. The area around the tree is well used but the risk the tree represents could be managed. It has been reported that there are plans on display of a proposed new sports facility building at the location where the tree now stands. The councils insurers appear to be bullying the councilors into taking drastic action and threatening to sue any individual who stands in the way. The council seems unwilling to take alternative management proposals for the tree, seriously. From both experts and local people. The Sports building could be built elsewhere on the site. We can keep the tree and have the development. There is still time to make a difference. Birds are nesting in the tree and no independent bat habitat assessment has been carried out. Help is required ASAP to save this tree – contact Ben Hartshorn of South Somerset Green Party at

The Green Nobel Prize

April 27th, 2009

If you look for it, as fast as you hear depressing news you can find good news about amazing people doing wonderful things. Did you know that since 1989 there has been a ‘Green Nobel Prize’? Here are details from the BBC website:

Richard Goldman, founder of the “green Nobel prize”, says it is vital to recognise the efforts of grassroots activists. In this week’s Green Room, he explains why he believes some of the world’s most powerful people could learn a lesson or two from the winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize.

Marc Ona (Image: Goldman Prize/John Antonelli)

As governments around the world struggle with the crushing economic downturn and increasingly scarce natural resources, leaders at the grassroots level are continuing the critical work that often goes unnoticed, promoting environmental health, civil society, and reform in the face of great hardship.

More from the BBC here.

When will Science Give up Its Metaphysical Pretentions?

April 27th, 2009

From ‘Stephen Hawking is Wrong’ by Hilary Lawson:

The notion that we might uncover the nature of the world through a combination of careful observation and logic goes back to the inception of the scientific project. It was the dream of the Enlightenment and it could even be said that this vision has defined modern western culture. A motivating and liberating force, it has given us a sense of progress, a sense that unlike previous cultures and other societies we are on the road to truth. Nevertheless, it is profoundly mistaken…

A century ago Lord Kelvin declared, “there is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more measurement.” Those like Stephen Hawking today who suppose that we are on the verge of finding the ultimate theory will be similarly embarrassed. If instead science gave up its metaphysical pretentions and stopped supposing that it was uncovering the essential character of the world, it would be stronger not weaker.

For more see the full article here.

In Memory of John Michell

April 25th, 2009

John MichellI have just received this email from Rollo Maughfling, founder of the Glastonbury Order of Druids and his partner Donna:

Dear All, It is with great sadness, that I have to report, the passing at about half past midnight last night, of our dear friend and mentor, John Michell. Although in remission from suspected lung cancer, it seems that his heart gave up instead, and he died peacefully in his sleep. A respected name to thousands, to those of us who knew him personally, he was without equal in generosity of spirit, breadth of scholarship and depth of wisdom. Truly, he was the Great Druid of the Age.

For those of you who don’t know him, here is a brief bio:

John Michell, 1933–2009

John Michell lived in Notting Hill, often holding impromptu salons in the cafés of Portobello Road. Educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, he wrote more than a dozen books and contributed for over a decade to The Oldie magazine.
Continuing in the great tradition of Aubrey and Stukeley, Michell captivated the readers of his books on the sacred landscape of Britain. In 1969, his View Over Atlantis became a cult classic, popularising the notion that Britain was criss-crossed with lines of magical earth-energy that our ancestors understood, but which we have forgotten.
Blending Alfred Watkins’ ideas about the ‘Old Straight Track’ with cabbalistic numerology, sacred geometry and theories drawn from the Chinese geomancy of Feng Shui, View Over Atlantis suggested that Stonehenge and the other great prehistoric monuments of the English landscape are laid out in accordance with sacred geometry to fulfil a magical purpose: to bring harmony to the land.

(Adapted from The Book of English Magic)

John was a dear, gentle and generous soul. At a summer solstice ceremony on Primrose Hill of the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids in 1992 we awarded him with the title of Presider of the Order and I still remember him standing in the middle of the ceremonial circle surrounded by dozens of participants cheering him as various people presented him with gifts in honour of his work. In the end he was standing there so laden with gifts he could hardly carry them, looking just like a contestant in ‘Crackerjack’ (a TV programme where contestants had to hold more and more prizes). The illustration is of John taken from a painting by his friend Maxwell Armfield (now also in the Summerlands). The last time I spoke to John was when I asked him for permission to use this illustration in a book. Dear John, you will be greatly missed. May your journey to the Summerlands be swift and sure.

The Death of Dogma

April 23rd, 2009

The death of dogma is the birth of morality.

Immanuel Kant

Rilke on Love and Friendship

April 22nd, 2009

I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other. For, if it lies in the nature of indifference and of the crowd to recognize no solitude, then love and friendship are there for the purpose of continually providing the opportunity for solitude. And only those are the true sharings which rhythmically interrupt periods of deep isolation.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Susan Boyle and Grace

April 18th, 2009

“In our pop-minded culture so slavishly obsessed with packaging – the right face, the right clothes, the right attitudes, the right Facebook posts – the unpackaged artistic power of the unstyled, un-hip, un-kissed Ms Boyle let me feel, for the duration of one blazing showstopping ballad, the meaning of human grace.

“She pierced my defences. She reordered the measure of beauty. And I had no idea until tears sprang how desperately I need that corrective.” Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly.

From an excellent article on the Susan Boyle phenomenon on the BBC website here.