Maryam Henein co-directed the documentary film Vanishing of the Bees, narrated by Ellen Page. The film is remarkable in that the content of the film is of the utmost importance to every living being on our planet Earth. Vanishing of the Bees, which was released in 2010, will be having a special screening at The West Hollywood Library at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd., L.A. on Wednesday April 22nd at 7:15 p.m.. Ms. Henein will be one of the guest panelists for the GLN Earth Day event.
In the film, we learn that colonies of honey bees have begun to disappear all over the world leaving the babies and the queen bee to fend for themselves. Adult bees never leave their babies unattended, so this occurrence is quite unnatural. The mass exodus of bees from their colonies is traced to systemic pesticides that belong to the family of neonicotinoids (nicotine-based). Systemic pesticides are coated on to seeds or entrenched in the soil, so they become part of the actual plant. Bees then store the nectar and pollen, affecting future generations.
Second generation bees that have been contaminated with the chemical pesticide become disoriented and are unable to navigate their way back to their colony. The term Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is used to describe the phenomena of the missing bees.
In March 2012, The Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network, Beyond Pesticides and a group of people including Bee Keeper David Hackenberg filed an emergency petition with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) asking the agency to suspend the use of clothlanidin (included in the family of neonicotinoids). Sadly, the agency denied the petition. In March of 2013, the U.S. EPA was sued by the same group, with the Sierra Club and the Center for Environmental Health also joining, accusing the agency of performing inadequate toxicity evaluations and allowing insecticide registration based on inadequate studies. Later that year a bill was introduced to the United States Congress as the Save American Pollinators Act. The bill calls for suspension of the use of four neonicotinoids. The bill has not left committee.
In addition to her film career, Henein also has a website at HoneyColony.com that aims to put honesty back into the food supply and empower folks to be their own best health advocate. She has worked as an investigative journalist, a documentary film maker, and as a television producer as well as a professional researcher. As a journalist she has written for publications such as The Los Angeles Times, Science & Spirit Magazine, and The Cairo Times. I spoke with Henein recently about the dwindling bee population in the United States.
“The bees are still vanishing, but they are not the only ones experiencing a collapse. We are also seeing a human collapse via the antibiotic epidemic. Systems i.e., regarding health, economics and education, need to collapse for a new paradigm to sprout forth!,” she explains.
I ask Henein if she is an existentialist (learning to see hope through the hopelessness). “This is interesting, because first I don’t see hopelessness, instead I can only see hope for our planet and all of its eco-systems. I just spent the last two months in Central America studying permaculture, which is a way to learn how to optimize things, working for complete sustainability. ”
Henein continues: “ Costa Rica uses more pesticides than any other place in the world. In Nicaragua, President Ortega has issued a mandate to fumigate the streets against the Chikanuya virus. And there are checkpoints when driving through Central America that fumigate the outside of your vehicle against the Mediterranean Fruit Fly while you are still in your vehicle.”
I still wonder if Henein is an existentialist and whether she can see any hope through what is happening in the rapid decline of our bee population. She tells me that “systemic pesticides are still being used in the U.S., and that we are losing 30 to 35 percent of the bees in the United States each year. Data regarding dwindling bee populations is skewed, because they count urban beekeepers who don’t even experience CCD losses. And beekeepers split their hives, sometimes four ways to keep populations up.”
I ask her again about existentialism in the 21st century. “You might say that I am, because there is hope when you are looking for it. I have learned quite a bit from the bees, and I am learning my role in this world through studying their behavior, there instincts and focus. Right now I am speaking with a lawyer who wants to move forward with a class action law suit against the big pesticide companies. There is always hope.”