Tag Archives: ecosystem

2013-March Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Podcast – Going With The Flow

2013-March Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Podcast – Going With The Flow

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Watching How Traffic Gridlock Forms
Harmonious Paths in Disaster
The Bodhisattva Vow

Traffic patterns, much like check-out lines at a store are fascinating to observe – people always jostling for a better position, racing ahead only to get stuck as that lane eventually slows to a crawl again. Having a higher-view, similar to what truckers can see, you start to see the larger picture of traffic. On some freeways, for whatever reason, sometimes the right-side slow lanes go faster than the left-side passing ones. Motorcyclists tend to be more aware of their surroundings, so we notice when the little red sports car that sped up quickly to race ahead, gets blithely stuck in slower traffic and fades to the rear. We notice when there’s an unusually slow driver in the far left lane causing traffic from behind to have to move right to pass.

We also notice how the large truck drivers, sentenced by regulation to an existence imprisoned within the right two lanes, also learn to drive with consistency of both throttle and path. They don’t tend to change lanes, and try to maintain a steady pace of forward momentum. Having so much mass to move, does not allow for rapid fluctuations in speed and direction, so those drivers have to plan well ahead in order to stay safe, and keep from endangering others. These professional drivers make decisions to change paths because of safety and overall-efficiency. Opening wide the throttle to jump into a temporary opening might decrease a few seconds of the trip time, but the sacrifice is an above-average burn of precious (and these days, costly) fuel. Too many snap decisions and there might not be enough in the tank to complete the trip without stopping for more fuel – adding additional delays to the overall arrival time.

Every time someone unexpectedly changes lanes, whether without signalling, or abruptly changing from one lane to another, those people displaced usually end up slowing down slightly (to keep themselves safe), and those in-front glance in their rear mirrors wondering why they are being suddenly tailgated. The people to the sides spend a few thought moments thinking to themselves “how rude!” or other distractions.  Collectively the single decision of one person to try and jump a little farther ahead of the others, ends up having collateral energy expenditures on all those individuals around them, and inevitably, that lack of focus and concentration also results in slightly slower progress.

Buddhism observes many such paths and interactions: water flowing along a stream, winds flowing through and around forests, birds migrating from place to place – each having a starting point and a destination. Each kind of energy makes its best effort to get to its ending point but deviates its path only for natural drives: danger, hunger, thirst, and fatigue. Ultimately the path of least resistance is always sought, to conserve energy.  Water gains flow and volume when it moves as a whole, widening its path and straightening its course. Air becomes powerful as it goes faster and forms streams of continuous flow. Birds in flocks expend less energy to get to their destination when they take turns leading and following each other, staying within the leader’s wake, taking the least amount of energy to maintain formation flight.

March 11 marks the second anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, and the third memorial service for its victims (In Japan, a funeral is counted as the first of the yearly memorial services, so the third memorial service is conducted on the second anniversary.) The torrential water that flooded most of the Tohoku region followed its own path of least resistance. Residents noted the risks associated with building directly in the path of the ocean’s own tides, and recommended higher altitude and raised platform construction be incorporated during the reconstruction. Living in connection with the ever-present tides and constructing flexible buildings that can sway and move with the quaking earth are similar examples of harmonious paths.

Two thousand, five hundred years ago, at the Buddha’s final moment of nirvana, Chunda, the lay follower, showed us in his purity how to truly accomplish dana paramita, or the perfection of giving. Shakyamuni accepted Chunda’s sincere offering and reassured him that he’d be there whenever Chunda needed him. “There is no need to grieve over my death,” he said, “I have entered a state of nirvana. I am in a place of eternal bliss. Listen well, with a sincere attitude. I will explain the bodhisattva vow [to endeavor for the sake of all sentient beings] to you, so that serene and tranquil bliss can be attained equally by all sentient beings. You have now listened to the truth of my ever present tathagata nature; etch this truth and what you have heard into your mind, and train accordingly.”

And so, returning to our traffic analogy, imagine what traffic would be like if the very front person on every lane were concerned about holding up traffic flow for everyone behind them. And each person in-turn was focused on the safety and efficacy of each other driver’s capacity to reach their destination safely and quickly.  And even the last person was conscientious about lagging too far behind, lest someone else follow behind them.  Races go fast because each individual has the same objective – the finish line. A careless and untrained move by any individual can lead to disastrous results for everyone participating, so they each strive to maximize their potential, which results in a collective increase in effort and effectiveness for everyone.


Bee Colony Collapse Disorder (and why it probably isn’t a disorder)

ImageBees eat nectar, pollen and collect plant sap (propolis). Normally they eat a varied diet of many different flowers, plants and various flora.  They live outside in tree hollows, under structures, inside walls, and many times even just hanging from tree branches out in the open where they survive just fine against all kinds of rain, snow, ants, mites, beetles, moths and whatever else the natural world throws at them.

People decided to try and make more food producible from less land, so it’s cheaper (or more profitable, depending on how you look at it.)  Monoculture developed (growing a lot of one kind of plant in an area). Insect-resistant strains of species were cultivated, engineered and distributed. Multi-spectrum insecticides were invented to combat the increasing number of insects that seemed to like our vast fields full of single-crop plantings (sort of like putting a CostCo where a 7-11 convenience store once stood).

Until the robotic bees are perfected, in order to keep growing grains, fruits and vegetables, regular honeybees (apis mellifera) do the work of pollenating the fields. Even when trucked and transported thousands of miles into foreign soils and dumped on the grounds of vast monoculture plantings, they do their work.

But just like humans, if one is fed a single-source diet, bees own immune systems start breaking down and getting weaker. Gets worse when starting to be fed refined sugar syrups or soy protein extracts instead of plain raw organic pollen. Add to that trace elemental insecticides into the nectar, pollen and plant saps that are coming from all of the agricultural engineering being applied, and you get, one weak bee (or a few billion of them.)

Because we like to work our fields during the daytime, and we don’t like getting stung by bees, we start promoting the more docile-behaving bees, and kill the queens that produce the “angrier” kind. Behaviorally, these “calm” and “easy to manage” bees also seem to have lackluster response to common bee pests, such as varroa mites, small hive beetles, wax moths and even ants.  While their feral and “mean” cousins seem to be able to manage these pesky intruders by themselves, our “calm” bees seem to need assistance keeping their houses in-order, so we add miticide pads, screening boards, moth adhesive traps, and ant barriers to the mix.

What we end up with is a “easy to manage” bee that is basically domesticated – that is, it’s lazy. It lets someone else clean up the intruders and messes, isn’t very disease-resistant, and occasionally can’t figure out how to get home. Sound a little like “Fluffy” or “Spot” at home?Image

But bees are unusually resilient by nature’s norms – and they have wings. So if someone camped you out in a fast food place and said, “Here. Eat these burgers until you die 45 days from now,”  and the burgers were making your digestion runny, and you seemed to get no end of colds, flu, and all sorts of skin irritations head-to-toe and were getting pretty annoyed by the number of moths and beetles that seemed to be liking your particular burger joint, and you had keys to a personal helicopter, what would you do?

Go find better digs and fly away perhaps? The statistical surveys of bee populations within a state are based upon commercial bee hive and other registered control counts. Generally, in the past, they have ignored feral populations on the basis that they were not worth counting, any more than counting the number of houseflies around town. We, as Backwards Beekeepers, have noticed something very different happening. All the usual number of swarms are where they typically occur (trees, old sheds, people’s attics), but these populations are much more large and well-distributed within urban and suburban areas than in prior years.

ImageLet’s say you’re a bee. You notice that the local City seems to take very good care of their flower beds.  In fact, people seem to be planting beautiful flowers year-round, including removing other annuals, and re-planting new ones in their place just to keep the bed looking full of flowers. Home gardeners seem to be using fewer chemicals than before – because people are trying to grow “better quality” food at home than they find in their markets. Whole areas are void of the usual predatory yellowjackets and wasps because they happen to be areas where people don’t like such annoying insects and they’ve put out thousands of traps. Where would you go?

ImageWe don’t count bees.  But we do notice there are way more bees showing up in our cities and suburbs than have been in past years.  And maybe all those field bees just got tired of getting shipped around the country and decided to move into the cozy suburbs instead.

Of significance to this situation is in the majority of reported colony and hive “collapse” cases, dead bees are found only in small or insignificant numbers. We’ve seen what happens when a colony gets sprayed with insecticide – LOTS of dead bees. And the typical observation has been that they’ve “vanished.”  How about they just flew away to greener pastures?

But there might be one more domino-effect to the bees eating so many chemicals and becoming weaker – what happens to the animals that eat them? I was watching a PBS special, entitled “Saving Songbirds” related to wild songbird population reductions that have been observed more consistently over the past decade. Food chain. Coincidences usually are not coincidences.