Monday, December 13, 2010

Book Review: Fruitless Fall, by Rowan Jacobsen

Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis, by Rowan Jacobsen, 2008, Bloomsbury USA, New York

A couple of months ago, I read this book for a defined reason. Due to personal issues over the past two years, some of my earlier activities slipped into the background as I had to deal with what was in front of me. If you've been on my blog that long, you might remember that I tried to keep up on what is called CCD, or Colony Collapse Disorder. Well, keeping up on, and therefore keeping you guys up on, CCD was one of those somethings that suffered (to be fair, however, no big news hit). So recently when I ran into this book, I put it at the top of my reading list. It's two years old now, so it's semi-current (considering that CCD is still a very new issue). Here commence my thoughts.

If any of you have suddenly seen an explosion in interest on my part in honey, bees and beekeeping, or what I've decided to call the "Bee Apocalypse", then this book is why. (If you're just hearing about CCD as you read this, in a nutshell, bees across the world are disappearing in the millions, leaving their hives behind, and leaving the human keepers of those hives with countless questions and zero answers.)

From start to finish, Jacobsen tells it straight and at times in a near novel-esque form of narrative (i.e., highly engaging). Drawing from countless sources, covering just about all the issues (that I am aware of, at least) and treating it all with an appropriate level of caution (the primary cause of Colony Collapse Disorder is still officially undiscovered), this book was not only one of the most timely and informative books I've read in some time, it was one of the best books I've ever read.

Appropriately, Jacobsen spends a good deal of time on the ailments of bees today (especially the few left from CCD-infected hives), everything from parasites (Varroa destructor, Nosema ceranae), IAPV (Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus), pesticides, overwork, globalization, and mismanagement by the human system (bees aren't meant to be trucked around the country, aren't meant to work through their "hibernation" period, and aren't meant to eat one kind of pollen nonstop). (While this book made me walk away with the author-encouraged opinion that America's beekeepers are doing their absolute best at working in a potentially-cataclysmic system, one cannot help but also walk away with the idea that today's agricultural industry is in need of dire reform.)

What I learned from this book, and what you will learn if you decide to read it for yourselves, is that God has created one of the planet's most wondrous little beings in the honey bee (however the book is written from an Evolutionist standpoint, of course), that the true cause of CCD is still unknown and may never be known (but it may be a form of bee AIDS, or immune system breakdown), that if we continue to operate in this manner, we may lose our bees, and with it, the pollinators of our food and the little insectoid Atlases that hold the massive infrastructure of our world on their shoulders(with pollinators, long story short we will have next to no food), that the Chinese beekeeping industry is bad for bees, humans, and why Chinese honey exports may not even be honey, and so much more. (Did I mention that the reader is also treated to a guide on how to create a bee-friendly garden, replete with lists of some of bees' favorite flowers?)

The three main things I have walked away with, overall:

- The honeybee is in dire straits. Meddling man really has done it this time. With globalization, a broken system, and the fragility of the bee in the first place, it will only be by the grace of God that our bees pull through. (I will most likely never use pesticides again.) It isn't about "the man" trashing "mother nature" this time, it's about the fact that God's way of doing things is far, far better than anything our puny minds can attempt.
- If our honey bees do not pull through, and they die out (some species of pollinator already have, mind you), the entire human race is in deep trouble. Mr. Jacobsen did not state such, but I personally expect their to be countless deaths worldwide if the honey bee does not survive.
- Honey, honey, honey! Buy it, eat it (Or if you can, make it! Beekeeping became an instantaneous desire of mine upon reading this book--again, it's author-encouraged.), or even use it to dress your wounds (yes, I've tried it, and yes, it seems to be working nicely). Rowan Jacobsen has singlehandedly taught me about real honey, how to tell the difference between the real stuff (raw, right-out-of-the-hive honey) and the goo sold in little plastic bears, and that honey is a wonderful thing for our bodies all the way around. (According to one cited study, it may also promote restorative brain sleep, and even weight loss!)

I really can't sum up this book in a review. In short, read it for yourselves. It's a book I think everyone should read. It will arm you with what you need to know right now. I'm not exaggerating when I call this book minorly life-changing.

Get it. Read it. Bee it.



The Warrior said...

Yes, that was just a cheesy bee joke that you saw there at the very end. I just couldn't resist. :-D

Jonas said...

Aha, we've found something else to agree on! ;) Well, I haven't read this book in particular but the issues are of the kind I usually busy myself with. It seems very interesting though; I'd read it if I'd have time...

The Warrior said...

Aha, we've found something else to agree on!

Phew, cheers to that score! :-P