Let's consider for a moment the honey bee and its anticipated replacement, the RoboBee. Let's pay a visit to the frankenbee's parents, Monsanto and DARPA.
The RoboBee is a mechanical bee in the design stage at the Microrobotics Lab, housed in a well-appointed building at Harvard University. The RoboBee project's Intelligence Office declares that the robotic inventors are inspired by the bee. The RoboBee project's website and press releases use the imagery of the golden bees that we remember from our love of the cuddly buzzy honey-maker.
"What makes me feel like NPR is stalling, Ted Talks is stalling, Burning Man is stalling, Harvard University is stalling. Democrats, Move On, the Sierra Club and yoga class are stalling. Rihanna, Jay Z, Eminem, and Game of Thrones are stalling. What makes me feel like all celebrities after Richard Pryor, Andy Kaufman and Bill Hicks are stalling, slowing down out of paralyzing fear. Turning to face the past, to love it, to read it for clues like our life is a big nostalgic teleprompter. The NSA and FBI and the Velvet Underground fan club - all stalling to suck hard on that lost past.
Wars: the biggest stalling tactic, slowing us down, dim-witting us so that we never ask the only question that will save us. Up close it’s the stall of shootings in schools, post offices, movie theaters. Farther away its North Korea, Syria, Ukraine. But are we obligated to hold hands in a circle and improve MSNBC's ratings if we can't breath? We are drowning.
Oh 200 mile an hour Yolanda winds – hear our desperate prayer. Make us leap like there is a big cat weightless above us. Launch us into fight or flight, into evolution, into desparation to survive. Living on purpose. It seems almost quaint. Earthalujah!
Thanks to Abstrakt Goldsmith for this nugget of history that most of us never learned in school.
18 MILLION HONEY BEES PULL TRUCK OFF 1-95, swarms blocking window displays in London, creating hieroglyphic shapes over 50% off sales. Insects with coordinated strategic attack. The wings beat 80 times a second, non-inertial flight. Drone engineers worship this. But they are turning on us. Unclear who is in charge. How do swarms make decisions? Where is the queen? Monsanto killing the hives as fast as possible. GMO crops with neonicotinoid pesticides squeezed up from the roots, poison in the seedlings, poison out to the tips of the leaves. Honey Bees seem to know this. They are swarming creatively, making crazy figure eights in the sky. What are they doing? In quiet laboratories, micro-robotic scientists are saying: We can make a replacement bee. A RoboBee. The Pentagon paying. Monsanto waiting, wants a pesticide-proof pollinator. But is there still time to make a fake life? The men with their algorithms glowing on screens glance nervously at the windows. Did you hear a buzzing sound?
Robobee scientists at the Micro Robotics Lab say "We're INSPIRED by the Honey Bee." And they are spending millions to make a bee, a robot bee.
Dear Dr. Frankenbee. "Inspired" is exactly what you are not. "In-spirited," is letting in what we can never know about a thing, letting the mystery of it invigorate us, make us sing and shout and make funky sculptures in our kitchens. We want to capture the essence, but not capturing it completely is the point. Copying what is known, making a robot, and letting that kill the living thing? - not very inspiring.
The spirit of a thing is the mystery that surrounds it. I thought Lena created a horse of great power. By running parallel to the horse with her magic reality, she is more apt to not be cruel to the living animal. But Frankenbee - your nano-technological imitation of what is obvious about the Honey Bee - the non-inertial flight, the surveillance of the landscape - this gives DARPA at the Pentagon the insect-drone it has craved for decades. It gives Monsanto its pesticide-proof pollinator, so the real bees can be poisoned as a pest.
The spirit of the animal calls out to us. Let our genius have reverence for miraculous life. We can never make life, but we are given the privilege of being alive in the world of living things. The mysteries inside us might save us, if we can live with the unknown. Do you feel INSPIRED? Then love the Honey Bee that is unknowably alive.
The Queen Bee - this time played by soprano Susannah Pryce - instructed us to take the fruits & vegetables pollinated by Honey Bees to the lab that wants to replace the bees with robots. The scientists of the Micro-Robotics lab were polite as 15 people covered with 5 inch bee dolls and bee-hive like wrappings on their heads, and of course accompanied by a televangelist shouting about extinction and sin, entered their quiet building. The beautiful pollinated watermelons and almonds and apples were arranged around the display case where the would-be bee replacements stood in the light, penny-size sticks with wings. The choir sang, the preacher prayed, and conversations ensued with the inquiring scientists and researchers who came out of the labs wondering what all the commotion was about. The radical bee-lovers left after about a half-hour. There were no arrests. (Rev Billy's sermon is posted elsewhere on this page.)
A second activist church, the 1st Parish UU Church of Bedford, with Rev John Gibbons, joined the Church of Stop Shopping at Harvard & at the next stop, Monsanto. The office building with the devilish pesticide & suicide seed company inside was exorcised from a food court area, with workers looking down, cellphone-photographing, from their office windows. Our visit there was cut short by security and police, but the soul-saving effort was made.
We returned to New York by midnight, and now turn to final preparations for our Sunday "Honeybeelujah" service at Joes Pub at the Public.
Earth scientists are trying to get our attention. Well, that's an understatement – they are apoplectic, waving their arms in the windows of the super mall that our culture has become. Yes, we don't notice them because we're shopping, with iPhones glowing in our faces and white wires in our ears.
The King of the Slow Motion Shoppers is Barack Obama. He's doing the tai chi of total hesitation. He puts off the pipeline. He puts it off until after the apocalypse. In so doing, he encourages all citizens to enter the gradualism of shopping where basic change, structural way-of-life change, is impossible. Shoppers are morphed into Obama-like ditherers, lost in a cloud of alternatives, the product, the packaging, competing prices, warranties, credit, resale value, prestige value, sex life value, status value. Shopping forces upon us its false complexity.
In the last year study after study has been published by a world of natural scientists. The IPCC report from the United Nations is the most famous, but there are many others. These groups of conservation biologists, paleontologists, climatologists, – across the spectrum of disciplines within the natural sciences, add up to an unprecedented gathering of scientists around a single issue, which you might call "Life on Earth."
Each of these learned researchers is reporting the mass death on the island of life that they are studying. Each professor's specialty is dying before her eyes. Thousands of scientists are shouting to us from their coral reefs, wetlands, glaciers, cloud forests and mountain streams, from every conceivable eco-system. They all conclude their reports with the same thundering pronouncements, like a secularized Book of Revelation. "Super storms that will overwhelm economies..." "Migrations from the coastal cities and global south..." "Methane levels like the Permia Extinction of 250 million years ago..."
Our response? As the fires, droughts, floods and storms increase, we are less and less interested. At least in the United States, this is what the pollsters tell us. The climate catastrophe isn't a product that is meeting sales projections. Consumers seem to suffer an attention deficit when it comes to self-induced mortality. It doesn't get the best placement in Walmart's aisle.
And yet, it's strange how in this era of the Sixth Great Extinction, the most popular movie is in the saving-the-world genre. Now it's Captain America. All those Marvel films. A super-hero with fantastic powers saves us from a super villain, the film's stand-in for climate change. Maybe this is the problem.
The apocalypse with the five stars on Amazon isn't the real one. The End-Times with 600 special effects engineers catches our eye, and the actual one with the oceans crushing cities – that's just another disaster in the tabloids.
We shop for our super heroes, but we don't believe that we can be that hero ourselves. Heroes don't suffer from gradualism. We do.
Even the threat of a world that will cut short our childrens' lives isn't enough to motivate us. Something about how we are living has taken our fight or flight mechanism and disabled it.
How do we put the move in the movement? There is no Earth Movement without millions of us moving. How can we possibly estimate what it will take? Let's just say: Millions of heroes will have to be pretty damn heroic. We must move to change how we personally live, and simultaneously challenge institutional power. We'll have to help each other repair those fight or flight evolutionary tools. To get our instruction manuals and repair kits, we'll have to leave our computers and malls and walk back toward the eco-systems where the naturalists are stranded. We'll need to learn some old things from scratch.
Each of us will be called upon to be radical in our own way. A fossil fuel extraction site appears in your kitchen window and you up and chain yourself to a bulldozer. People are doing such things, every day, around the world. Local eco-warriors are being murdered at the rate of two a week. The movement is beginning.
Our leader is the Earth itself. You know how not-gradual a tornado can be when it goes shopping in a big box store full of sweatshop-made CO2-emitting tchotchkes? The Earth is our teacher. The Earth will train us to shout like Typhoon Haiyan. We need to move the ground and make people jump. We must to keep the pressure on with the thoroughness of Lake Cameron in Somerset or implacability of the tourist-killing Tasmanian heat.
Where are the super-heroes for the Earth? That's a trick question. They aren't in the past, or on the silver screen. The heroes aren't "over there." They are here. They are you and I. We're here and are we ready? Of course we are, because we want to live. We're ready to launch an Arctic 30 in every ocean, a Chelsea Manning in every regiment, a Sea Shepherd in every whale hunt, a Wangari Maathi in every clear-cut, a Pussy Riot in every church, a Vandana Shiva on every farm.
I can hear Sam Cooke singing "A Change Is Gonna Come!"
That a man of his stature would offer his moral authority to those fighting the fossil fuel industry - this is an important moment in the history of this struggle. Tutu's role in defeat of apartheid is a moral battle within memory, like ACT UP and like the Civil Rights Movement, and so it is instructive for us. A generous gift to us. Then again, we are in a new and different struggle now. The degree to which the government of the African National Congress turned South Africa over to the colonialism of Wall Street - is helpful in another way, as a negative model. And this also informs our Earth Movement.
The Bishop's adoption of the approach of boycott and divestment is as far as he can go in the context of a 700 word Guardian comment piece. It is very important to stop the pipeline. Hurting corporations in the marketplace might work, as far as it goes. But an adjustment in investments won't change our culture - and we have 800 interwoven way-of-life habits that need a tsunami. Ethical shopping, even on the larger scale of sanctions by colleges and churches - it's not enough. Not nearly enough. Without culture change there is no stopping climate change.
We choose to begin our political strategies from the Earth, starting with the survival of species in their habitat. And now we are learning from the Honey Bee. We also have found that social change must start from where we live, in our neighborhoods, with our families. Are prison and immigration reform for the poor, with climate change the college-educated whites' issue? No - climate change kills the poor every day. The Earth Movement must be of, by and for those living on the Earth.
With all due respect to Bishop Tutu, and much respect is due this man, if we're looking for a religious leader who is directly involved with the eco-systems and communities impacted by the pipeline, and who brings all these issue into one whole, we would seek a native mother from Idle No More. Earthalujah!
This morning it is dawn again, Spring again. The students of the Earth say that the sun will keep rising. But Spring will bloom very differently. Lena will live in seasons shifting each year. The silencing of the forests and coral reefs and the roaring of unbelievable storms.
Lena will fall in love. Meet a boy or a girl. Then she will enjoy her personal springtime, the birds singing in her blood. Her love will grow like the life of the Earth as it was for so long. It makes me so happy to imagine it, her heart beating with love like the Earth laughing.
Lena - whatever happens to us - we always whisper to you: "Of all things - Lena your love matters the most. It has the power of the sun coming up. It overwhelms all the shadowy institutions, the poisons and war. May your love have the springtime that the Earth prepared for you.
Our lawyers want to use the Necessity Defense for Nehemiah and myself and our trial for the "Golden Toad Invasion" of the Chase Bank last fall. The Necessity Defense says that we are innocent because we had to commit a small crime to prevent a much greater and deadly crime. The Necessity Defense implies that no government or presiding authority is doing anything about the deadly crime of climate change, and that citizens must of necessity defend themselves. JPMorgan Chase is investing in industrial projects that cause climate disruption and ecosystem mortality. Climate change kills millions of people annually. The extinction is accelerating to hundreds of species of life, each week. So we will argue that singing a song about extinction in the lobby of a New York City Chase Bank is a necessity.
The metaphor often used to explain the Necessity Defense is - forcibly taking a gun from a person who is aiming at someone. But love is the better demonstration. I love you because a greater thing is possible, not because a greater thing must be prevented - and yet when love overwhelms hate - it is prevention, it makes peace. I love you because it will grow into peace, touch, music and more love. By loving, I am preventing violence. The outcome is the same as a skillful theft of a killer's gun. But love is the form of violence prevention that is no longer thought of a practical. World leaders don't talk about it without a sentimental grin on their faces. Love is not necessary.
Aleppo, Syria - the barrel bombs and the 500,000 refugees. The maimed children. The nightmare of it. Where was love when we needed it? When was it necessary? Years ago? And what if we felt it now? Is that suicidally naive? But the inability to imagine the possibly of loving these murderers, loving them until they cannot hate, is leaving the murderer to his murder. This absurd violence goes on and on. We watch this slaughter of innocents and call it "Sectarian violence" or some other lie. It is lovelessness. It is like a vacuum that bursts into flames. The children are engulfed in the flames of lovelessness...