How do you keep your head up when the world is going to sh*t?

Seriously, I’d love to know.

This is not an advice column. This is not a ‘look at me I can do it and so can you’ motivational speech. These are my raw emotions, my feelings, my opinions. This is me searching for hope where it is void.

The world is going to sh**, this is not a drill. It is a few weeks after COVID-19 has been officially declared a global pandemic. Cities all over the world are on lockdown. North America is in a state of emergency. People are freaking out, buying toilet paper like there’s no tomorrow. The economy is seriously suffering. People aren’t going to work and making money, so they aren’t going out and spending money. People can’t pay their rent, landlords can’t pay mortgages and banks can’t stay afloat. Governments’ efforts to curb the rise in cases of COVID-19 after it was declared a global pandemic, is probably the first time in my life I’ve seen any government take any form of appropriate action to anything. They enforced travel and large event bans, closed borders, schools, libraries, arenas, restaurants, stores, just about everything.

As a quick disclaimer, I fully agree and support all the measures that have been taken, and all the money being spent to fight this pandemic and its associated damages. People are dying from it, people are sick and in danger, their lives are at stake. What I don’t understand is that the money is there, and was made readily available so quickly, without question, as soon as a state of emergency was declared. There are so many terrible things going on in the world, (the one I’m going to focus on here is the global environmental crisis) this is not the only thing that warrants a reaction as serious as the one we are experiencing with this pandemic.

It’s been over a year and a half since the IPCC released their special report stating that “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are needed to avoid catastrophic consequences of climate change. They’ve been saying the same things for over 20 years, and now there is little-to-no time left to make the necessary changes, to take the actions that should have been taken long ago. The risks are only increasing, and the consequences of climate change are only getting more severe with every day that passes where nothing is done, yet no one is doing anything. To add insult to injury, with the current economic downturn, Justin Trudeau is giving the Canadian oil companies a multi-billion-dollar bailout because they can’t make their budget. China is considering relaxing emissions standards to help the automobile industry during these tough economic times. In the US, President Donald Trump just signed a $USD 8.3 billion emergency funding bill to fund various forms of medical intervention for the virus, from vaccine development to finding community health centres for underserved populations.

How come, only now we are seeing governments taking drastic measures and having appropriate responses to a global crisis? Why isn’t anyone doing anything about the environment? Just a couple thousand cases of COVID-19 was enough to get Trump to dish out billions of dollars to fight it, but forty years of serious warnings from scientists, global warming, massive heat waves, erratic and intense hurricanes, widespread forest fires, ravaging floods, sea level rise, air pollution, coral bleaching, and many more telltale signs, get brushed under the rug. Where is the climate emergency? Where is the multi-billion-dollar funding bill for that? Where are the renewable energy subsidies and fossil fuel bans? With all the air travel bans that have been implemented in the past few weeks, we have cut more emissions than through decades of (little) climate action. Why do we choose to care so much about one thing, and none of the others, that are equally, if not more, harmful to us and our planet? Impacts of COVID-19 are expected to rise sharply over time, threatening so many lives of vast numbers of people, especially those most vulnerable. Climate change, too, will severely harm many over time, although much more slowly. If governments and companies can work so quickly to cancel sports seasons, shut down workplaces, and restrict movement, then why can’t they make similarly drastic efforts to change energy consumption and production?

I’m not here to offer you answers or speculations to any of these questions, because this is not a place where I am going to share my opinions. I’m frustrated and disappointed with the state of the world. I’m not complaining about the isolation measures, business closures or travel bans, seriously, being at home and staying in is one of my favorite things. It’s the bigger picture, the state of the world and the lack of action in the interest of the well-being and health of the planet and its residents is what depresses me most, and I don’t use the term “depressed” lightly. The more I think about it, the more enraged I get, the more hopeless the situation feels to me, and the more powerless I feel. I’m at the point where I know I don’t want to live in a world like this, I don’t want to bring more children into such awful place, and I don’t see how I can make it any better. I’ve gone to school for years to get my Master’s degree and do “important” research to try and make a tiny difference in my own way, but I’ve just turned into another scientist that no one listens to. I drastically reduce my waste production and carbon footprint, but there are still people flying around the world in private jets and there’s nearly more plastic in the ocean than fish. I protest and fight for what I want, for a better world, but nothing seems to change. I can’t find the light at the end of the tunnel, there is only darkness, grim hopelessness.

Some people say that times of crisis can lead to opportunities for social change, but I don’t buy it. I mean, it totally can, but I don’t see that happening here, I have totally lost faith in humanity, especially those we have chosen to lead us. This pandemic should be forcing us to think about the better future we want to build, but it seems as though leaders doing anything they can to keep everything functioning as usual and trying to save the economy (and their keep their profits) at the expense of people’s lives. Keeping businesses closed around the world on the advice of scientists and health professionals will do economic damage, but so will bringing people back to work, prolonging the outbreak, straining the hospital system and adding to the death count from the virus, which all that America’s richest business people are interested in doing right now.

There are ways to transform the economy, so that it is not so susceptible to such a downturn, and that keeping afloat during a crisis wouldn’t be as environmentally damaging. The time to act and transform the economy is now (*was actually decades ago*). If the bailout money was used, not to save the companies doing the most damage to the planet, and instead was used to create energy efficient infrastructure and jobs, then we could see the economy and the planet is much better state at the next inevitable downturn. If we acknowledge the value of natural resources and conservation of nature, we could build resiliency in the economy and preserve that of the Earth.

I think that diverting urgently needed public funds to subsidize a dying an environmentally-damaging industry during a pandemic is completely unconscionable, as is ignoring important science for decades, and leaving people to suffer from climate change impacts, poverty, and starvation while they are sitting on billions of dollars that could easily be used for important changes to help those in need. People are suffering and dying from these issues too, and it saddens me to see people being left behind and people profiting and benefiting from this.

Who are we if we don’t help each other? Yes, we have all come together to fight this pandemic the best we can, but why only this and why only now and what does this say about humanity? We have the power and capacity to come together and do the right things. We are seeing now that governments can act, and people can change their behavior, in a very short amount of time.  It’s possible for mobilization of a large amount of money and resources to take place in a short amount of time. This is what environmental scientist and activists have been urging governments to do for so long now, and it makes me so angry to see them doing this now, for this crisis, knowing very well that they could have been doing this all along.

However, it seems as though greed and materialism have pervaded society to the point where we are unable to draw happiness and meaning from anything beyond monetary wealth and physical assets. We put our faith in people who are stuck in this materialistic way of life, and are purposely blind to the issues of lower classes, marginalized and vulnerable people. With all this, it makes sense that governments would act quickly and intensely to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, an issue that greatly threatens the economy in its current state but would remain ignorant the global environmental crisis, one where action will only decrease their personal profits (in the short run only, but that’s all anyone seems to care about).  This is what happens when you think with your head and not your heart. If they really cared about the human race and the health of the planet, then these would not be prevalent issues today, and it’s possible this pandemic wouldn’t even have happened. Why would anyone want to be in a world like this, where things are so chaotic, everything is collapsing, and the world is on fire?

I can hardly breathe just thinking about it and I am at a loss when thinking about where to go from here, and I am terrified to be sentenced to a life where I have to sit on the sidelines and watch this play out. I am tired and have no will to fight. The more I think about it, the less hope I can summon, and the more I am inclined to give up. How do we get through this? How do we find the silver lining, in this dark, heartless world? Someone please tell me.

Building an Economy for the Ecozoic

I have recently published a peer-reviewed paper in the Waterloo Journal for Environmental Studies:

Building an Economy for the Ecozoic
Abstract

The Ecozoic transition, a term coined by Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme, is defined as a transition from “an anthropocentric to a biocentric norm of progress. If there is to be any true progress, then the entire life community must progress. Any progress of the human at the expense of the larger life community must ultimately lead to a diminishment of the human life itself” (Berry, 1988). Currently, in the Anthropocene, the dominant economy is based on extraction, exploitation, violence and infinite growth through the emphasis of individualism, consumerism, linear thinking, commodification, privatization, and human exceptionalism. This neo-classical economy is dangerously disrupting Earth system functioning, and thus, threatens human life on Earth. Transitioning from the Anthropocene to the Ecozoic is both urgent and necessary for the survival and flourishing of the human race through mutually enhancing relationships between human and non-human life on Earth.

This means that we must transition to an economy that builds toward respecting and preserving life as opposed to getting rich; an economy that does not depict infinite growth on a finite planet; an economy that does not exploit earth’s resources, but recognizes their value to human life as well as the importance in conserving the quality and functioning of the ecosystems that provide these resources.

To read the full paper visit:

Waterloo Journal of Environmental Studies

OR

Open access on ResearchGate

I’m going to the EcoSummit in Australia!

Big news to share!

Recently, I have been invited to the 6th International Ecosummit in Australia to present my Master’s thesis in June 2020. While I hope to use my savings to pay for as many of the expenses as possible, travelling across the world is expensive and I could use a helping hand for this great opportunity. I’m currently scrounging just to pay the conference registration fee which is almost $1000 so if you’re willing to help out in any way, I would really appreciate it!

https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-charlotte-get-to-ecosummit-2020?utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_na+share-sheet&rcid=b12d70abf0c9411fbf58bfb494268430

How is honey made?

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Me as a beekeeper!

Having worked in an apiary for a summer a few years ago, I have developed a different, stronger connection to bees than most have. I learned a lot about bee-farming, colony collapse disorder and bee communication. We harvested honey and beeswax, made candles, and took care of the bees, ensuring the hives were healthy and kept busy. But what I didn’t learn that much about was how the honey was actually made by the bees, so here I took it upon myself to learn and to share this with you all here. Also enjoy some photos of the candle-making, me in a bee keeper’s outfit and bees hard at work!

Honey, as we see it in grocery stores, is simply nectar that has been collected and processed by honey bees. Nectar is a sugary liquid secreted by flowers as an evolutionary mechanism. Insects consume it and use it for energy, meanwhile, the flowers’ pollen sticks to the insect bodies and is carried from flower to flower as the insects collect more food for themselves. This pollen exchange, fueled by the desire for nectar by the insects, is how different plants reproduce. This is referred to as the co-evolution of insects and plants, which you can learn more about here.

flowers

Bees will fly from flower to flower, collecting nectar and storing it into one of two stomachs. One stomach is called the honey stomach. It takes nectar from over 1000 flowers to fill this stomach, and once it is full, it can weigh as much as the bee itself.

The honey stomach contains special digestive enzymes that break down the nectar into the smaller sugar molecules that make up honey. However, one bee alone cannot produce honey. Honey bees are extremely social and complex creatures, and the making of honey is just one demonstration of this. Once a worker bee returns to the hive with a full honey stomach, it will vomit the nectar into another bee’s mouth, and that bee will vomit it into another bee’s mouth, and so on. As this is happening, each bee is adding more and more digestive enzymes to the nectar.

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Worker bees hard at work in their hive. In the bottom right corner you can see the honey-filled cells capped with bees wax

Once there are enough enzymes in the nectar, it is then deposited into a beeswax cell in the hive. The worker bees then beat their wings to create an air current to evaporate excess water from the nectar-enzyme mix to increase its viscosity. Once this is done, the cell is capped with beeswax so that the digestive enzymes can continue to complete the nectar’s transformation into honey.

So yes, honey is literally digested-bee-vomit, but it is also the hive’s source of food in the winter. Therefore, it is important for apiaries to ensure that they do not extract too much honey from each hive, as this can result in the mass die-out of colonies over the winter. However, these apiaries need to take some honey from the bees to keep them from swarming. When a hive runs out of space to store honey, they have officially run out of things to do, making them restless, unhappy and will eventually lead them to swarm in search of a new hive.

One hive will make and consume more than 50 kg of honey in a single year, but this takes much more work then you think. To make one pound of honey, 10 000 bees have to fly over 120 000 km and visit over 8 million flowers. So next time you eat honey, take a moment to appreciate the tremendous amount of work that went into producing this delicious substance.

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DIY beeswax candles in the making. We used the sticks to hold the wick out of the wax wile it solidified

honey extraction