November 27, 2011

Beekeeping in New York

Beekeepers in New York city 
Photeo: BBC's Human Planet series

By 2050, 80% of the human population are predicted to live in cities. Looking at this estimate coupled with the predicted population growth, one might wonder about the future of farming. Some scientists envision that we will farm using water instead of soil (hydroponics) and farm in high rise buildings (vertical farming), to mention some interesting ideas.

Already we can see an increasing trend in Western countries to have vegetable gardens in cities. Michelle Obama started a vegetable garden on the White House grounds. I will come back to future farming trends and the White House farming later; but as of now I am still thinking about the bees of my last article and their important, invisible work. So, here is a little taste of how bee farming is done on top of high rise buildings in New York City. It is taken from BBC's series Human Planet.


November 22, 2011

Visiting bees - a tribute to the bees and those who tend them

Honey Bee busy at work
Looking at the media coverage, one might think that it is politicians like Obama, Putin, Hu Jintao, Merkel or entertainers such as Ronaldo and Rihanna that make this world go around. However, by the importance of their work, the people and animals that make our food deserve the biggest focus. Today I would like to focus on the bees and the people who tend them.

At least a third of global crop output depends on insect pollination, largely by bees. The massive contribution of the bees to our well-being is largely unknown to the public. These humble servants work endlessly and quietly for no recognition or money - they pollinate apples, nuts, avocados, soybeans, asparagus, broccoli, celery, squash, cucumbers and most fruits, berries, and spices. For a more complete list of the crops they pollinate, click here.

The numbers of bees have dramatically reduced in Europe and the US since the 1960s. However, in the last decade the losses have increased exponentially, and the problems have also reached China, Japan and certain African countries. In certain areas of China the problem is so severe that farmers are forced to pollinate their crops by hand.

Hand pollination in the Sichuan province of China

Up in the trees - human pollinators in China
Photo:  Li Junsheng/ImagineChina

In the US the average annual losses of bees have been reported to be around 35% since 2007 - an alarming number. There is now talk about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). As it is only recently recognized as a major problem, research is just starting to deal with it and the results are inconclusive. Most likely there is a variety of factors working together - but most of them related to humans - some suggested causes are use of pesticides, malnutrition due to monoculture diet, loss of genetic diversity, genetically modified crops, use of antibiotics, mite attacks and electromagnetic radiation.

 The honey bee is nature's work horse, and we took it for granted. 
 -E.O. Wilson, renowned biologist

Human beings have fabricated the illusion that in the 21st century they have the technological prowess to be independent of nature. Bees underline the reality that we are more, not less, dependent on nature's services in a world of close to seven billion people.
                   -Achim Steiner, Executive Director of United Nations Environmental Program

In Norway today we have around 3000 bee-keepers - most of them work on a hobby basis. In July this year, I went to visit the bees who make the honey I eat. The man who owns the bee farm is Per - he graciously invited me to come along to his bee farm in the countryside. Here I will show you some pictures from my visit to the bees.

Please enjoy!

The honey bee farm - in the forest beyond the field

The honey bee farm - house

The honey production unit

Going to work - properly dressed

The hives

Per and I

Preparing the smoke to smoke out the bees

Ready to use

Preparing to take out the frames

Smoking out bees

Taking out a frame


Preparing a sheet for honey release

A machine for loosening up the frame and the honey
The Set Up: Honey tumbler machine

The honey frame tumbler machine

Tumbling in progress

Fresh honey pouring out

And finally, a short video from the pouring of fresh honey:

Bon Appetite! 
Here are a couple of articles worth reading:
Decline of honey bees a global phenomenon
- Einstein was right - honey bee collapse threatens global food security

November 10, 2011

How Washing Machines can make Professors

Hans Rosling - crossing the river of myths

Professor Hans Rosling is a medical doctor, statistician, academic and public speaker. He loves to challenge myths and show new perspectives. I have found an interesting presentation which I share below. He tells us how a washing machine made him a professor.

Visit his website gapfinder.

November 7, 2011

Amazing Art - Humberto Abad

My brilliant reader sent me yet another incredible slideshow. It is unbelievable what a person can do with a knife! Please enjoy this work of a true artist, Humberto Abad.

For full enjoyment you might want to click the lower right hand corner to get the full screen view.

View more presentations from Joke Channel

November 1, 2011

100 year old marathon runner

Fauja Singh  (photo: Chris Young/AP) 

Meet Fauja Singh, born April 1, 1911.

On October 16 this year he completed the Toronto Waterfront Marathon at the age of 100.

photo: Jeff J. Mitchell
Fauja started to run in his 80s; after losing his son and his wife he felt he needed to find a new focus in life. It became running. It was only when he was 89 that he began to take running seriously. He got a personal trainer and started to train for marathons. At the age of 92 he ran his best marathon, clocking in at 5 hours and 40 minutes at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2003.

His good health he attributes to the fact that he doesn't drink, smoke, eat meat or fried foods. He also tries to avoid stress and drinks plenty of water and tea with ginger. In addition he goes to bed early and tries to avoid negative thoughts:
Why worry about these small, small things? I don't stress. You never hear of anyone dying of happiness.
Speaking about his marathon running he says:
The first 20 miles are not difficult. As for the last six miles, I run while talking to God.

photo: Jeff J. Mitchell

For more images of Faju Singh see this link.