These images are digital collages that I created using my photographs. The pictures of fruit were taken on film over the summer; With some further research I found that both papaya and grapefruits are reliant upon honeybees for pollination. I captured the photo of the bees in the second image digitally at the beginning of summer, as I was installing packages of bees.
Both collages are a reflection of the importance of the honeybee in producing our food. Two thirds of our food supply would not exist without bees.
I choose to reflect on this aspect of our relationship with bees as the first three weeks of class come to a close, as each learning experience has lead me to think about connectivity. The documentary discussed the complex interconnections between farmers, beekeepers, and bees, highlighting both the benefits and detriments of these relationships. Seeing a garden full of color containing a hive made me think of the ecological connections made by bees with or without our influence. The Livewell experience lead me to think of the consequences and the complexity of our interconnectedness with bees. The importance of the connection between honeybees and our food is something that can be understood widely; but it is only one example from many of the ways that bees are connected to the world around us.
Reflection 2: Book Club presentations.
My book club presentation can be viewed here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1MKegny0aiZjybjOgFrj286j6n-mf8HIx_eI3dYEf2tI/edit?usp=sharing
As I listened to my classmates present, I couldn’t help but realize that my largest takeaway is that this is an issue that is more complex an interconnected than we realize; Books presented from the perspective of the commercial beekeeper view the causes and solutions of colony collapse disorder entirely differently than the researcher; The farmer seeks an entirely different solution than the urban beekeeper, or the artist, or the ecologist. The definition of a wicked problem is brought to mind; each solution has a cascade of effects with positive and negative aspects that cannot be predicted in full.
The complexity of this issue is present as ever as I reflect on the presentations of each of these books; Thankfully, though, I feel that Ive found some hope in the solutions and analysis presented in my book- Bees provide insight into the human condition, into the complexity of problem solving, and act as a symbol of hope.
In his book “Bee Time”, Mark L. Winston speaks on the ways that bee keeping reforms ways of seeing; To be within an apiary is to notice details of nature. Smells, sights, sounds, and colors are amplified. Motion is slow, careful, and intentional as you handle dozens of thousands of delicate creatures. The book speaks on the ways that we are connected to the honeybee, in our consumption of bee products, our ecological connections with them, our history of fascination and collaboration with them, our spiritual ideas about them, and in the ways that apian society can act as a reflection of humanity.
As I read I experienced a coincidence that was unfortunate, but perfectly timed to turn my grief into action and reflection. Id finished the chapter “1000 cuts” which spoke on the complex and connected issues causing colony collapse disorder the night before, and was headed to a field near my apiary to work on a digital photography assignment. There I discovered that one of my three hives had absconded. Statistically, I knew that I would have this experience at some point; Still, nothing prepares you to find bare comb and dead brood where your previously healthy hive was. I experienced the loss of my hive with a fresh understanding of the complexity of the issues faced by the honey bee.
I sat with my thoughts on the loss of my own hive for a few days, and decided to use my photo assignment to reflect on the complexity of the issues faced by the honeybee. Largely inspired by “Bee Time”, my photo series is meant to capture the ways that humans are intertwined with local ecologies. It captures the complex relationship between the human and the honeybee.
Reflection 3: Ideal Bee
We were tasked with redesigning the bee through speculative design. My greatest takeaway from my research for this project is that most organisms already have so many great and complex adaptations to deal with complex problems. For this reason, our group chose to build on existing behaviors of the bee rather than redesigning the bee.
Our modifications to the bee are tailored to fit within the lifespan of the individual worker bee, and within yearly hive activities.
Low fidelity prototype
Interview with an Innovator
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to interview artist Mrinalini Aggarwal, also known in her practice as Supermrin.
Her work seeks to reconsider what our spaces have to offer through architecture, sculpture, landscape, and design. She is often focused on the ways that public spaces mediate human relationship, how these spaces can be reimagined, and how they can be related to reality, pleasure, and nature within Eastern practices. Her work often involves trans-disciplinary collaboration, as well as collaboration with institutions, city bodies, clients, urban planners, and architects in multi-year engagements. Her work is site specific, interacting with local ecology, culture, and infrastructure.
When this project was assigned, I hoped to speak to an artist whose work is innovation based, as I believe great innovation occurs at the intersection of art and science!
I was first drawn to Mrin’s work after reading about her project “Field” in which she focuses on the impact of the manicured lawn in public space. In this project she speaks on what we can learn from the embedded ecologies of grasses, from mutualism and expanded ecology within public life, and from the history of the manicured lawn.
The project involves working with local government to stop the management occurring on a portion of land in order to see how the space evolves, how it impacts the local ecology, and how the public interacts with the project. From the clippings of the grass within the space, she creates bioplastics.
I found this project to be a great reflection of some of the questions that we have been discussing in class and in my readings! One of the wonderfully simple solutions to the bee issue is reduction of management of land. While this solution is simple, we must consider the implications and history of the managed lawn in order to understand how people will interact with the proposed solution. I was excited to discover that this is exactly what “Field” addressed.
I was interested to ask Mrin about her use of subtractive solutions, as we live in a culture that is very focused on innovation that relies on the addition of a solution. Mrin’s work involves restoration of a space through taking away;
When asked how her proposition to do work that involves removing as a solution was received by her collaborators and by the public, she said that she initially received mixed reactions, but that she learned that people are interested in learning and understanding. Even when her idea to remove lawn management from a space for a period of time was first met with some confusion, she found that her collaborators were interested in learning more, which lead to understanding and support.
This also lead her to consider ways that she could create a deliverable amongst her subtractive solution, resulting in the formulation of a way to create bioplastic, biodegradable sculptures from the grass clippings left at a site.
This made me think of one of the really great functions of art, which is the facilitation of conversation and creation of awareness. The artist as an innovator has potential not only to facilitate scientific discovery, but to create connections, spark interest, and open the door for further innovation.
Aggarwal, Mrin. Field, Governor's Island, https://www.streetlight.space/streetlight-projects/field-governorsisland. Accessed 31 Oct. 2021.
Reflection 4: Final Project
Pushing to increase biodiversity could be both one of the simplest and most impactful solutions to the bee issue, and it goes beyond simply providing food for domestic honeybees;
Commercialized/ migratory beekeeping is one of the greatest threats to the honeybee, it is largely responsible for how widespread disease in domesticated honey bees is.
When we push to increase biodiversity, we are supporting wild pollinators, therefore reducing a need for commercialized beekeeping, and increasing the health of the honeybee.
One of the greatest parts of this solution is that it doesn't require much to be implemented; in fact, we are looking at a subtractive solution, or a decrease in management of land in most cases. As we were brainstorming, we found ourselves considering why this solution is not more widespread or widely adopted. We came to the conclusion that our culture struggles to adopt subtractive solutions for a number of reasons (I was thinking back to my interview with Mrin Aggarwal summarized above, and her exploration of our relationship with subtractive solutions). Our culture has come to define innovation as something that has to be additive, when this really isn't the case at all.
Based on this realization, our group decided to explore ways that we could reform how rewilding is seen. We were in pursuit of a way to make biodiversity feel like an additive solution that the individual can engage in, rather than a subtractive solution. Our project became focused on glamorizing biodiversity.
We decided to focus on the use of social media for information spread, as we feel that the internet is a new space that has a lot of exciting untapped potential for change, education, and activism. It is a space where we can portray biodiversity as something that is glamorous.
Our project is a prototype for a social media movement that aims to glamorize biodiversity. We have created a prototype and digital renderings for a filter that shows what a space would look like if it were to undergo “Rewilding” in hopes that we will spark interest, and show the viewer that biodiverse spaces are beautiful. Our filter links to a website where the user is able to view statistics about the importance of biodiversity, and most importantly, are directed to resources that allow them to engage with biodiversity.
Through this, our goal is information spread- we do hope to create individual engagement, and we do hope that the individual acts, but our greatest hope is that the importance of biodiversity sticks with the viewer, and that they are able to carry this information with them into their respective fields, and with them throughout life.
Viewers of our final presentation were given fliers, explaining our movement, and providing a QR code to our website.
The back of the flier contains an additional QR code, linked to our snapchat filter. Viewers were invited to scan the QR code during our presentation, and to explore the space around them through our "rewild" lens. We asked the viewers of our presentation to imagine spaces familiar to them if they were to undergo rewilding.
Digital renderings of potential developments to our filter were also created. We focused on beautifying iconic Cincinnati spaces, and spaces that were likely familiar to the viewer using a variety of wildflowers native to the midwest/ Ohio in order to showcase the diverse options available.
Our website contains a variety of resources to spark interest and engagement in biodiversity. This includes facts about the importance of biodiversity, historical information about the lawn, links to resources about existing movements, and an extensive list of Ohio native plants categorized by maintenance level, height, and season.
One of my greatest takeaways from this project and from this class as a whole is that many of the issues that we face, especially in the realm of environmental science, and incredibly complex and interconnected. Many of these issues do not have a simple solution. For this reason, our greatest hope for change and improvement is often through creating a network of interdisciplinary innovators who are passionate about working towards solutions that consider the complexity of these issues.
Ive also learned, that sometimes innovation must extend beyond the simple act of creating a product that solves a problem; Sometimes we must reimagine entire systems in pursuit of a better world. This often cannot be done alone, but can be accomplished as we engage with our communities and with each other! Sometimes we must reimagine innovation as a whole as we pursue solutions.
As we consider issues that are too complex and interconnected to be solved simply, there is so much hope in a connected interdisciplinary community such as the one that we have created in this class!