DAMNº 70 – Food Special | September/October 2018
DAMNº 70 – Food Special: In our autumn issue we like to chew on FOOD, from the fields to the farms to the kitchens to the tables to your bellies. Guess it’s the right season to digest these delights of edible creativity.
Our Cover Story is BEE CONSCIOUS by Nadine Botha and Amy Hill. – The little fluffy pollinators of our food sources are dying. The varroa destructor mite that originates in Asia and has been spreading to other continents since the 1980s, the destruction of habitat and biodiversity associated with climate change, and the pesticides of industrial farming are the main perpetrators. These factors scratch each other’s backs, a vicious cycle that is the product of one another.
The race to engineer artificial bees has begun. Walmart is patenting drone bees, Manchester University is engineering a microbot bee, and Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering is already using an autonomous penny-sized flying hovering RoboBee to monitor weather, climate, and environmental factors to support research that can halt the decline of real bee populations. The privacy and security issues raised by drones come into play, but as one episode of the science fiction series Black Mirror about the techno critters being hacked to kill people illustrated, it could get far messier.
Swedish artist Erik Sjödin has been drawing attention to the social and political relationship between bees and humans since 2015. The Political Beekeeper’s Library is a mobile collection of books with authors from Aristoteles to Thomas D Seeley, all expounding on the similarities between how bees and humans organise each other. Similar, but of completely different scale and perspective, as demonstrated by The Bee Shed sculpture installed in the Marabou park in Stockholm. The work intends to spark conversation and thought on how designing infrastructural systems from a bee-attuned perspective could have a huge impact on our survival. What if we designed with animal and plant needs, not just our own human needs in mind?
Another conversation starter is Synthetic Polleniser, a conceptual design project by Michael Candy, who believes that we can find solutions to the varroa mite, climate change and industrial farming, but we’re lacking in will and a deep understanding of how grave the problem is. After years of designing and redesigning the Synthetic Polleniser’s robotic flowers, replete with pollen, nectar and stamens, they really do attract and are used by bees. Positioning them between real flowers, the project’s real intention, however, is to highlight the absurdity of these robotic flowers being easier and safer for bees to pollinate than the potentially toxic original flowers.
Cover image: RoboBee / Courtesy of Wyss Institute at Harvard University