Chicken Little Recalls the Crash of ’08

It began with the honeybees leaving their hives, slipping out one by one & never coming back. What is a bee without a hive? What is a hive without its bees? Imagine the queen wandering alone through cellblocks of dead larvae. Imagine her, too, finally struggling to fly away, & lodging among the petals of some unfamiliar bloom.

Then the bats began waking from hibernation & leaving their caves in the middle of winter, fluttering through the leafless snowy woods until they perished from cold or hunger. Those who stayed behind died in place, a white fungus sprouting from their snouts like the untrimmed beards of aging hobos.

The next summer, acorns failed to form on any of the oaks throughout the eastern part of the country. There hadn’t been a freeze in flowering time that anyone could remember, just endless rain. The 17-year cicadas had emerged two weeks late from the ruins of the strange mud turrets they had built to wait the rain out. But whether this had anything to do with the acorns’ failure to put it an appearance, no one knew. That autumn, squirrels & bluejays, deer & deer mice & wild turkeys wandered hungry through the mountains as financial markets collapsed all over the world. Credit dried up. An economy based on consumer debt & the presumption of unlimited metastasis suddenly seemed a little less than wise. Since the usual experts had all fallen silent, we began to cast about for signs & portents. That’s why, when an acorn fell on my head, I assumed the worst. I didn’t know what hit me. I saw stars.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

8 Comments


  1. Interesting….We had a normal to strong mast this fall, varoa mites are down while honeybees are up, and West Virginia led the nation in economic growth in the third quarter of 2008. Signs of the End Times?

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  2. There’s still the conviction that the only necessity is getting everyone to start spending and consuming again, though.

    Great writing, I loved the acorn/Chicken-licken denouement, as I’d forgotten it was about him! The bats were particularly poignant.

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  3. What a wonderful conceit behind this! I shall read it to the kids tonight as a portent of the end of days.

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  4. It’s brought me to tears. This poem. And the truth of it.

    (I finished the book about bee decline. This fits so well with what Jacobsen wrote. Have you read it? Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis by Rowan Jacobsen.)

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  5. Thanks for the comments – much appreciated.

    Rebecca – I’m glad to hear that the missing acorn crisis didn’t affect WV. I don’t know that good economic news for the state is good news in the long run, though, considering how much of that wealth generation probably comes from mining coal.

    Lucy – Yes, it’s very hard to go against prevailing wisdom and suggest that there might be anything wrong with consumerism, aside for vague attacks on “materialism” by some religious leaders. Well, I mean of course it’s a commonplace among conservationists, but the opinion-makers don’t take us seriously because we are clearly unrealistic. They, the bubble-makers, are the realists.

    deb – No, I haven’t read that one yet. I would actually like to see a concerted effort to bring back native pollinators. As I’m sure the book pointed out, this wouldn’t be nearly so much of a crisis if it hadn’t been for decades of “clean farming” leading farmers to plow up all the hedgerows and weedy corners where native bees and wasps once flourished. Our dependence on one species for essential pollination services is as crazy as pre-famine Ireland’s planting of one strain of potatoes.

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  6. You might all read Fruitless Fall, which the publisher likens to Silent Spring. (Get it from the library, Dave. It’s worth the read, I think. And you and he have a lot of thoughts in common. He did some good research, in my opinion, including the most recent research on CCD. It fits right in with your piece.)

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