Author: Fred Atchison (Page 2 of 4)

Pollinators in Peril

The meeting was buzzing with anticipation and bee puns were “flying” as bee man Phil Knaus brought us up to date on domestic honey bees. 

Knaus knows his bee lore as owner of Cedar Ridge Bees in Overbrook, Kansas.  The business is not about producing commercial honey; rather the focus is on breeding and marketing bees for beginning bee keepers.  Toward that end, he also offers beginner classes and support. 

Most everyone likes honey, but there are other important reasons to care about bees.  One third of our food supply depends on the work of these pollinators, as does some twenty billion dollars of the agriculture industry.  Unfortunately, bees are in peril, as there are only half the bees in the country as there were in 1945.  The indiscriminate use of pesticides continues to kill bees.  Natural and invasive predators are a threat, like varroa mites and small hive beetles. Mono culture agriculture and flowerless landscaping reduces the food supply for bees. 

Bees are altogether fascinating, and their hives are models of efficiency and cooperation.  The queen is the sole mother of the hive.  She mates once on a flight outside of the hive and spends the rest of her life providing eggs.  She is productive for about two years.  As she begins to fail, the colony produces a new queen. 

The hive is mostly made up of female worker bees who have a short life span.  Some workers fly as far as two or three miles to harvest nectar and pollen which is stored as food for the hive.  Other workers maintain the hive, building honey comb, caring for young bees and defending the hive.   The third group of bees are the male drones who have little responsibility after the mating flight.  However, their presence has a calming effect on the hive.

Bees survive the coldest winters by forming a compact ball and taking turns to be in the warm center.  Bees manufacture a substance called propolis which is a kind of bee glue for repairing the hive.  Local honey can provide allergy relief, and bee stings are used to treat arthritis.  Honey contains natural preservatives and is used in lotions and lip balms, and bees wax is used in candle making. 

Fortunately, there are ways to help bees to prosper.  Mitigating the damage done by pesticides is critical.  We can also plant pollinators and build special bee gardens.  Trees are also an important food source.  Knaus urges us to buy local and support efforts to educate everyone about the value of bees.  

Walden Focuses on the Supply Chain

The supply chain is getting lots of attention these days and lots of blame for our economic woes.  Who better to make sense of it all than Joe Walden, associate teaching professor at Kansas University and expert on supply chain management.

Walden is a retired U.S. Army Colonel with an extensive background in logistics.  He also holds advanced degrees in engineering management, operational planning, systems management and logistics, and curriculum and teaching.  Presently his focus is on supply chain security and reverse logistics.  In addition to his professional accomplishments, Walden is a three -time world champion weight lifter in his weight class.

When things are working as they should, the supply chain is invisible.   The supply chain is made up of organizations, people, activities, information, and resources involved in moving a product or a service to the end user.  When something disrupts part of the supply chain, like a pandemic, it can have a ripple effect through out the system. 

Our economy operates on a “just in time” model which means local inventories can run short if there is a disruption to the supply chain.  Presently, on-time deliveries are at an all-time low due, in part, to chip shortages, port backlogs, business closures, and shortages of workers.  Labor and fuel costs are pushing prices up, but Walden asserts that some of the price increases are opportunistic.  Hoarding makes things worse as panic buying creates shortages and drives up prices. Demand eventually falls and producers reduce production, creating another shortage on down the road.  An additional factor adversely affecting the economy is a 25% return rate on online purchases, creating a huge problem for retailers. 

Walden is optimistic that these problems are being addressed.  For example, a “just in case” approach to the supply chain has had some success.  This strategy involves better planning, a need forecasting, preparedness, resiliency, and a better focus on the customer.  He also believes the growth in small truck deliveries has created new jobs and reduced the reliance on a large-truck shipping model.  Walden says he tries to inspire at least one person every day–which seems like a great goal for us all.

Right to Read: Don’t Take It for Granted

There was a good turn out to hear Lawrence Public Library Director Brad Allen talk about censorship efforts to ban particular books from schools and libraries.  Sometimes parents object to a book because they are concerned that the material poses a threat to their child.  Sometimes books are objected to because they are perceived as a threat to the establishment.

This topic is a timely one as presently there are numerous reports of organized efforts to protest critical race theory and other books addressing problems with American culture.  Censorship has been an issue throughout American history.  The Comstock Laws passed in 1872 provided prison time for sending pornography through the mail, which at that time included factual information on birth control.  Currently our society is extremely polarized and considerable efforts have been employed to silence critics. 

In 1982, the American Library Association (ALA) established Banned Books Week to celebrate the freedom to read and raise awareness of challenged and banned books. Many more books are challenged than are actually removed from the shelves.  Most libraries have a process for dealing with challenges which involves collecting information about the challenge and convening a committee to review the objections and the book.  The committee makes the decision about the fate of the book. 

Presently, activists are attempting to put like-minded people on governing boards in an attempt to shape the culture. The variety of book challenges varies from children’s books to such authors as Toni Morrison, John Steinbeck and Harper Lee.  A book may be removed from the collection for having inaccuracies, being dated, or having insufficient literary merits.  However, most challenged books stay in the collection. 

Allen was asked about the future of public libraries.  He said that people have been predicting the demise of public libraries for many years.  However libraries have embraced technology and demonstrated adaptability and relevance. 

Allen has an interesting background, taking degrees in American Studies, Psychology, African Studies and Library Science.  He also loves music and played in a funk band.  Allen has served as director of the Lawrence Public Library for ten years and is credited with significant growth of library programing and services.


Restorative Justice Comes to Douglas County

Lyle Seger and Lisa Larson spoke about the new Douglas County restorative justice program.  Lyle is a mediator and restorative justice facilitator for the Center for Conflict Resolution and a founder of the nonprofit Building Peace.  Lisa is a City Commissioner and works in conflict resolution and mediation. She is also affiliated with Building Peace. 

Restorative justice is a concept that emerged from indigenous communities in North America and New Zealand.  European settlers had a more narrow concept of justice that involved trial, conviction and punishment.  Restorative justice attempts to find a more satisfying approach to address the harm done in a crime.  The goal is to identify satisfactory retribution, resolve conflict, and promote healing.   

Started in 2020, the restorative justice program in Douglas County has a staff of five mediators who work with lawyers, court representatives, crime victims, perpetrators, and community members impacted by a crime. 

The District Attorney makes the determination of a case’s eligibility for restorative justice.  It is a voluntary process and is available for less serious offenses and younger offenders.  Perpetrators are required to address the harm done face to face with victims and stakeholders in the larger community.  Completion of the process results in expunging of the criminal record.

Restorative justice reduces the number of young people going to jail.  The recidivism rate is under 50 per cent, and some 70 per cent of victims are satisfied with the process.  The new program is primarily funded by grants. 

At the end of the day, restorative justice focuses on how a crime impacts on the victim and the community.  The process works to promote healing, build peaceful relationships, and a stronger and more just community.

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