“Bee” an Advocate for Earth

541871_10152735073770564_466614551_n When travails of life wear us down, I have taught my children to seek solace in nature’s wonders. Last weekend, for example, I’d really needed a “fix” and went to a local park district owned farm to commune with the sheep. A particular sheep really “connected” with me and followed me around the property, probably to get more petting. Somehow, after that encounter, I felt better, at peace, and happier. The long drawn out winter had taken a toll, and this gave me resilience.

Similarly, my kids have acknowledged that they find the same comfort from being outdoors, and they reminisce about camping trips we tried to take each year. Alhamdullilah, I feel that I gave them a valuable resource and coping mechanism in appreciating the creation and grounding comfort it provides; for where we live, we really don’t get to feel comfortable outdoors from November until April, and this April still features “April showers” that have kept us bound indoors…except for the recent foray to the farm. Too much of a good thing, we have a bit of flooding in our basement that I will attend to after writing this piece about resources you can use for class in acknowledgement of Earth Day, this Monday, April 22nd.

Earth Day Ideas

Introduce students toward stewardship of the Earth and citizenship with the power of petitions. There is one for support of organic farmers at http://tinyurl.com/d6l8sbo. Students need to be at least 13 years of age.

Edutopia.org, one of my favorites, has a blogger, Matt Davis, who posted “Earth Day 2013: Lesson Plans, Reading Lists, and Classroom Ideas” http://tinyurl.com/d4kqbt8. This has many resources for lesson plans, unit plans, games. Also, there are handouts, activity sheets, online games (really fun!), and contest links. Note that the EcoKids Canada link within Matt’s piece has resources for First Nation and the Inuit as well. From here you can get ideas for activities, projects, and scavenger hunts.

What About the Common Core State Standards for ELA non-fiction?

My latest interest, as prompted by speaking to a 40 year veteran of beekeeping at the farm, is learning about bees. One third of commercial beehives have been decimated in the past year, and the impact is dramatic on several levels. The crisis has been labeled Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and it might qualify as an intriguing topic integrated across several academic disciplines for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that increase the quantity of non-fiction reading expected of students.

Peruse WKSU’s Vivian Goodman’s “Why You Should Care if Honey Bees Can’t Find Their Way Home,” www.wksu.org/news/story/35148. The site has a 7 minute podcast as well that gives a bit of history about legendary bee expert A.I. Root and serves as a hook to the article.

There are many amazing things about bees. Their antennae are smell detectors, and are up to 100 times more sensitive to odors of flowers, nectar, and propolis than humans’ odor detection abilities. Pollution dilutes bees’ sense of smell, for which the antennae operate independently, similar to our ears. They navigate by the sun, and communicate the location of nectar plants by “dancing” to direct members of their hive. What is spectacular I found is that their precision in direction is in single degrees of orientation and that they also home in using the same. Commercial beekeepers that travel all over the country know to relocate the hives only after sundown so that bees can reorient their location somewhere new each day. How they know exactly where to find their hives, the inner workings, efficiency of labor, and processes are miracles. I have learned these things from my current read, which is A World Without Bees by Allison Benjamin and Brian McCallum.

Much of the book gives insight to research conducted about CCD and potential reasons for 800,000 colonies being lost in 2007, and 1 million in 2008. This crisis has affected bees in Canada, Europe, Asia, and South America. Theories include implications from disease, fungus, pesticide toxicity, viruses, and electro-magnetic disruption. France and Italy reported associating a nicotine-based pesticide, imidacloprid, manufactured by Bayer CropScience, with CCD, and it is now partially banned in France. Neonicotinoids are sometimes called “neonics” and are neurotoxins that have been implicated in affecting the bees’ sense of navigation and immunity, according to an article in Mother Jones by Tom Philpott, “3 New Studies Link Bee Decline to Bayer Pesticide,” http://tinyurl.com/cdjqwlk .

With high stakes on both sides, Big Agriculture vs. Bees there is a petition also against the use of these pesticides at http://tinyurl.com/bbekaqj .

Films that may be of interest are:
“Silence of the Bees” http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/silence-of-the-bees/introduction/38/
“More Than Honey” http://ecowatch.com/2013/dwindling-bee-populations/
See bonus material from “More Than Honey”—enjoy the German! http://youtu.be/00u30q0XqUw

In Closing

Now, as the “great outdoors” doles rain/snow/showers/wind at 40 degrees, I’m ready to slog through the mess in my basement so that I can not feel guilt when Spring–whenever it comes–gives us 60 and I get back to the farm on my bike to visit “my” sheep.

Halal United with the IFANCA International Halal Food Conference


Food bridges diverse cultures effectively, and it forged bonding at the International Halal Food Conference, hosted by the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA) April 6-8 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Rosemont, Illinois. The event brought a multinational array of corporations; among them were Abbott Nutrition; The Coca-Cola Company; Amway-Nutrilite division; Wrigley-subsidiary of Mars; PepsiCo; Cargill; American Halal Company; Organic Valley; McDonald’s Corporation, and others  lesser known to the public but that have products used by other companies in their formulations.

Several dignitaries from the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and food scientists, export agency representatives, entrepreneurs, and consultants, from the U.S., Canada, U.K., Belgium, Switzerland, Kuwait, U.A. E., Pakistan and India rounded out the program.

The theme of Unity was iterated by several presenters who acknowledged that the former stance of protectionism and competition needs to be cast away in exchange for transparency, mutual support and cooperation. Attending the IFANCA conference were other Halal certifying agencies, and ISNA’s Ahmed El-Hattab called for a unification of Standards and formation of an ISNA Accreditation Board.

IFANCA’s founder and president, Dr. M. Munir Chaudry, stated the objectives of the gathering included import/export requirements; introducing Halal entrepreneurship opportunities; presentations on animal welfare; and advice of food safety and security. Naming brands of their certified products, Cabot Cheese; Baskin Robbins; and Tom’s of Maine, he expressed that although there are 8 million Muslims in the U.S. and 1 million in Canada they are not visible, even though they represent $18 billion in purchasing power.

Adnan Durrani, Chief Halal Officer of American Halal Company, and spokesperson for the hugely successful Saffron Road presented a video with grocery industry magnate Errol Schweizer, senior global grocery coordinator for Whole Foods Market, who sees “Saffron Road is the fastest growing brand in the frozen category.”

The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, Inc. (NASFT) president, Ann Daw, noted in the video that “Halal should be a mainstream concept.” Durrani explained that “70% of our [Saffron Road] customers are not even Muslim.” He has consistently presented Halal as an aspect of Ethical Consumerism, and further explains “It’s about how we conduct our business…how we conduct ourselves in the world.”

Of the $8-9 billion in Kosher food sales, nearly $3.5 is bought by Muslims, and in Whole Foods supermarkets the Saffron Road line is first in frozen entrée sales. Within the larger sphere of grocery stores, the brand is 6th as it enjoys 250% growth. Success has been achieved through synchronized social media with print, online, retail merchandising, and extending to the blogger community.

In the realm of Halal foods, 35% of sales are processed foods and 10% in meats, according to Mian Riaz, PhD., director of food and protein at Texas A&M University. He stated that this is not a niche market anymore, and that 1.5 billion people eat ritually butchered food each day.

Abdalhamid Evans, founder and senior analyst of Imarat Consultants, further defined the scope of the Halal industries as finding shared values beyond religion. “They see Halal as lawful, safe, nutritious, healthy, humane, demonstrating awareness, and equitable,” Evans declared. “These values have commercial worth, and are described as eco-ethical and moral.”

Evans, a global Halal expert knows, “Halal has different connotations in different parts of the world. There are very nuanced contexts that corporations need to be aware of. Certification as a ‘cottage industry’ is going to end. Halal is big business and on the verge of becoming irrevocably sophisticated and complex. Certification is going through changes. Industry is looking for clear standards so there is a checks and balance. They want to see an accreditation industry with transparency.”

A new development is the application of the term to the Finance industry. Evans explained, “What Islamic Finance needs to do is get more involved in the real economy.” His message was that investment and financing should not be sought for gain, but more for building the strength, education, and solid economic stability for all. Halal then becomes an asset class with indexed funds, venture capital, and micro finance.

Emphasizing the need for unity, Hani Al-Mazeedi, Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research, expert in Halal quality, safety, and services, cited that the initial standards will be guidelines. Mark Overland, director of global certification at Cargill, Inc.— IFANCA’s Company of the Year—mentioned that his company has about 200 Halal certified plants out of their 800, based on consumer demand. None are in the U.S. His view is “We should recognize what consumers want, and then deliver that with integrity,” and he has echoed the sentiment for unity by advocating a council.

Underscoring many speakers was the impression that business people, researchers, and religious scholars often have no concept of the realities of each other’s constraints. The current challenge is to establish trusting relationships, communication with good will, and efforts to find equitable solutions.

Susan Labadi is project coordinator of the American Halal Association, president of Genius School, Inc.~A Professional Development Company, consultant for the ISNA Education Forum, and VP of ActionNet Trade, Inc.