Remembering Ing & John’s Street Art 2019 before the COVID-19 arrived, New York Times, AXIOS, PBS News, and NBC News
Remembering Ing & John’s Street Art 2019 before the COVID-19 arrived
Ing & John’s Street Art 2019, Downtown Newark, New Jersey, USA
Kai, The Artist, and Ing and John’s Artwork
July – December, 2019
Photographs by Ing-On Vibulbhan-Watts
My first day of Street art was on Friday, July 26, 2019. I took some plants from our backyard garden to display in front of our shop. I started my first display of artwork with “Elephants at the Water Lily Pond” I produced in 1999. There are always people walking by our place, but more during lunch time. Most of them are the office workers. Also, in the evening, people walk by going home from work. Some people are interested in the artwork, and ask questions, while others are oblivious to the artwork that I display.
I love plants and flowers. It makes me happy when I see the freshness of green leaves and beautiful flowers blooming. Our shop is closed temporally, and the window gate is down. I thought that if I display our artwork and some of the plants from our backyard garden in front of the shop gate, it would make it more pleasant for the people who pass by. I am happy to do it, and I hope the artwork and the plants will help the downtown office workers or others feel fresh and lively.
I love street art for many reasons. First of all, the artwork is there for the public. It is for everyone who passes to their destination. Without spending time visiting art galleries or museums, they can see art while they are going to work or getting lunch. Some may pay attention to the artwork and some may not. Some may ask questions about the artwork. I hope, at least the artwork will activate the thought process of those passing by.
This artwork of mine titled, “I Have A Dream – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr”, I displayed from, Wednesday, August 14, 2019, to August 21, 2019. I produced this work in 2010. I also added more plants to fill the front of shop space.
My Thai classical artwork was displayed on Thursday, August 22, 2019. I produced this artwork in1994.
For more photos and information, please visit the following link:
Ing & John’s Street Art and International Street Art-Part 1
On Monday, August 28, 2019 John added his work to the display. John’s artwork is on the far left, “Impossible Dreamer”. “Gandhi Man of Peace”, in the middle is my artwork, which I produced in 2010. The far right is John’s artwork “Beneath the Lake”. Thanks to John Watts, my husband, for helping to display the artwork in a better presentation.
I am happy to display our artworks in public. There seems to be a positive reaction from the people who view them. People comment about the beautiful plants and unique artwork.
Ing-On Vibulbhan-Watts and John Watts, Monday, October 7, 2019
I am very happy to have an opportunity to display our artworks in public. There were people asking some questions about our artwork. Some people took pictures of our artwork. It seems to be a positive reaction from the people who view them. People comment about the beautiful plants and unique artwork.
Ing-On Vibulbhan-Watts and John Watts, Tuesday, October 22, 2019
For more photos and information, please visit the following link:
Ing & John’s Street Art and International Street Art-Part 3
Kai, our grandson, who love to do painting. He volunteers to do artwork in front our shop.
This is the nature of life. One minute we are here and the second minute we are gone. What remains’ is what we did with the minutes before, while we are still alive on earth.
On Tuesday, September 24, 2019, while we were taking our artwork down at night time, a homeless man asked me, “Do you sell the paintings?”. “No, I said, we put our artwork up for people to see, and it makes the sidewalk more pleasant to walk by.” Then he pointed to my Gandhi artwork and asked “Who is this man?” I explained to him that “His name is Gandhi. He helped his country of India to gain independence from the 200-hundred-year rule by the British Empire. He achieved this by non-violent mean. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought for human rights in this country, USA, followed Gandhi’s non-violent philosophy. I felt very glad that the homeless man asked me the questions.
I do not think that homeless people or working-class people will have a much of an opportunity to visit art galleries or museums. This is one of the reasons that I love Street Art. The artwork is in public view. Some might like the artwork or some might not, but it can create inter action and activate the viewers to think. This thinking process helps create learning and reasoning about what others show or tell you to believe.
There are some people asking us about our artwork that we display in front of our building. So, we decided to post a sign to let people know who did the artwork along with my Peace Poem.
Little one on mother’s bosoms
Happy to hang along
Where ever she goes
Ride, ride, ride
Happy mother and happy child
I am a lucky one
Ride, ride, ride
Mommy, Daddy I love you
Ing-On Vibulbhan-Watts, Sunday, November 10, 2019
I wish some of the homeless children that I saw in the parks or the public library will have comfort and be as well provided for as this child.
This past summer I took our grandson, Kai to Newark Museum, I found out that it is free admissions for Newark residents, for others it cost $15.00 for an adult and $7.00 for a child. I took Kai to Military Park to play. I met a woman who has seven children and is not a Newark resident, so she can only bring the children to the park and cannot afford to pay for the Museum entrance tickets. I think the working-class, poor, and homeless children, need as much as education as they can possibly have. Museums and libraries are good places for children to learn. They can form good habits of learning and be able to do well in school and have ambition to get higher education, such as college or university. Education can help people get out of poverty. The cities nearby Newark, such as Irvington, Jersey City, and others cities have poor and working-class children. These youngsters will be left out of the experience and enjoyment of seeing the fantastic artwork collections that Newark Museum offers to Newark residents, and well to do families out of town that can afford the price of admission.
Ing-On Vibulbhan-Watts, Thursday, November 14, 2019
For more photos and information, please visit the following link:
Ing & John’s Street Art and International Street Art-Part 5
Middle: Vincent van Gogh and his letters to his brother – Ing-On Vibulbhan-Watts’ Artwork
Right: Homage to the Dragon – John Watts’ Artwork
Ing-On Vibulbhan-Watts and John Watts, Saturday, November 30, 2019
Kai, The Artist our grandson, who just turned four years old.
It was time for the four-year-old artist to relax and play.
I have a better chance to learn human behavior and development from our grandson than our only daughter when she was young. This was because we were so busy with working and now, we have more time to observe our grandson’s interaction with other children, including his behavior as a baby and his progress up to now.
Ing-On Vibulbhan-Watts and John Watts, Saturday, November 30, 2019
For more photos and information, please visit the following link:
Ing & John’s Street Art and International Street Art-Part 7
The reason I am re-posting some parts of, Ing & John’s Street Art of 2019, is because I miss our life and activities before COVID-19 arrived. I enjoyed posting our artwork on our shop window shutter. I had a chance to see people outside the house. Especially, when I had conversations with people who were interested in our artwork. We usually went to do our shopping, especially for food in different places. We went to obtain our Chinese food at China Town in New York City. After we had some food from China Town, we would head to Central Park, Washington Park. John had some of his readings, and plays performed in NYC, which was his best opportunity to meet friends involved in theater.
On March 10, 2020, I went to a hospital to support our daughter when she gave birth to our second grandson, Bodhi. That is the last day I step outside our house until now. It will be two years next month since that event. Thanks to my husband, John Watts for doing all the grocery shopping and other necessary activities outside of the house. When the weather is warm, I would go to the backyard and tend my garden, enjoying and seeing the flowers bloom. Some butterflies and bees came to drink nectar from the butterfly bushes and other kinds of flowers. Roses were blooming beautifully in Spring and Fall, when the weather was cooler. Now, the weather is very cold, some plants dormant for the winter and others are completely gone. On Saturday, December 29, 2021, I looked at my backyard, and I saw snow over the garden. I took photos of the backyard. John took photos of the front of our shop and the street, before he had to clean the snow from our sidewalk.
Ing-On Vibulbhan-Watts, Sunday, February 6, 2022
I took photographs from our backyard garden.
John took photos of the front of our shop and the street, before he had to clean the snow from our sidewalk.
The New York Times on January 30, 2022
By Remy Tumin
Snow removal outside the Federal Courthouse in Boston yesterday. Katherine Taylor for The New York Times
1. The East Coast is digging out from a major winter storm.
After dropping a blanket of snow over parts of New York and New Jersey yesterday — as much as 18 inches on some parts of Long Island — the “bomb cyclone” marched northeast, bringing gusting winds, flooding and near-record snow accumulation in New England. Thousands of flights were canceled up and down the coast.
Nearly 70,000 households were without electricity in Massachusetts, especially on Cape Cod and the nearby islands, where heavy winds made restoring power difficult. As much as 30 inches of snow had fallen in some parts of Massachusetts, while Boston had about two feet. The storm drew comparisons to the nightmarish Blizzard of ’78, which buried the city under more than 27 inches of snow.
Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images
Manhattan’s Chrysler Building(center), as seen yesterday from the observation deck of Summit One Vanderbilt.
AXIOS AM on January 30, 2022
By Mike Allen
4. Epic nor’easter
Photo: Nantucket PoliceSeveral streets on Nantucket, the fabled island off Cape Code, “flooded with seawater during high tide … as the powerful nor’easter brought with it storm surges of over 3 feet,” The Boston Globe reports.· Go deeper: Historic bomb cyclone blizzard slams New England, may break records, Axios’ Andrew Freedman reports.Photo: Andrew Kelly/ReutersA person ski over the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday.Photo: Julio Cortez/APSpotted in Ocean City, Md.
On this edition for Saturday, January 29, major winter storm in the Northeast brings blizzard conditions to some areas, Burmese people continue their fight for democracy, and in remembrance of the Holocaust, a message for future generations. Hari Sreenivasan anchors from New York. Stream your PBS favorites with the PBS app: https://to.pbs.org/2Jb8twG Find more from PBS NewsHour at https://www.pbs.org/newshour Subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2HfsCD6
PBS NewsHour Weekend Full Episode January 30, 2022
On this edition for Sunday, January 30, the Northeast digs out after the first winter storm of the year, President Biden backs NYC Mayor Eric Adams on his crime policy after two police officers were fatally shot, and in our signature segment, singer-songwriter Tori Amos on loss, grief and regeneration. Hari Sreenivasan anchors from New York. Stream your PBS favorites with the PBS app: https://to.pbs.org/2Jb8twG Find more from PBS NewsHour at https://www.pbs.org/newshour Subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2HfsCD6
Thursday on the NewsHour, senators continue asking questions in
President Trump’s impeachment trial as a pivotal vote on witnesses looms. Plus:
Legal experts analyze the latest impeachment trial developments, a preview of
the Iowa caucus, novel coronavirus is now a global health emergency, the
economic power of peer pressure, Malcolm Gladwell on meeting strangers and Gwen
Ifill forever remembered. Stream your PBS favorites with the PBS app: https://to.pbs.org/2Jb8twG Find more from PBS NewsHour at https://www.pbs.org/newshour Subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2HfsCD6
Monday on the NewsHour, President
Trump’s legal team presents its defense in his Senate impeachment trial. Plus:
China’s coronavirus is still spreading as the city of Wuhan remains closed,
previewing Trump’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan, remembering the horror
of Auschwitz-Birkenau, 2020 Democrats in Iowa, Politics Monday with Amy Walter
and Tamara Keith and the world grieves Kobe Bryant. Stream your PBS favorites
with the PBS app: https://to.pbs.org/2Jb8twG Find more from PBS NewsHour at https://www.pbs.org/newshour Subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2HfsCD6
PBS NewsHour Weekend full episode January 26, 2020
On this edition for Sunday, January
26, President Trump’s impeachment trial enters a second week, retired NBA
superstar Kobe Bryant dies in a helicopter crash, new limits in China amid a
widening coronavirus outbreak, Philadelphia’s famed Sigma Sound Studios lives,
and award-winning vocalist Shemekia Copeland brings the blues into the 21st
century. Hari Sreenivasan anchors from New York. Stream your PBS favorites with
the PBS app: https://to.pbs.org/2Jb8twG Find more from PBS NewsHour at https://www.pbs.org/newshour Subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2HfsCD6
PBS NewsHour Weekend full episode January 25, 2019
On this edition for Saturday,
January 25, President Trump’s legal team lays out their defense in the Senate
impeachment trial, the wind energy industry faces the loss of decades-old tax
incentives, the coronavirus continues to spread internationally, and one young
lion dancer is impacting the Chinese Lunar New Year. Hari Sreenivasan anchors
from New York. Stream your PBS favorites with the PBS app: https://to.pbs.org/2Jb8twG Find more from PBS NewsHour at https://www.pbs.org/newshour Subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2HfsCD6
Friday on the NewsHour, House
impeachment managers complete their third and final day of arguments in
President Trump’s Senate trial. Plus: China’s new coronavirus outbreak
continues to spread as new U.S. cases are confirmed, a drug company CEO is
sentenced to prison for his role in prescribing deadly opioid drugs and the
NewsHour family remembers co-founder, anchor, mentor and friend Jim Lehrer.
Stream your PBS favorites with the PBS app: https://to.pbs.org/2Jb8twG Find more from PBS NewsHour at https://www.pbs.org/newshour Subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2HfsCD6
The extraordinary legacy and unique voice of Jim
It is impossible to quantify Jim
Lehrer’s influence on this news program, American journalism, presidential
debates or the lives of so many of us. He was an extraordinary journalist,
writer, collaborator and friend. Robert MacNeil, Lehrer’s NewsHour co-founder,
longtime Lehrer friend Justice Stephen Breyer and Sharon Percy Rockefeller,
president and CEO of WETA, join Judy Woodruff to remember him. Stream your PBS
favorites with the PBS app: https://to.pbs.org/2Jb8twG Find more from PBS NewsHour at https://www.pbs.org/newshour Subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2HfsCD6
Idlib is the last refuge for Syrians fleeing Assad —
and it is barely livable
The war in Syria has waged for
almost nine years and claimed millions of lives. Northwest Idlib province is
the last refuge for Syrians fleeing attacks by President Bashar al-Assad’s
regime. But the crowded, muddy refugee camps there offer little shelter or
support, and to the north, Turkey’s border is closed to those seeking better
conditions. Nick Schifrin reports on Idlib’s “fragile stability.” Stream your
PBS favorites with the PBS app: https://to.pbs.org/2Jb8twG Find more from PBS NewsHour at https://www.pbs.org/newshour Subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2HfsCD6
By 2050, the global population is
projected to reach 9.8 billion. How are we going to feed everyone?
Investment-banker-turned-farmer Stuart Oda points to indoor vertical farming:
growing food on tiered racks in a controlled, climate-proof environment. In a
forward-looking talk, he explains how this method can maintain better safety
standards, save money, use less water and help us provide for future
This talk was presented at a TED
Salon event given in partnership with Brightline Initiative. TED editors
featured it among our selections on the home page. Read more about TED Salons.
Learn more about indoor vertical farming by joining a community
engagement event in your area. Learn more ?
About TED Salon
TED Salons welcome an intimate
audience for an afternoon or evening of highly-curated TED Talks revolving
around a globally relevant theme. A condensed version of a TED flagship
conference, they are distinct in their brevity, opportunities for conversation,
and heightened interaction between the speaker and audience.
he average farmer in America makes
less than 15 cents of every dollar on a product that you purchase at a store.
They feed our communities, but farmers often cannot afford the very foods they
grow. In this actionable talk, social entrepreneur Mohammad Modarres shows how
to put your purchasing power into action to save local agriculture from
collapse and transform the food industry from the bottom up.
This talk was presented at an
official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.
How to build a more inclusive dinner
tableIn his first TED Talk, Mohammad
Modarres discusses why he produced the Shabbat Salaam interfaith dinner series,
where he premiered Interfaith Meat to help Muslim and Jewish communities eat
from the same plate.
There’s something amazing growing in
the city of Detroit: healthy, accessible, delicious, fresh food. In a spirited
talk, fearless farmer Devita Davison explains how features of Detroit’s decay
actually make it an ideal spot for urban agriculture. Join Davison for a walk
through neighborhoods in transformation as she shares stories of opportunity
and hope. “These aren’t plots of land where we’re just growing tomatoes
and carrots,” Davison says. “We’re building social cohesion as well
as providing healthy, fresh food.”
This talk was presented at an
official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.
Click looks at the battle for
self-driving car supremacy between the USA and China. Subscribe HERE http://bit.ly/1uNQEWR Find us online at www.bbc.com/click Twitter: @bbcclick
The spring of 2008 was brutal for
Europe’s honeybees. In late April and early May, during the corn-planting
season, dismayed beekeepers in Germany’s upper Rhine valley looked on as whole
colonies perished. Millions of bees died. France, the Netherlands and Italy
reported big losses, but in Germany the incident took on the urgency of a
national crisis. “It was a disaster,” recalled Walter Haefeker, German
president of the European Professional Beekeepers Association. “The government
had to set up containers along the autobahn where beekeepers could dump their
An investigation in July of that year concluded that the bees in Germany
died of mass poisoning by the pesticide clothianidin, which can be 10,000 times more potent than DDT. In the months leading up to the bee crisis,
clothianidin, developed by Bayer Crop Science from a class of insecticides
called neonicotinoids, had been used up and down the Rhine following an
outbreak of corn rootworm. The pesticide is designed to attack the nervous
system of crop-munching pests, but studies have shown it can be harmful to
insects such as the European honeybee. It muddles the bees’ super-acute sense
of direction and upsets their feeding habits, while it can also alter the queen’s
reproductive anatomy and sterilise males. As contaminated beehives piled up,
Bayer paid €2m (£1.76m) into a compensation fund for beekeepers in the affected
area, but offered no admission of guilt.
forced a reckoning among European farmers. Hundreds of studies examined the
safety of neonicotinoids, known as neonics, and their links to colony collapse
disorder (CCD), in which worker bees abandon the hive, leaving the queen and
her recent offspring unprotected, to starve. In 2013, the evidence led to a
landmark European commission ruling, imposing a moratorium on clothianidin and
two other major neonics – the world’s most popular pesticides. In April 2018,
Europe went a step further. The commission extended the ban on the trio of
neonics to virtually everywhere outside greenhouses, citing evidence that by
harming pollinating insects, neonics interfere with the pollination of crops to the value of €15bn a year. Environmentalists cheered the victory. Regulators
beyond Europe plan to follow.
For Haefeker at the beekeepers
association, who had spent years campaigning against the use of neonics,
victory was sweet, but short-lived: faced with multiple threats from modern
farming methods, beekeepers know the insecticide ban alone is not enough to
save the honeybee.
Honeybees originated in Eurasia
roughly 35m years ago, and as long as they have had steady access to flowering
plants, they have thrived. But in the modern world, bees face all kinds of
dangers. Colony collapse
is not a single malady, but rather an amalgamation of different challenges.
Alongside the dangers of pesticides, diseases such as Israeli acute paralysis
virus, gut parasites and invasive parasites such as the varroa mite can
overwhelm the bees’ immune systems. Industrial agriculture imposes its own
threats: a mania for monocultures has led to shrinking foraging habitats,
while, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, bees employed in
commercial pollination, in which hives are stacked high on trucks and driven
around the country to pollinate almond trees and other crops, get highly
stressed, which damages their resilience and eating habits.
Since the EU began phasing out
neonics, in 2014, the honeybees’ recovery has not been as dramatic as hoped.
Neonics are probably not the biggest factor in the demise of bees, but they are
the easiest to outlaw. To farmers, this seems outrageously unfair. Citing an
industry-funded study, they say the ban will cost the EU agriculture sector
€880bn annually in diminished crop yields.
Another, more controversial,
response to the slump in bee populations is in the works. This is the plan to
create a more resilient strain of honeybee – a genetically modified superbee.
The technology for creating GM honeybees is in its infancy, and still confined
to the laboratory. But, if successful, it could lead to a hardier species, one
that is resistant to natural and manmade hazards: viruses, varroa mites,
pesticides and so on. If we can’t change modern farming practices, the thinking
goes, maybe we should change the bees.
The prospect horrifies many bee
people – from commercial beekeepers such as Haefeker to passionate amateurs –
who see a lab-made superbee as a direct threat to the smaller, struggling bee
species. Traditional beekeepers have a name for them that expresses their fear
and suspicion: Frankenbees.
Like many beekeepers, Haefeker is an
activist and conservationist. A kind of bearded Lorax, Dr Seuss’s valiant
spokesman for threatened trees, Haefeker speaks for the bees. For much of the
past two decades, he has sounded the alarm on declining bee health, bringing
his message to lawmakers in Brussels, Berlin and Munich, before judges at the
European court of justice in Luxembourg, to investor roundtables in London, to
beekeeper conferences in Istanbul, Austria and Rome, and to corporate
gatherings of the agrichemical industry around Europe.
When we met in Bavaria a week after
the EU extended its neonics ban, I expected Haefeker to be in celebratory mood.
But over lunch at a favourite roadway tavern an hour outside Munich, he
explained that he considers the development of GM bees – however long it takes
to get them in production – an even greater threat to the humble honeybee. “I
don’t expect it to be commercialised next week, but then I don’t want to leave
anything up to chance,” Haefeker said. “The public has been pretty late on a
whole bunch of bad ideas. We don’t want to be late on this one.”
Some beekeepers worry that, if the
agriculture industry succeeds in building and patenting a blockbuster,
mite-free, pesticide-proof superbee, it would dominate and destroy the vibrant
local market in conventional bee strains. There are health fears, too: the
sting of GM bees may introduce new allergy risks. And beekeepers are afraid
they would not be able to protect the gene pool of traditional strains such as
the beloved Apis mellifera, the scientific name for the European
honeybee, against a dominant, pesticide resistant, lab-designed version.
Jay Evans heads the bee research lab
at the US Department of Agriculture, where they are looking at various threats
to bee health. Designing a truly pesticide-resistant honeybee, a “bulletproof
bee”, as Evans calls them, would “throw a lot of nature under the bus”.
It is always hive-like – 30C and
humid – in the narrow, windowless
laboratory where genetically engineered honeybees are created on the campus of
Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany. One June day, three students
in T-shirts were on the morning shift. Two of them silently inspected plastic
honeycomb discs. Each disc contained 140 tiny plug holes, in each of which a
single honeybee embryo was growing. These discs were then passed to a third
student at a separate workstation, where, with remarkable dexterity, she injected
each egg with an sgRNA gene-manipulation solution, a main ingredient in a
revolutionary new gene-editing technique called Crispr-Cas9.
Crispr technology has transformed microbiology in recent years by allowing scientists
to copy a desirable part of the DNA strand and insert it directly into the
chromosome of the target specimen. Now, with great precision, scientists can remove
harmful mutations or unwanted traits, or insert a desired trait. In the US, you
can buy a Crispr apple that doesn’t brown. Medical researchers, meanwhile, see Crispr as a promising
route to making mosquitos resistant to the malaria parasite.
The director of the Düsseldorf lab
is Martin Beye, a giant in the field of evolutionary genetics. In 2003, Beye
and his colleagues were the first to pinpoint the gene variants, or alleles,
that determine the sex of honeybees. Three years later (coincidentally, just as
scientists determined the likely causes of colony collapse disorder), Beye and
an international team of biologists decoded the Apis mellifera honeybee
genome, a breakthrough that transformed the field of bee biology. Scientists
now have an understanding of bee health down to the chromosomal level, enabling
them, for example, to analyse precisely how pathogens and parasites affect
their bee hosts. Genomics can take much of the guesswork out of breeding, too,
revealing the precise gene markers that make stocks more resilient to stressors
and disease. Once the genome was cracked, it was only a matter of time before
the scientific community would build a designer bee. In 2014, Beye’s lab
claimed that crown.
The gene-injection method Beye’s
team pioneered, and laid out in their 2014 research paper,
is painstaking and fraught with risk. To demonstrate, a student motioned for me
to peer into her microscope. The faint outline of a tiny needle and its
intended target, the egg, came into focus. Magnified, the egg looked like a
smooth grey balloon, the kind performers at children’s parties tie into poodles
and giraffes. Poke the egg at the wrong angle, or with too much pressure, or
with an imprecise dosage, and it will pop. And the injection has to be stealthy
enough to leave no marks. If the worker bees, the hive’s fastidious caretakers,
sense in any way the pupae are not perfect, they cast them from the nest,
leaving them for dead. Only the pristine survive.
To increase the odds of success,
Beye’s team keep their injected embryos away from the workers at first,
incubating in an artificial hive. Only after 72 hours do they slip the fittest
of their modified larvae specimens into a queen-rearing colony. What happens
next is similar to the conventional queen-breeding method. The researchers
graft the larvae into cell cups lined with royal jelly, the nutrient rich
compound that young larvae gorge on to become queens. Even so, the workers, on
average, rejected three out of four mutant larvae. But the survival rate was
enough to guarantee the birth, in 2014, of the world’s first genetically
modified honeybee queens.
I was also shown the transgenic
queens. Up close, they looked vigorous, but unremarkable. The researchers
affixed a magenta-coloured ID tag to the queen’s back, between the base of her
wings. She mingled with ordinary worker bees in a small wooden nucleus hive.
The sides were made of a hard plastic for viewing. Beye’s research team told me
their transgenic bees behave no differently than any other Apis mellifera
honeybees. The queen and the workers covered every inch of their cramped
confines, popping in and out of a small well containing water. After a week or
so, the queen would be moved outside to a flight cage.
Beye’s researchers believe
manipulating the genome of the European honeybee will lead to new insights into
what makes this species unique – which genes make them such meticulous
groomers, or which genes programme the worker bees’ super-assiduous attention
to looking after their young. They want to know why bees are so good to each
other. Is this instinct to work tirelessly for the good of the hive something
learned, or genetic?
Beekeepers, dismayed at the prospect
of GM bees becoming a reality, made a huge fuss about Beye’s work. Many
suspected his lab was bankrolled by the agriculture industry, or “Big Ag”.
“The beekeeper associations … ” Beye
said, shaking his head in lingering disbelief. In person, he is affable and
professorial. “They thought we were working with Bayer. I mean, they’re very
close by: Bayer’s headquarters is maybe 20km from here.” He insisted inferences
of a Bayer connection were totally false.
Beye and Marianne Otte, his research
partner, explained that the purpose of their work was to understand the genetic
basis for bee behaviour and health. It was never to build a pesticide-resistant
bee. Building a GM bee, Beye said, is “a stupid idea”. The world doesn’t need
chemical-resistant bees, he says. It needs farming practices that don’t harm
bees. “They should be working on that. Not on manipulating the bee.”
But the truth is that Beye’s highly
detailed paper serves as a kind of blueprint for how to build a bee. Thanks to
research like his, and the emergence of tools such as Crispr, it has never been
cheaper or so straightforward for a chemical company to pursue a superbee
resistant to, say, the chemicals it makes. Takeo Kubo, a professor of molecular
biology at the University of Tokyo, was the second scientist in the world to
make a genetically modified bee in his lab. He told me that he, too, is focused
on basic research, and has no ties to the agriculture industry. But, unlike
Beye, he welcomes the prospect of GM bee swarms buzzing around the countryside.
Lab-made, pesticide-resistant bees could be a real saviour for beekeepers and
farmers, he says. And, he adds, the science is no more than three years away.
“I’m now 57 years old,” he told me via email, “and completely optimistic to see
such transgenic bees in the marketplace in my lifetime!”
It is not yet legal to release
genetically engineered bees into the wild, but the private sector is already
watching closely. One US startup contacted Beye’s lab offering to help
commercialise their breakthrough research. Beye said no.
Beekeepers tend to see the world
through the eyes of their bees. After a few hours in their presence, you too
begin to re-evaluate your surroundings. The monochrome sameness of our
farmlands – that vast, neat checkerboard of green and brown that feeds us
mammals so well – can be a desert for foraging pollinators. The shocking yellow
brilliance of rapeseed in blossom each spring can be a reservoir of pesticides.
Beekeepers have learned to mitigate the risks and adapt, mainly by moving their
hives around an ever-dwindling patch of safe zones. But the genetically
modified bee, which can breed with other species and looks just like bees
hand-raised from carefully chosen strains, is an altogether more dangerous
Jay Evans at the US agriculture
department, an entomologist and beekeeper, admires Beye’s work, but thinks his
breakthrough GM bee should remain confined to the lab. “The road to making a superbee
looks really long to me, and probably not necessary,” he said. “I don’t see the
Haefeker, a former tech
entrepreneur, came to beekeeping late in life,
around his 40th birthday. After spending two decades in Silicon Valley, he, his
wife and two sons returned home to Germany in 2001, settling in a picturesque
village on Lake Starnberg, halfway between Munich and the Bavarian Alps. What
started as a backyard hobby quickly became an obsession, then a growing
business. Haefeker studied everything about beekeeping, from hive maintenance
to nutrition. Later, he developed an iPhone app for breeders called iQueen and
started a podcast called Bienenpolitik,
or Beekeeping and Politics. One of the few tech-savvy beekeepers in bucolic
Upper Bavaria, in 2003 Haefeker was recruited to join the local professional
beekeepers association where second- and third-generation beekeepers routinely
grumbled about modern farming practices gobbling up open space. His first
assignment was to investigate an issue that nobody at the organisation knew
much about: GM crops. “I had no opinion of GMOs (genetically modified
organisms),” he recalls. “But as the new kid on the block it was my job to
figure out: is this going to have an impact on us?”.
Haefeker’s investigations into GMOs
turned into a decade-long crusade. What began as a local case involving a
Bavarian beekeeper with GMO-contaminated honey grew into an epic battle,
pitting Europe’s beekeepers against two giants: Monsanto, the biotech giant
that markets MON810, the pest-resistant genetically modified maize, and the
World Trade Organization, which, at the time, was pressuring the EU to give GM
crops a chance. The beekeepers eventually won a huge victory in 2011 in the European court of justice, keeping European honey,
for now, virtually GMO-free. The fight continues, but the beekeepers’ message
was clear: don’t underestimate us.
A beekeeper in California with his
hives. Photograph: Brett Murphy
The agrichemical companies’ business
model is to dominate both ends of the market. They sell the farmer the chemical
that kills the pests, and then they sell them their patented seeds, genetically
engineered to withstand those very chemicals. (Monsanto’s top-selling line of
Roundup Ready herbicide-resistant seeds are marketed as the best defence
against Roundup, Monsanto’s top-selling herbicide.) The multinationals have locked
farmers into contracts that prevent them from manipulating the seeds to develop
their own cross-breed.
Beekeepers fear genetic engineering
of honeybees will introduce patents and privatisation to one of the last
bastions of agriculture that is collectively managed and owned by no one.
“Think about it,” Haefeker told me, “the one area Big Ag doesn’t yet control is
pollination.” And pollination is huge. The UN’s Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO) estimates that pollinators help farmers grow crops worth up to $577bn (£437bn)
Damage to the bee population, by
harming a vital pollinator, is already threatening crops worldwide. Outside
FAO’s headquarters in Rome, a neon billboard flashes in English, Italian and
Arabic a series of urgent save-the-planet messages. Save the bees tops the
list. If bees disappear, food crops and animal feeds, not to mention the raw
materials for biofuels (from canola and palm oil), textiles (cotton) and
medicines, will simply vanish from much of the planet. It has got so bad in some parts of China that humans already pollinate some crops by hand. In what
feels like a riff on a Black Mirror episode,
Harvard researchers are working on the RoboBee,
a flying robotic pollinator that is half the size of a paperclip and weighs
less than one-tenth of a gram. In March 2018, Walmart filed a series of patents for its own tiny robotic pollinators.
Beekeepers and conservationists
believe bees should be left to evolve on their own, helped only by protection
of open spaces and best-practice natural breeding methods. Conventional bee
breeding has embraced technology in recent years via the introduction of apps,
tracking software and temperature-controlled “finishing” incubators. But the
method is otherwise little changed from ancient times. During the year,
beekeepers will perform what they call “splitting the hive”, or separating a
portion of the colony, frame by frame, and putting the frames in new hives with
new inhabitants. This can invigorate the gene pool by introducing hardy
“Before the introduction of
neonicotinoids,” Haefeker said, “about 15 years ago, you’d open up the hive and
it was bursting with healthy bees. That level of reproductive energy is really
During 2008, Germany’s infamous
season of heavy colony losses, the dead piled up on the ground under Haefeker’s
hives and along the hive’s inner floor. “It’s got better in recent years, since
the bans went into place. But we’re not yet back to where we were in the days
before neonics,” he said. “That will take years.” He tests the spring pollen
for traces of neonics and other chemicals. The level of contamination is much
improved, he says. On his property in Bavaria, he offered me a pinch of raw
pollen. The sharp, sweet taste lingered on my tongue. I peered down to get a
good look at the workers entering one of the hives. They streamed in one by
one, their thighs weighed down with yellow balls of dandelion pollen. “It’s
good, isn’t it?” Haefeker chuckled proudly.
By late July, cracks had appeared in
the new neonics law. More than a dozen EU member states sought loopholes to stay the ban, and Bayer pledged to appeal against its legal basis, warning that the ban would limit
our ability to grow the quantities of “safe, affordable” food we need.
Despite the setback, Haefeker
remains defiant. “Their business model is obsolete,” he told me on the phone in
July 2018. The “big six” companies of Big Ag are in the process of merging into
three, forming Bayer-Monsanto, Dow-DuPont and Syngenta-ChemChina. This historic,
quarter-of-a-trillion-dollar spending spree is a sign of market uncertainty,
Haefeker asserts, not strength. The future, he says, is big data. Sensor- and
computer-assisted crop care – digital crop protection, as it is known, in which
tiny robots and drones will tend to rows and rows of crops round the clock,
picking off pests and releasing super-precise flows of irrigation – will feed
the planet’s billions, not chemicals. “I’ve been telling them this for years.”
However ground down by Haefeker’s
tireless advocacy for bees they may be, Bayer officials told me they largely
concur with his view that the industry is beginning to grow less reliant on
chemicals, and investing more in big data and tiny robots. They even let
Haefeker in the building from time to time to discuss that digital future.
Humans have been consuming honey since our hunter-gatherer days. Not long after we began
farming, we started keeping bees (sugar came several millennia later). About
10,000 years ago artists depicted apiculture on the walls of Spanish caves, and, centuries after that,
demand for bees wax and honey drove commerce across the empires of ancient
Greece and Rome. In the 20th century, apiology, the study of bees, took off. In
the 1920s, Austrian zoologist Karl von Frisch was the first to explain the
meaning of the honeybees’ waggle dance, which communicates to other bees the
direction and distance of a food source; a half-century later he won the Nobel
Prize. Honeybees are eusocial creatures, making them one of the most studied
insects on the planet. Researchers study the species to understand how the human brain works and to improve the design of supercomputers. Bees, it
turns out, can even do abstract maths.There are 22 million beekeepers across 146 countries,
estimates Apimondia, a 123-year-old organisation that protects and promotes the
livelihood of beekeepers, and lately they have been seeing a dramatic rise in
membership. “During a downturn in the economy of a country, the number of new
members increases,” Philip McCabe, an Irish beekeeper and president of
Apimondia, told me. The media attention around colony collapse and bee health
continues to bring in new members as well.
In October 2017, Haefeker delivered a presentation at Apimondia’s International
Apicultural Congress in Istanbul, unveiling Apimondia’s answer to Frankenbees.
Like Haefeker himself, the fix he proposes is geeky and left-leaning: an open-source license for honeybees. A software engineer, he takes inspiration from the free
software movement of the 1980s and 90s, which gave birth to the “open source”
concept. Now, he sees such a licence promoting open collaboration as the
perfect model to protect the beekeepers from a nightmare scenario – powerful
corporations building a genetically engineered bee that they then commercialise
and lock down with patents and trademarks.
In his opening remarks, Haefeker
launched into what he called “the big question”. “Did anybody ask our
permission before they took our bees, the bees we have been working on,
selecting and breeding within Apimondia, before the scientists decided to take
these bees and modify them?” The answer was, of course, no. Until that moment,
nobody, not even beekeepers, claimed an ownership stake on the bees’ genetic
code. Anyone can start a hive, which might explain why you can find beekeepers
tending to hives in Yemeni war zones, on the roof of Paris’ Bastille opera house and in Tanzanian refugee camps. The free exchange of breeding materials – from the queens
and her eggs to the drones’ sperm – has long been encouraged to keep colonies
genetically diverse. Through this free exchange, we preserve a common resource,
benefitting everyone and everything. The beekeepers get healthier colonies out
of the arrangement. We get flowers, food and honey.
To get around any attempt by the
agriculture industry to distribute and license superbees, Apimondia is seeking
to enshrine this freedom as a right in the form of an open-source contract,
establishing bee breeding as a public good that nobody can own outright.
“This is the most efficient way to
legally protect our bees from patenting and privatisation by commercial
interests,” Haefeker insists. Later, he told me, “we don’t want to get screwed,
the way farmers did by corporations and their GM patented seeds.”
Apimondia has minuscule lobbying
resources, but it has lined up powerful allies, including the FAO,
environmental NGOs and scientific advisers. Together, they press for
international treaties to protect vital pollinators. Now Apimondia, too, is
sounding the alarm on GM honeybees. Radical bee-breeding experiments don’t
always end well, McCabe reminded me. Beekeepers won’t soon forget the story of
the Africanised bee, a cross-breed between the African bee and European strains
introduced in South America in the 1950s. It escaped quarantine, mated with
indigenous species and then multiplied and multiplied, venturing thousands of
miles north into the US, breeding with local species and quickly coming to
dominate their gene pool. It landed the unfortunate, even nativist, nickname
“African killer bee” for the aggressive manner in which it defends its nest.
“That’s what we’re concerned with,” McCabe says, “any inter-breeding that
messes with the genetics of indigenous bee populations.”
Jay Evans keeps bees on the grounds
of his job at the USDA, at the government research facility in Maryland, 30
minutes north of Washington DC. I contacted him by phone and asked how things
“Terribly,” he said with a wry
laugh. “The losses have doubled in the last 10 years.” He blames a host of
factors, with disease and parasites such as the varroa mite chief among them.
Beekeepers, he added, are closely watching what happens next in Europe. “I go
to beekeepers’ meetings all the time. They’re suffering. They’re trying to keep
their operations afloat. They’re desperate for a new solution, or technology,
or regulation. Anything,” he says. But there’s consensus on what they don’t
want. “When I talk to a group, I talk a lot about genetics. And occasionally
they’ll say: ‘Are you making a transgenic bee, one of those Frankenbees?’”
Haefeker and his business partner, Arno Bruder, run their beekeeping enterprise on a field bordering
two organic farms in Upper Bavaria. Their colonies have recovered somewhat
since the neonics ban went into effect, he said, but they take steps to protect
their hives. A lot of beekeepers pack their hives on to trailers and position
them near nature reserves or in fields like the one in which we stood. “Over
time you learn where you have the worst exposure to whatever it is that harms
the bees,” Haefeker said.
He pulled out a frame to reveal a
queen. Like an awkward commuter on the tube, she brushed up against every
inhabitant near her as she made her way from one end of the frame to the other.
The jostling has a purpose; it reassures the cavorting masses. “It’s the
queen’s pheromones,” he explained. It makes them relaxed and productive. “The
pheromones affect us beekeepers, too.” He says he plans to harness this
anti-stress essence and build a kind of a bee-powered wellness centre on the
two-hectare property. I pictured Munich’s pampered classes soaking up queen-bee
pheromones in a lodge in the hills around Lake Starnberg. A moment later,
Haefeker put the frame back, closed the lid, and surveyed his hives with
satisfaction. He and Bruder then discussed what’s next.
Keeping bees safe from pesticides is
labour-intensive and requires specialist local knowledge. Bruder agreed to wake
before dawn the following morning and pack up some of the hives, load them on
to a trailer and drive the bees to higher ground. They had decided on a region
in the foothills of the Alps, about an hour away, near the Wieskirche,
an 18th-century church on the Unesco world heritage list. There would be fresh
dandelion flowers up there. The bees would be further away from intensive
agriculture, said Haefeker. “We’ve scouted out the locations.”
Meanwhile, it is possible that
humankind has even more extreme designs on bees. In October 2018, Haefeker sent
me a message pointing to something called Insect Allies, a $45m
research project sponsored by Darpa, the US Department of Defense’s military research
department. It proposes using insects to carry immune-boosting mutations
designed to protect crops from drought, flooding, pathogens and bioweapons. In
essence, the visiting insects would modify the plant’s genetic makeup. A group
of academics from universities in Germany and France declared the programme’s
existence alarming, saying it turns the insects themselves into bioweapons.
Darpa does not say what kind of
insects it plans to use, but Haefeker did not like the sound of it. “We need to
keep an eye on this craziness,” his text read, “in case they want to use bees
to transport their genetically modified viruses into crops.”
This article was originally
published on October 16, 2018, by The Guardian, and is republished here with
Bricks Alive! Scientists Create Living Concrete
“A Frankenstein material” is teeming
with — and ultimately made by — photosynthetic microbes. And it can reproduce.
Wil Srubar, left, a structural
engineer at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and materials science and
engineering PhD student, Sarah Williams, holding bricks of building matter made
from cyanobacteria and other materials.Credit…CU Boulder College of
Engineering & Applied Science
By Amos Zeeberg Jan. 15, 2020
For centuries, builders have been making
concrete roughly the same way: by mixing hard materials like sand with various
binders, and hoping it stays fixed and rigid for a long time to come.
Now, an interdisciplinary team of
researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, has created a rather
different kind of concrete — one that is alive and can even reproduce.
Minerals in the new material are
deposited not by chemistry but by cyanobacteria, a common class of microbes
that capture energy through photosynthesis. The photosynthetic process absorbs
carbon dioxide, in stark contrast to the production of regular concrete, which
spews huge amounts of that greenhouse gas.
Photosynthetic bacteria also give
the concrete another unusual feature: a green color. “It really does look like
a Frankenstein material,” said Wil Srubar, a structural engineer and the head
of the research project. (The green color fades as the material dries.)
Other researchers have worked on
incorporating biology into concrete, especially concrete that can heal its own
cracks. A major advantage of the new material, its creators say, is that
instead of adding bacteria to regular concrete — an inhospitable environment —
their process is oriented around bacteria: enlisting them to build the
concrete, and keeping them alive so they make more later on.
The new concrete, described
Wednesday in the journal Matter, “represents a new and exciting class of low-carbon,
designer construction materials,” said Andrea Hamilton, a concrete expert at
the University of Strathclyde, in Scotland.
To build the living concrete, the
researchers first tried putting cyanobacteria in a mixture of warm water, sand
and nutrients. The microbes eagerly absorbed light and began producing calcium
carbonate, gradually cementing the sand particles together. But the process was
slow — and Darpa, the Department of Defense’s speculative research arm and the
project’s funder, wanted the construction to go very quickly. Necessity,
happily, birthed invention.
An arch made from living building
materials in Dr. Srubar’s lab.Credit…CU Boulder College of Engineering &
Dr. Srubar had previously worked
with gelatin, a food ingredient that, when dissolved in water and cooled, forms
special bonds between its molecules. Importantly, it can be used at moderate
temperatures that are gentle on bacteria. He suggested adding gelatin to
strengthen the matrix being built by the cyanobacteria, and the team was
The researchers bought Knox brand
gelatin at a local supermarket and dissolved it in the solution with the
bacteria. When they poured the mixture into molds and cooled it in a
refrigerator, the gelatin formed its bonds — “just like when you make Jell-O,”
Dr. Srubar said. The gelatin provided more structure, and worked with the
bacteria to help the living concrete grow stronger and faster.
After about a day, the mixture
formed concrete blocks in the shape of whatever molds the group used, including
two-inch cubes, shoe box-size blocks and truss pieces with struts and cutouts.
Individual two-inch cubes were strong enough for a person to stand on, although
the material is weak compared to most conventional concretes. Blocks about the
size of a shoe box showed potential for doing real construction.
“The first time we made a big
structure using this system, we didn’t know if it was going to work, scaling up
from this little-bitty thing to this big brick,” said Chelsea Heveran, a former
postdoc with the group — now an engineer at Montana State University — and the
lead author of the study. “We took it out of the mold and held it — it was a
beautiful, bright green and said ‘Darpa’ on the side.” (The mold featured the
name of the project’s funder.) “It was the first time we had the scale we were
envisioning, and that was really exciting.”
When the group brought small samples
to a regular review meeting with officials from Darpa, they were impressed, Dr.
Srubar said: “Everyone wanted one on their desk.”
Stored in relatively dry air at room
temperature, the blocks reach their maximum strength over the course of days,
and the bacteria gradually begin to die out. But even after a few weeks, the
blocks are still alive; when again exposed to high temperature and humidity,
many of the bacterial cells perk back up.
The group can take one block, cut it
with a diamond-tipped saw, place half back in a warm beaker with more raw
materials, pour it in a mold, and begin concrete formation anew. Each block
could thus spawn three new generations, yielding eight descendant blocks.
The Department of Defense is
interested in using the reproductive ability of these “L.B.M.s” — living
building materials — to aid construction in remote or austere environments.
“Out in the desert, you don’t want to have to truck in lots of materials,” Dr.
The blocks also have the advantage
of being made from a variety of common materials. Most concrete requires virgin sand that comes from
rivers, lakes and oceans, which is
running short worldwide, largely because of the enormous demand for concrete.
The new living material is not so picky. “We’re not pigeonholed into using some
particular kind of sand,” Dr. Srubar said. “We could use waste materials like
ground glass or recycled concrete.”
The research team is working to make
the material more practical by making the concrete stronger; increasing the
bacteria’s resistance to dehydration; reconfiguring the materials so they can
be flat-packed and easily assembled, like slabs of drywall; and finding a
different kind of cyanobacteria that doesn’t require the addition of a gel.
Eventually, Dr. Srubar said, the
tools of synthetic biology could dramatically expand the realm of
possibilities: for instance, building materials that can detect and respond to
toxic chemicals, or that light up to reveal structural damage. Living concrete
might help in environments harsher than even the driest deserts: other planets, like Mars.
“There’s no way we’re going to carry
building materials to space,” Dr. Srubar said. “We’ll bring biology with us.”
Indonesian artist Ono
Gaf works primarily with metallic junk reclaimed from a trash heap to create
his animalistic sculptures. His most recent piece is this giant turtle
containing hundreds of individual metal components like car parts, tools, bike
parts, instruments, springs, and tractor rotors. You can read a bit more about
Gaf over on the Jakarta Post, and see more of this turtle in this set of photos by Gina Sanderson. (via Steampunk Tendencies)
turtle gliding through the ocean.
The wooden work is composed of over six hundred parts which allow the creature
to elegantly tilt its fins, move its body up and down, and even crane its head
as if rising above the water for air. A single crank controls the complex
structure of gears and mechanisms which were designed to flow as organically as
“A non-trivial amount of time was
spent watching and studying videos of turtles swimming,” explains Hugger.
“Getting the motions of Carapace to closely resemble the motions of real
turtles was a true challenge. Countless hours were spent refining the
sculpture’s motion to be as lifelike as possible, even before any mechanisms
were developed to drive those motions.”
Hugger has also developed a hummingbird in addition to several abstract wood sculptures. You can
see these works in action on his website and Youtube.
Make your own! Woodworking plans are
available at http://www.derekhugger.com/carapace.html Carapace is a wooden kinetic sculpture that simulates the
motion of a sea turtle swimming. A complex series of mechanisms allows Carapace
to swim up and down, tilt forward or back, and even lift its head up for a
breath of air. As each mechanism is carefully linked to the next, each of
Carapace’s flowing motions are driven by turning a single crank. For more
videos and photos of Carapace, check out: https://www.facebook.com/derekhuggerk… The music is “Morning Mist” by Marika Takeuchi.
U-Ram Choe: New Urban Species is on
view at the Frist Center through May 16, 2010. Korean artist U-Ram Choes
kinetic sculptures are made of delicately curved sections of wrought metal,
joined together in movable parts that are driven by motors to expand, contract,
or otherwise suggest the autonomic motions of such primitive life forms as
plants and single-celled aquatic creatures. The intricate workmanship and
graceful movements of these mechanical sculptures offer viewers an unparalleled
Korean artist U-Ram Choe lives and
works in Seoul where he creates highly ornate kinetic that mimic forms and
motions found in nature. Choe uses various metals, motors, gears, and custom
CPU boards to control the precise motions of each sculpture that are at times
perfectly synchronized and other times completely random. With names like “Unicus
– cavum ad initium” and “Arbor Deus Pennatus” it’s clear the artist
treats each new work like a brand new species.
The artworks are so complex each
“organism” is shipped with a manual to show collectors and galleries how to
maintain and fix various components. Choe tells the Creator’s Project in one of the videos above how some of the works in his
studio live a complete lifecycle where they are at first born and put on
display, but after time begin to degrade as certain parts stop working.
Eventually he raids old artworks for parts and uses them to build new ones.
Watch the videos above to see a good
sampling of his work both old and new, and he has a huge archive of videos for
nearly 50 artworks over on Vimeo.
Directed and animated
by Hideki Inaba, this dense and intensely beautiful
music video was created for the track Slowly Rising, off the album Full
Circle by BEATSOFREEN. The 3-minute animation features an
unceasing barrage of seemingly infinite creatures, hybrids of flora and fauna,
that swarm and multiply in space like schools of fish or flowers in a field.
(via prosthetic knowledge)
Official music video for BEATSOFREEN ” Slowly Rising”