“Bee Time” CSWA 2014 Book Award Winner!

I’m thrilled that “Bee Time: Lessons From the Hive has been selected for the 2014 Science in Society Book Award by the Canadian Science Writers Association!

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CSWA 2014 Book Award Winners Announced

Congratulations to this year’s CSWA Book Award Winners!

The Canadian Science Writers’ Association/ Association candienne des rédacteurs scientifiques is pleased to announce the winners in the 2014 Science in Society Book Awards competition. The winners will each be presented with a certificate and $1000 cash prize during an awards dinner held in conjunction with the CSWA ‘s 44th annual conference in Saskatoon, SK, hosted by the University of Saskatchewan 18-21 June 2015.

Winner for the 2014 Science in Society General Book Award competition:

Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive  by Mark L. Winston, Harvard University Press.

Being among bees is a full-body experience, Mark Winston writes—from the low hum of tens of thousands of insects and the pungent smell of honey and beeswax, to the sight of workers flying back and forth between flowers and the hive. The experience of an apiary slows our sense of time, heightens our awareness, and inspires awe. Bee Time presents Winston’s reflections on three decades spent studying these creatures, and on the lessons they can teach about how humans might better interact with one another and the natural world.

Like us, honeybees represent a pinnacle of animal sociality. How they submerge individual needs into the colony collective provides a lens through which to ponder human societies. Winston explains how bees process information, structure work, and communicate, and examines how corporate boardrooms are using bee societies as a model to improve collaboration. He investigates how bees have altered our understanding of agricultural ecosystems and how urban planners are looking to bees in designing more nature-friendly cities.

The relationship between bees and people has not always been benign. Bee populations are diminishing due to human impact, and we cannot afford to ignore what the demise of bees tells us about our own tenuous affiliation with nature. Toxic interactions between pesticides and bee diseases have been particularly harmful, foreshadowing similar effects of pesticides on human health. There is much to learn from bees in how they respond to these challenges. In sustaining their societies, bees teach us ways to sustain our own.

Mark L. Winston has had a distinguished career researching, teaching, writing and commenting on bees and agriculture, environmental issues, and science policy. He was a founding faculty member of the Banff Centre’s Science Communication programme, and consults widely on utilizing dialogue to develop leadership and communication skills, focus on strategic planning, inspire organisational change, and thoughtfully engage public audiences with controversial issues. Winston’s work has appeared in numerous books, commentary columns for The Vancouver Sun, The New York Times, The Sciences, Orion magazine and frequently on CBC Radio and Television and National Public Radio. He currently is a Senior Fellow in Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue, and a Professor of Biological Sciences.

On My 65th Birthday

I turned 65 a few hours ago. It’s an age of significance more for historical reasons than on its own merits, as it used to be the age when retirement was expected, and usually forced.

Retirement at 65 became the norm many decades ago for actuarial reasons, because it was the median mortality age for men, who made up most of the work force. Pensions and social insurance would kick in then, affordable because half the wage earners were gone, leaving enough in pension funds and government coffers for the survivors. Also, work was more physically demanding, and few employees had the strength to keep working beyond 65.

Work today is less physically demanding, longevity has increased, the work force is no longer predominantly male, and the North American courts have ruled that most employees can no longer be made to retire at 65. Still, although 65 is no longer as significant a birthday for employment reasons, it somehow remains a milestone at which to ponder the process of aging.

I recall observing friends, colleagues and family turning 65 and thinking they were old, but I can’t say I feel the least bit old as I round the corner of the 65th. I do, however, feel increasingly like an elder, whose hallowed state justifies the senior discounts I am quite pleased to receive.

I purchased my first seniors transit pass yesterday, at half the price of the regular pass, and yes, I did jump the gun by 24 hours out of excessive excitement for this most deserved of perks. I have been a heavy transit user for many decades, and payback time is overdue.

I’ve been trying to articulate a shift I’ve noticed at how I consider work, which I thought to characterize as a loss of career ambition. But that’s not quite right, as I’ve never been particularly ambitious to build a career. I have had strong motivation to accomplish, first through bee research and more recently through dialogue, which seemed to yield career progression without striving directly for advancement.

My motivation hasn’t diminished; I’m still passionate about teaching, mentoring, bees and dialogue, but perhaps not so much motivated to accomplish as to experience. My earlier motivation led to fostering a bee research laboratory, and my teaching interests led to the Semester in Dialogue that grew into a full-bore Centre for all things dialogue. Today, I want to do the teaching and the facilitating, and participate in the bee world, but without growing structures in which to accomplish.

I am also enjoying my decreasing tendency to judge others, a process worth noting at 65 although it has been more of a progression than precisely connected to that particular age. I am less critical of the faults and deficiencies of others, accepting our human weaknesses with more compassion than I did when younger, with greater facility at finding the wisdom and grace beneath the fault lines.

Age has brought another unexpected bonus, an overflowing abundance of love. The last decade has brought me Lori, soulmate extraordinaire, with her own capacity for loving that transformed my understanding of what it is to love another person. My daughter Devora grew into an adult in the last decade, and while we have always been close I never imagined our deep bond would persist as her adult independence expanded.

And love, like the universe, expands: Lori brought her wonderful children Teryl and Greg into my life, and through Greg and his wife Tiffany our dear, dear granddaughter Mackenzie. And Devora brought Zach into our world, the best of sons-in-law, whose love for Devora shines through his every molecule. Add innumerable friends, students and colleagues into the mix, and my love cup truly runneth over.

My 65th was preceded by Passover a few days ago, a holiday in which we celebrate the idea and hopefully the reality of freedom, political but also personal. One aspect of freedom is being able to grow and flourish unencumbered by personal demons, and at 65 I’m still very much on that growth curve.

I consider myself among the fortunate, one whose aging has not worn me down but made me feel, well, younger. I can only thank the capricious forces of the universe for treating me so well at 65, leaving me blessed to imagine the next many years as blossoming rather than withering.