Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 17, 2020

Seadrift; The Pollinators

Filed under: Film — louisproyect @ 7:57 pm

In 1979, the village of Seadrift, Texas, about 3 ½ hours south of Houston, became a major focus of TV and newspaper coverage when clashes between Vietnamese and native-born fishermen climaxed with Sau Van Nguyen shooting Billy Joe Aplin to death. This in itself was enough to make the headlines but when a jury found Sau not guilty, the shit really hit the fan. Seadrift, already a magnet for the KKK because of earlier violent but non-fatal clashes, became a battleground between two camps that superficially had the same goals, to become wealthy fishing for crabs and shrimp just like Gary Sinise’s character in “Forrest Gump”.

Directed by Tim Tsai, a Chinese-American, it relies on interviews with surviving members of both camps, including Billy Joe Aplin’s daughter who in the closing moments of the film states that none of this would have happened if the US never invaded Vietnam in the first place. Since the Vietnamese fishermen in Seadrift were fleeing Vietnam, you might think that they’d have a lot in common with their Texas counterparts who must have been just as anti-Communist as them, including several who were Vietnam veterans.

However, the search for profit tends to trump ideology—in this case access to fishing grounds. Unlike farming or ranching, there is no such thing as property rights. You go out in the water and throw your nets wherever you please. The native-born fishermen would have resented the newcomers just for competing over a limited resource but all the more so when they began casting their traps in the same location as they regarded as their own turf. At first the crab traps owned by the Vietnamese were trashed behind their backs. When they began to show up en masse to defend what they saw as their private property, the fight escalated to the point of bullets fired into each others’ hulls.

To the credit of the native-born, they eventually repudiated the KKK in a remarkable town meeting. Now in their sixties and seventies, they look back on this period as escalating out of control largely because of an inability to respect each other’s identity and rights.

In an interview with the Madison, Wisconsin Cap Times, Tsai draws parallels with today’s problems. “As I was editing the film, it was just surreal to see that what the KKK was saying back then was almost word for word what the alt right is saying today against immigrants and refugees. It’s just a different group (being targeted).” I had the same reaction.

(“Seadrift” is currently available as a DVD. Check First Run Features for word on its availability as VOD).

As the title implies, “The Pollinators” is all about the threat of extinction facing honey bees, which in turn threatens our own survival since one-third of all fruits and vegetables rely on their pollination.

Although I have been reading any number of articles about the honey bee decline in recent years, this deeply informative and politically urgent documentary contained many new revelations, starting with the fact that most pollination taking place today is not done by “free range” honey bees but by commercial firms that transport truckloads of hives to customers, mostly in California, who pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to make sure that their almonds, apples, apricots, etc. can bear fruit.

However, since fruit orchards tend to face any number of threats to the trees even reaching the point of bearing flowers, including insects and fungus, they rely on chemicals to ward them off. If you’ve been following reports on the demise of honey bees, you are probably aware that neonicotinoids, a class of insecticide, are seen as likely cause. What the film reveals is that they replaced organophosphates that were so harmful to farmworkers. Unfortunately, they are much worse for the bees since they only begin to degrade after a couple of years while organophosphates degrade within days.

In addition, despite the loving care that professional beekeepers provide for their “workers”, they are not as hardy as “free range” bees that grow robust from being near wild foliage such as clover, etc. The film reveals that most of the U.S.A. bread basket interior has been turned into a vast monocrop source of soybeans and corn that might be of commercial value but of none to the reproduction of hives.

The last half-hour of the film is devoted to the coverage of regenerative farming that seeks to reconnect the main pillars of pre-capitalist farming, including a diverse combination of crops, the restoration of native grasses, livestock, and bees all working together to create healthy food.

As someone who has seen and reviewed well over 25 documentaries on ecology for the past twenty years, I would put “The Pollinators” at the top of those I consider essential. It can be rented from all the usual sources. Just Google/Video “The Pollinators” and the links will appear.


  1. This might be of interest:

    These Photos Capture The Startling Effect Of Shrinking Bee Populations: In rural China, humans pollinate flowers by hand

    “In parts of rural China, humans are doing the work bees once did.

    “Striking new photos show farm workers in Hanyuan county, in China’s Sichuan province, painstakingly applying pollen to flowers by hand.

    “Hanyuan county is known as the “world’s pear capital.” But pesticide use has led to a drastic reduction in the area’s bee population, threatening the fruit crop. Workers now pollinate fruit trees artificially, carefully transferring pollen from male flowers to female flowers to fertilize them.

    “For photographer Kevin Frayer, the images of human pollinators tell a story of both loss and human creativity.”

    Source: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/humans-bees-china_n_570404b3e4b083f5c6092ba9

    Comment by Reza — June 17, 2020 @ 11:07 pm

  2. Dear Louis, Maybe the work of zoologist, Neelima Kumar, from Punjab University in India, needs to be highlighted. Her experiments have shown how electromagnetic fields interfere with cellular metabolism. Exposure to cell phones for just 10 minutes their is a dramatic rise within the bees blood of glucose, cholesterol, total carbohydrates, total lipids, and total protein. The bees were barely metabolizing sugars, proteins, or fats. Their cells were becoming oxygen starved. According to German biologist, Ulrich Warnke, the pairs of antennas on insects are electromagnetic sensors; that read even the minutest variations in the earth’s magnetic field. He believes that the antennas are rendered useless as they try to function within the constant assault upon the earth magnetic fields from our wireless technologies. After reading The Invisible Rainbow, by Arthur Firstenberg, my understanding of the colony collapse disorder has significantly expanded. The benefits of this cellphone are turning out to be a negative gain.✌🏼❤️🙏gary


    Comment by utejack — June 18, 2020 @ 2:01 pm

  3. Honeybees, Gob love them, are an imported species–vital to agriculture and to those who love honey, but by no means the only or even, in some cases, the most important pollinators of crops and wild flowering plants in the U.S. Per the Forest Service.

    In the United States, there are over 4,000 species of native bees. Familiar bees visiting garden flowers are the colorful, fuzzy, yellow-and-black striped bumblebees, metallic-green sweat bees, squash bees, and imported honeybee. These flower-seeking pollen magnets purposefully visit flowers to collect pollen and nectar for food for themselves and their young.

    Butterflies and moths contribute–as indeed do such commponplace but relatively little-recognized species as the syrphid flies (hoverflies), which mimic the appearance of bees.

    Any urban environment containing flowering plants will also play host to these mostly unrecognized but vital and fascinating creatures–you only have to look closely for a minute or two to see them. Clover, the catmints (not catnip), Russian Sage, zinnias, echinacea, and the like are particularly attractive to pollinators: roses, pansies, etc. are not very much so. A Russian Sage bush or patch (or pot) of catmint will draw bees of all sorts from a wide area the way an ice cream wagon draws children. City people with suitable balconies, rooftops, or gardens have begun keeping honeybees as a hobby–one can also provide habitat as well as nutrition for some species of native bees; for example the larege or small carpenter bees or ceratina.

    Anyone interested might want to visit the Bug Guide on the Intertubes (https://bugguide.net/node/view/475348#:~:text=Native%20Bees%20of%20North%20America,settlers%20brought%20hives%20from%20Europe).

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — June 18, 2020 @ 7:51 pm

  4. Correction–Ceratina is the genus of the small carpenter bees, not the large ones (Xylocopa). BTW–the destructiveness of large carpenter bees to houses has been exaggerated, and they will nest quite happily in wooden tubes if a suitable man-made array is available.

    Bonus: here is a video of a mason bee pulling off a super-feat that is purely routine for the species; https://www.huffpost.com/entry/bee-pulls-out-nail_n_572829fbe4b0bc9cb04469f3
    Sorry for linking to Huffpost but IMO the content is worth it.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — June 18, 2020 @ 8:08 pm

  5. Have to agree with Farans, have to emphasize that honey bees are not native to North America. Restoration of native habitats has to be the focus. So try to convince farmers to plant rows of native perennials near their fields. But seeing honey bee population decline should not in itself be seen as a negative, they really don’t belong here in North America.

    Comment by Chris Swenson — June 20, 2020 @ 4:09 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: