Big buzz around Earth Week

A blender was filled with honey, ice, bananas, almond butter and almond milk. But it was not a typical blender.

Severed from the forces of electricity, this blender was perched atop a stationary bicycle that, when pedaled, set in motion the energy to power the blender's operation.

EcoAction Club members handed out the resulting ice-cold, creamy smoothies to intrigued onlookers at the Honeybee Festival outside the Organic Learning Garden Monday at Santa Monica College.

Earth Week kicked off in full bloom at the event, where local beekeepers, food purveyors, environmental activists and participants celebrated honeybees. "We're gathering to not only shed light and information about the sensitivity of the honeybee population, but to also celebrate the fruits of their labor," said Cory Phillips, EcoAction Club member who facilitated the club's participation in the event. "So we, here with our bike blender, are kind of acting like the honeybee habitat."

The event was hosted by Food Justice Project SMC, led by anthropology professor Gillian Grebler, and the Center for Environmental and Urban Studies, managed by director of sustainability Genevieve Bertone.

"Food Justice Project's goal is part of the effort to make healthy, fair, sustainable food accessible to everyone," Grebler said. "Part of that effort is educating ourselves about where our food comes frompromoting community gardening, including beekeeping, as one way of bringing healthy, sustainable food to people."

Grebler said that the purpose behind organizing the event as part of SMC's weeklong Earth Week festivities was to raise awareness about the essential role of honeybees in the ecosystem and the increasing threats they face.

"The threats to honeybees are part of a complex of issues that threaten the healthfulness of our foodindustrialization of agriculture, the use of pesticides, loss of habitat, pollution," Grebler said.

SMC English professor Dana Morgan, coordinator to the Organic Learning Garden and Club Grow's adviser, was actively involved at the event to encourage environmental education.

"We become observers as gardeners, and we have to observe the health of the pollinators," Morgan said. "Everything that we grow depends on them. Everything we eat depends on them, and right now, they're at risk." Morgan gave gardening advice for attracting pollinators, such as avoiding pesticides, planting native plants in clumps with flowers of different shapes and colors, and planting in sunny spots without strong winds.

"I think it's important to get people to grow for bees, and think about what we can do to protect them, but also, what do we plant to attract bees to the garden," she said.

Morgan said that beekeeping coincides with demonstrating sustainable gardening practices.

"I want to have a beehive in this garden," she said. "It's part of a whole ecosystem; the bees are part of it."

Morgan cited potential obstacles to housing bees in the Organic Learning Garden, including possible student allergies and the new Student Services Building set to be erected near the garden, but said that they could feasibly be overcome.

"The college is very litigious, so it has to be done right, safely," Morgan said.

Grebler also supported the idea of initiating beekeeping in the campus garden.

"I would love to be part of a beekeeping community at SMC to keep our own healthy honeybees, provide a bee-friendly habitat for them and learn how to advocate for them at a policy level," Grebler said.

Many of the organizations represented at the booths offered honey tastings, including Food Justice Project SMC and Club Grow, and others sold honey products as well, including RedBread, The Natural Honey Company, and HoneyLove.

"Bees are essential to growing food," said Ricardo Chavira, marketing director for Co-opportunity Natural Foods, who represented the Santa Monica co-op grocery store at the event. "If you don't have bees, you can't pollinate. Without pollination, you can't have a lot of the crops that we depend on as a store. It's not only important to the community, but also to our organization." Dael Wilcox, owner of The Natural Honey Company, demonstrated the process of extracting wildflower and orange honey by hand, the method his company uses to harvest and distribute raw, natural honey. Wilcox also explained his other duties of bee education and proper bee removal.

Representatives from other organizations were present to inform the community about beekeeping, including HoneyLove and Backwards Beekeeping.

Chioma Ojini, director of student services for the Associated Students and EcoAction Club's marketing coordinator, recited her original spoken word poetry written for the event.

"It was spawned out of an email to my boyfriend," Ojini said. "My boyfriend calls me Honeybee, and I was going to reply to him and call him Honey, but then I just started writing a poem. With the bee day coming up, I just twisted it so it sounds like I'm talking from the perspective of the human race, with honey representing what bees really are and what they mean to the human race."

A photo contest was held at the event, where SMC students were encouraged to photograph the event and submit entires to be judged by photography professors and a local art curator. Winners will be announced on April 29 and displayed at Cafe Bolivar, according to an event flyer.

Following the festival, attendees were encouraged to attend a screening of "Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?," a film examining the significance of the disappearance of bees.