A Disaster in the Making

Filmmakers Blog. May 24. 2013. Zutphen, Netherlands.

“A Disaster in the Making” is the name of Dr. Henk Tennekes book. The book is about why bees, the number one insect pollinator on the planet are dying at an alarming rate.

What impressed me so much about this book is that is the art and design. It’s a beautiful book, visually full of amazing paintings by Ami-Bernard Zillweger.  When I asked Henk about this he said that he felt it was such a tragic topic that the book needed to be beautiful. And it is. There is a bitter-sweet quality when exploring the pages, with the art work reminding us of the natural world, where we are loosing so much so quickly.

Quote from Jody Spear.

“Why is it that birds are falling from the skies, their numbers crashing in mass extinctions? Henk Tennekes has an answer: He cites evidence in this book that the species suffering dramatic losses (mostly out of public view) in the past two decades — sparrows, swifts, starlings, and many other insectivores — are struggling to find food; insects such as beetles, springtails, and earthworms are being wiped out by neonicotinoid insecticides, chiefly imidacloprid and clothianidin. “The excessive imidacloprid levels noted in surface water of … [places] with intensive agriculture have been associated with insect decline and [subsequently] a dramatic decline of common grassland birds.”

And this is what we explore with Henk in SongbirdSOS.


In Zutphen Netherlands with toxicologist Henk Tennekes

Filmmakers Blog. May 24. 2013 Zutphen Netherlands

After a distinguished international career, Dr. H. A. (Henk) Tennekes now lives in a tiny apartment above a shop in Zutphen, the same town where he was born. Here, in the ‘attic of a forgotten provincial town’ he made hugely important discovery…

“ The way a new generation of insecticides, the so-called neonicotinoids, work has much in common with chemical carcinogens – cancer-causing agents, the implication being that safe exposure levels cannot be defined for a category of pesticides used all over the world. My paper convincingly demonstrated that the risk of chronic exposure of arthropods (including bees) to neonicotinoids, which are mainly produced by Bayer CropScience, had been severely underestimated.”

I knew I wanted to interview Henk for SongbirdSOS when we spoke on the phone. We were talking about how the neonicotinoids pesticides were killing bees and other insects, and Henk said, “they are causing a break in the food chain and anything above that break is in danger of extinction.” I shivered, as I certainly understood that we humans are on that same chain.

More on Henk’s work here. www.farmlandbirds.net

A Birds Eye View of Hans Slabbekoorn

Filmmakers Blog. May 21, 2013

In a quiet area of a wooded park, Hans Slabbekoorn and his students play previously recorded traffic sounds to birds. Their goal is to see if the birds “change their tune” to sing above the noise.

I couldn’t help but wonder what the birds would see when they would look down at these crazy humans with speakers and other audio recording devices.

So here we have it, filming our birds eye view…IMG_0223

Hans Slabbekoorn Near Lieden, The Netherlands

Filmmakers Blog. May 21. Hans Slabbekoorn near Lieden Netherlands.

Dr. Hans Slabbekoorn has a lab at the Institute Biology Lieden, where he studies the impact of urban noise on songbird songs and communication.

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Wind Turbines Near Leiden, The Netherlands.

Filmmakers Blog. May 20, 2013. Wind Turbines near Leiden Netherlands.

Filming at the end of May in the Netherlands. As we drove across the country, we saw a lot of wind turbines along the side of the highways, which made me hopeful for a less fossil fuel dependent future.

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