The Book of Bees

How do bees communicate? What does a beekeeper do? Did you know that Napoleon loved bees? Who survived being stung by 2,443 bees.

This encyclopaedic book, The Book of Bees answers all these questions and many more, imparting masses of information with a light, humorous touch, and in scorers of vibrant illustrations. Piotr Socha tracks the history of bees from the time of the dinosaurs to their current plight, examining along the way the role bees have played in history and in the rest of the natural world.

It is cleverly compiled. It goes into the construction of the honey bee’s body, their roles in the ecosystem, and elaborates on all the things we know but not really know of the productions of honey, about the reason of swarms, about waggle dances and the language of the bees, their favourite flowers and all things related, like pollen, the hive, myths and so much more.

It is for kids and more than that for adults. It is for every public leader. It fascinates, entertains and educates and it should lead to better decisions. Knowing this, there is no other way.  An example book how to explain things about the ecosystem of life.

Socha, P. and Grajkowski, W. (2016) The Book of Bees. London: Thames & Hudson.

Bad leadership

Kruf, J.P. (2010). Rocky Mountain landscape. Canada.

An example of bad leadership. Unprecendented actually in many ways. The New York Times on 16/11: “The Trump administration on Monday announced that it would begin the formal process of selling leases to oil companies in a last-minute push to achieve its long-sought goal of allowing oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. ”

On 17/11 The New York Times gives hope on reversal: “…the leases may never be issued, legal and other experts said Tuesday. The leases would face strong and likely insurmountable headwinds from two directions: the incoming Biden administration and the courts, they said.”

Re-engineering public governance

Kruf, J.P. (2006). Sunset in the Amazon. Brazil.

The article in The New York Times today, The World’s Largest Tropical Wetland Has Become an Inferno, caught my attention. What to say? What to do? This year, roughly a quarter of the vast Pantanal wetland in Brazil, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, has burned in wildfires worsened by climate change. What happens to a rich and unique biome when so much is destroyed? As forest ecologist (and human) it cuts through the heart that so much species and biodiversity did get lost.

It is very inconvenient to feel more or less complete powerless to protect. A personal role as a steward is hard to be found. It puzzles me, this immense loss. More so, what I can do? Who has thoughts on this? Or is democracy the process that values the largest stakeholders. Is it just that? If so the romantic idea of a ‘justice by democracy’ has gone. It was a dream scenario. We need to re-engineer our public governance, so it seems. And quickly so.

Resilience of what to what?

Pompen, L. (2015). Sol? No!. Cambodia.

What is resilience? Well, there is no simple answer to this. The concept is in development in different sciences and recently entered the public governance domain related to the social-ecological system of society. Resilience is the new buzzword. Millions of years it played an essential role in natural ecosystems, now it has been launched as new concept for thinking and acting from government perspective. But where is it about? The ability to endure stress and still be able to perform or the capacity to recover after a catastrophe? Maybe both?

The question can not be answered or even is meaningless without putting it in the context resilience of what to what? In our approach we focus on the resilience of the ecosystem city to specific external (abiotic, climate change)) or internal (biotic, virus attack) caused disturbances.

“Resilience has multiple levels of meaning: as a metaphor related to sustainability, as a property of dynamic models, and as a measurable quantity that can be assessed in field studies of socioecological system (SES). The operational indicators of resilience have, however, received little attention in the literature. To assess a system’s resilience, one must specify which system configuration and which disturbances are of interest.”


C. S. Holling (1973) introduced the word resilience into the ecological literature as a way of helping to understand the non-linear dynamics observed in ecosystems. Since then the concept diversified in all directions. Resilience is wide interpreted and used, it is difficult to understand and therefore possibly of limited use for precise governance. Like accountability, new normal, alignment, roadmap, risk, streamline and sustainability it can become a container concept and a buzzword.

“Resilience,” like love, is difficult to define, yet everyone – from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to government agencies, company boards, and community groups – is talking about how to build or maintain it. So, is resilience a useful concept or a meaningless buzzword?


For the core definition of resilience, we go back to the forest. It is a simple and therefore generally applicable definition.

‘Resilience is the ability to bounce back, basically in the face of disturbance, maintaining functions and structures of the system and recovering from the disturbance.”


The resilience of the ecosystem city is telling the story of the balancing act of the population in the present habitat of the city. Of course, there are many layers of habitats within the city and some justify to zoom in and consider resilience on a lower level. In general, it is like when you have plans to investing your money in stocks and funds: results in the past are no guarantee for the future.

It is with resilience like looking into the mirror: you know where you are and where you come from, not so much about where you are going and what will happen. It is hard to predict how future external developments influence the habitat of communities and whether they will exceed the resilience of the system and whether the system is able to tackle change properly.

To let resilience successfully – and Brian Walker (2017) from Resilience Alliance underlines the (urgent) need for this – enter the stage of public governance it is wise to start with using it always in the context resilience of what to what (Carpenter et al., 2001).


Carpenter, S., Walker, B., Anderies, J. and Abel, N. (2001) From Metaphor to Measurement: Resilience of What to What?. Ecosystems 4, 765–781.

Holling, C.S. (1973) Resilience and Stability of Ecological Systems. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. Vol. 4:1-23 (Volume publication date November 1973).

Seidl, Rupert (2019) Voices of Resilience

Walker, Brian (2015) What is resilience? Project Syndicate.

Walker, Brian (2017). Brian Walker at Resilience 2017. Stockholm.

The City and its Biome

Kruf, J.P. (2019) Freshwater biome.

The city has been built within its natural environment. The origin of every city lies in the place, the milieu, the environment where it all started. For that we took nature, reformed it, destroyed it, to make a place for ourselves. We know that when we visit museums. We know where we come from.

The way that cities interconnect with the environment is crucial for present and more so for the near-future quality of life. It is about city resilience, by heart and soul. More and more though, the connection between city and environment becomes thinner and thinner, more unbalanced, sometimes under heavy pressure or even gets completely lost. Yes, there is a growing concern among citizens, experts and scientists how to keep or restore the balance with its natural environment.

This quest for balance is hot because the facts show us that cities become more irresilient due to internal explosive growth of population and rapid economic development, with all effects as disease, poverty and pollution, as well due to external hazards caused by climate change, sea-level rise, human-made natural disasters. Among others, the World Economic Forum publishes large scale findings in their Global Risks Reports for 15 years now. They emerge for more than 70 years now, reported for the first time in the Club of Rome report Limits to Growth (Meadows et al., 1972).

Back to basics and to be aware of where we come from could trigger the awareness of the essence of this balance. Professor Tarr describes the essence of this relation as follows:

“Cities interact and shape the natural environment in several and direct ways. City populations require food, water, fuel, and construction materials… Cities have always placed demands on their sites and their hinterlands… Americans founded cities in locations where nature offered various attractions, such as on coastlines where the land’s contours created harbours, on rivers and lakes that could be used for transportation, water supplies and waste disposal, and in fertile river valleys with extensive food and animal resources.”


In this essay, we take the fast lane to the true origin, in fact to the main habitat of every city: the biome. Biomes are defined as “the world’s major communities, classified according to the predominant vegetation and characterized by adaptations of organisms to that particular environment” (Campbell, 1996). Every city in the world lies within or near the geographical boundaries of one or more biomes and is submitted to the laws of its physical and biological features. The biomes:

Forest Biome: This is a biological community that is dominated by trees and other woody vegetation (Spurr, 1980). There are three major types of forests; tropical rainforest, temperate forest and boreal forest (taiga). The fact is that most of the original forests have been destroyed or are on the brink of disappearance (University of California Museum of Paleontology).

Grassland biome: Grasslands are characterized as lands dominated by grasses. Continental climate (hot and dry) is favorable for grasses rather than for large shrubs or trees. There are three major types of grassland: savannas, prairies and steppes.

Tundra Biome: Tundras are characterized as lands with shrubby vegetation, composed of dwarf shrubs, sedges and grasses, mosses, and lichens, which is adapted to harsh conditions with an extremely cold climate. The biodiversity is low, there is poor nutrients availability and little precipitation with a short season (the Arctic summer) of growth and reproduction. There are alpine and arctic tundras.

Desert biome: Deserts are characterized as lands where water availability is at a minimum and biodiversity is small. Organisms have adapted both physiologically and behaviourally to the lack of water (Wilson, 2018). There are four major types of deserts: hot and dry, semiarid, coastal and cold.

Marine biome: The marine biome dominates the surface of the Earth, covering about three-quarters of the Earth’s surface area. The world’s oceans contain the richest diversity of species of any space on Earth. Rainwater for land areas is supplied by the evaporation of ocean waters. There are oceans, coral reefs, and estuaries.

Freshwater biome: 3% of earth’s water is freshwater and about 70% of that is sequestered in polar ice4. There are wetlands inundated with water, streams and rivers with running water and ponds and lakes with accumulating water.

Where does your city lie? What do you think about how it influences city life? Your life, now and in the life of your children and grandchildren?


Campbell, N.A. (1996) Biology, 4th Edition. California, Menlo Park: The Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company, Inc.

Meadows, Donella H., Dennis L. Meadows, Jørgen Randers, and William W. Behrens III (1972). The Limits to Growth. Club of Rome.

Spurr, S.H., Barnes, B.V. (1980.) Forest Ecology. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Tarr, Joel A., The City and the Natural Environment. Carnegie Mellon University.

University of California Museum of Paleontology,

Wilson E.O. (2018) Life on Earth. Chapter Biomes and Landscapes. E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation.