The Palm Oil Sector?

Posted in Evolution, Revolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2014 by rgwallace

Palm oil 5And he told them about this new God, the Creator of all the world and all the men and women. He told them that they worshipped false gods, gods of wood and stone. A deep murmur went through the crowd when he said this. He told them that the true God lived on high and that all men when they died went before Him for judgment. Evil men and all the heathen who in their blindness bowed to wood and stone were thrown into a fire that burned like palm-oil. –Chinua Achebe (1958)

There’s something fishy about the bushmeat narrative of Ebola.

In August we explored the way the story internalizes the outbreak to local West Africans. It’s part of the ooga booga epidemiology that detracts from the circuits of capital, originating in New York, London and elsewhere, that fund the development and deforestation driving the emergence of new diseases in the global South.

But in addition, and not unconnected, there’s something missing from the model’s purported etiology. Indeed, Ebola may have almost nothing, or only something tangentially, to do with the bushmeat trade.

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Talking Ebola

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 11, 2014 by rgwallace

Wallace Ebola Agrifood Collaborative poster_5UPDATE. A video of the talk is now available here. A little rough in voice and ideas, some of which hours later I revised. Such is the nature of the beast of an outbreak. But some good info I hope and some lively discussion afterwards.


For those of you in the Twin Cities area, Monday I’ll be giving a talk on Ebola at the University of Minnesota.

Neoliberal Ebola: the Agroeconomics of a Deadly Spillover

Monday, October 13, Noon

Carlson School of Management, rm 1-149
321 19th Ave South, Minneapolis
University of Minnesota

The first human outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa, and by far the largest and most extensive recorded to date anywhere, began in forest villages across four districts in southeastern Guinea as early as December 2013. Understandably much attention has been placed upon the lethargy of the world’s response to the outbreak as well as the role a broadly painted ‘poverty’ has played in the pathogen’s spread and case fatality rate. Some work has focused on the local deforestation, dedevelopment, population mobility, periurbanization, and inadequate health system that apparently smoothed Ebola’s ecophylogentic transition.

But we can situate these diverse possibilities within a broader framework that unifies Ebola’s origins and its failure of containment. The neoliberal policies that truncated regional medical infrastructure also redirected forest development. The latter may have reset multispecies agroecologies, including perhaps between frugivore bats, a documented Ebola reservoir, and partially proletarianized pickers of increasingly commoditized oil palm.

Dawn of a New Science

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Revolution with tags , , , , , , on October 6, 2014 by rgwallace
Globalized croplands

Globalization of croplands, 2004. Percentage of landscape area occupied by croplands whose products are incorporated as part of commodity chains (agricultural or otherwise) whose first consumers are located internationally. Calculations by Bergmann and Holmberg (c.f. Bergmann 2013a, Bergmann 2013b).

Bestselling David Quammen, who I skewered on Ebola, has a new book out on the virus. It’s an extract from his tome on spillovers I reviewed here.

While Quammen pays lip service to generalized poverty as one means by which the West African strain emerged, he diligently propagates the fallacy of the culture of infection.

In this ooga-booga interview he’s practically giddy with the notion proximate indigenous practices–sorcery and bushmeat–are to blame for Ebola, offering nary a word on the neoliberal policies driving deforestation and land grabbing.

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West West Africa

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, HIV, Influenza, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 26, 2014 by rgwallace

liberia-ebolaAt some points the fighters jumped off and pushed the skiffs over a sandbar into a cut of water…Just like in the wadi, there was concerns about the Americans. They sought to keep themselves out of sight under the branches. Uncle Sam knew nothing, Uncle Sam saw everything.        –J. M. Ledgard (2011)

TV comedian Stephen Colbert savagely satired media hysteria over West Africa’s Ebola outbreak,

Folks, I’m so glad you’re joining us tonight. If you are joining us, we tape the show at 7 o’clock, so by the time you’re seeing this you’re probably dead. Because this week the Ebola outbreak that’s been ravaging West Africa finally spread to West West Africa–America.

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Wet Blanket

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 21, 2014 by rgwallace

As if Ferguson might prove too much a shock of an ice bucket, it seems, Lauren Duca points out, a curious coincidence mainstream culture suddenly moves social capital’s heaven and earth for a rare albeit terrible disease of bad-luck biology.

The different etiologies need be no zero-sum game, but are the Vine-length dunks of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge–the frisson of a waterboarding–a sublimated misdirection from the historical wrongs from which some of the most generous check writers benefit?

The irony is that most cases of ALS are social in origin, including a cluster around a lead smelter in Herculaneum, Missouri, just 50 miles south of Ferguson, Continue reading

Trust Whitey

Posted in Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2014 by rgwallace

FerugsonLiterature, [James] Baldwin suggested, was recruited to provide for everybody, in a manner noxious to none, the official story of racial difference within the emerging American project…Baldwin saw Uncle Tom’s Cabin as evidence that the actual work of sentimental discourses of liberal reform (past and present) was to establish an epistemology that guaranteed white salvation…For Baldwin abolitionist discourse was just a slight displacement of white supremacist religiosity. –Jody Melamed (2011)

The New York Times’s Dwight Garner reviews Jess Row’s new novel.

In Row’s near-future, people (with the right insurance) may elect for racial reassignment, a radical plastic surgery that cherry-picks phenotypes social categories presume are signal enough.

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Stick to Physics

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Organic agriculture, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2014 by rgwallace

xjrf95-neil-degrasse-tyson-cosmos-gif-gbfaThe stranger promises to return. They both know they’ll never see each other again. Alone now, and before he puts out the lamp, [Jorge Luis Borges's] Paracelsus scoops up the ashes and utters a single word in a low voice. And in his hands the rose springs back to life.Roberto Bolaño (2004)

Neil deGrasse Tyson has parlayed his sudden Cosmos fame into succinct and biting critiques of anti-intellectualisms of a variety of stars and stripes.

On creationist notions of the age of the universe,

If the universe were only 6,500 years old, how could we see the light from anything more distant than the Crab Nebula? We couldn’t. There wouldn’t have been enough time for the light to get to Earth from anywhere farther away than 6,500 light years in any direction. That’s just enough time for light to travel a tiny portion of our Milky Way galaxy.

On climate denialism,

Abe Lincoln would turn in his grave if he knew that his descendants, his political descendants — if I remember correctly, Abe Lincoln was Republican — were cherry-picking scientific results. I don’t know what he would say. I’m pretty sure he’d be disappointed.

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