Palmer and Patterson and Possibility

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on July 29, 2015 by rgwallace

Palmer and PattersonSetting ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ against Walter Palmer and ‪#‎CeciltheLion‬ is a failure of strategic imagination.

There are, of course, important differences that can’t be overemphasized. Otherwise we end up confounding the murders of humans and animals. But both cultural moments clearly speak to the nature of white privilege.

Racism and ecological expropriation aren’t orthogonal to each other. Indeed, Cecil’s death can be connected to land grabbing and deforestation across Africa straight out of John Henry Patterson. Which last I heard has something to do with black lives.

And if it takes a dead lion to move millions of perhaps misguided people out of a carefully cultivated metaphysics of isolated individuality into a more empathetic framework, I’ll take it. An ethos of mutual aid and solidarity isn’t necessarily going to come out of reading Kropotkin alone.

We’d do well to begin to be open to the aleatory nature of political circumstance. People arrive at the right idea by many a strange path.

Poultry of Minerva

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, HIV, Influenza, Organic agriculture, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2015 by rgwallace

Last week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Peter Shea, the Bill Moyers of the Twin Cities, for The Bat of Minerva show.

What began as a kind of intellectual portraiture, in which we explored how I got studying the evolution of infectious disease, spiraled into about as broad a thesis on the nature of disease and agriculture and prospects for a just future as I have compiled in one place to date.

The reason–and there is a reason–we talked in such a noisy place is revealed halfway through the interview.

For those night owls out there–or nocturnal bats or poultry off their counter-seasonal photoperiods–the show will be broadcasted locally Sunday midnight (Saturday night) on Metro Cable Network/Channel 6

Los Lechugueros

Posted in Ecological resilience, Influenza, Organic agriculture, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , on June 23, 2015 by rgwallace

People have been too kind. Online responses and an audience in Minneapolis have met my H5N2 commentary with the kind of reaction that marks as much a change in the cultural weather as anything in my presentation.

Stateside the outbreak has inspired many a suddenly impertinent child across scientific circles, op-ed pages and supermarkets. A growing murmur acknowledges the emperors of agribusiness are stripping themselves naked of their own rationale. The sector’s apologists, many wily as can be, and paid handsomely for the dupe, are appearing increasingly peddlers of an invisible cloth.

If I have added anything to the dawning realizations already underway, beyond whatever technical support conjoining epidemiology, evolution and economics, it is my lil’ bit in helping engender a sense, to turn around Gramsci, that the old order is dying and a new can indeed be born.

Continue reading

Bidding Up Bird Flu

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza, Organic agriculture, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , on June 22, 2015 by rgwallace

Twenty-one thousand turkeys in Otter Tail County. Forty-five thousand in Meeker County. Fifty-thousand in Kandiyohi. Fifty-six thousand in Redwood. Sixty-seven thousand in Stearns. Do I hear 76,000 in Stearns?

Here’s the talk on H5N2 I gave at the Institute on Agriculture and Trade Policy June 11. Although it’s only a half-hour, I manage to cover a lot.

I’d say there are two key take-homes. First, by dint of its industrial model, rather than a bit of bad luck, the poultry sector is well placed for selecting for and sustaining outbreaks of virulent influenza.

Second, externalizing the costs of such outbreaks–and other sources of health, ecological and economic damage–lards the sector with moral hazards of perhaps one day apocalyptic proportions.

Like an outbreak that kills a billion people.

Made in Minnesota

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza, Organic agriculture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 10, 2015 by rgwallace

This photo provided by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources shows chickens in a trench on a farm in northwest Iowa. Millions of dead chickens and turkeys are decomposing in fly-swarmed piles near dozens of Iowa farms, culled because of a bird flu virus that swept through the state's large poultry operations. (Iowa Department of Natural Resources via AP)

From the outside, the headquarters of the Cankor Health Group resembles a garage. The interior is modeled after an industrial poultry factory. The lobby is a dank, low-ceilinged concrete chamber. Upon entering, employees and visitors are asked to ingest a small capsule…The fast-acting drug produces a series of vivid hallucinations. –Ben Katchor (2013)

Industrial turkey and chicken in Minnesota, and other states Midwest and South, have been hit by a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza A (H5N2). Millions of birds have been killed by the virus or culled in an effort to control the outbreak.

The epizootic began with a soft opening, hitting a handful of backyard farms and wild birds in December in Washington and Oregon before spreading east. Suddenly in early March, H5N2 wiped out 15,000 turkeys on an industrial farm in Pope County, Minnesota, the first of what would be nearly 9 million birds and counting killed or culled across 108 farms over 23 counties.

Continue reading

H5N2 Much

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2015 by rgwallace

John Gaps III AP Rose Acre Farms, IowaA week from Thursday, June 11, I’ll be talking about the H5N2 bird flu outbreak here in the Midwest at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis. Find out the details here. All are welcome.

Midwest bird flu: A diseconomy of industrial poultry

Industrial turkey and chicken in Minnesota, and other states Midwest and South, have been hit by a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza A (H5N2). Millions of birds have been killed by the virus or culled in an effort to control the outbreak.

In its efforts to protect a $265.6-billion-a-year industry, the poultry sector has laid blame upon farm workers and wild waterfowl. In actuality, H5N2 demonstrates poultry production is defined by inherent diseconomies of scale it survives solely by externalizing the resulting damage to consumers, workers, governments and the environment. In a market economy, such costs, moved back onto company margins, would end the industry as we know it.

We will review the mechanisms by which poultry’s bioeconomics is thought sooner than later to select a deadly disease with the potential for killing millions of people worldwide. We will also address what an alternate food landscape might look like.

You can find a video of the half-hour talk here.

Mickey the Measles

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on January 29, 2015 by rgwallace

mickeymeasles I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing — that it all started with a mouse. –Walt Disney (1954)

An outbreak of highly infectious measles starting at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, has spread to eight U.S. states and Mexico. Arizona, one state hit, is presently monitoring 1000 people linked to Disneyland visitors and subsequent exposures.

With good reason, much attention has been placed on the role the anti-vax movement has played in both the initial outbreak and its subsequent spread. In 2014, before the outbreak, U.S. measles clocked in at three times the cases (644) than any of the ten years previous.

The outbreak may represent a second scandal.

Five years ago Disney objected to suggestions the theme park and resort, drawing 15 million visitors a year from around the world, was a potential amplifier for infectious diseases. Continue reading


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