Archive for the Evolution Category

(Profits + Pathogens) – People

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Revolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2018 by Rob Wallace

I tend to steer clear of biopolitics, what until recently have been Foucauldian investigations of the means by which human life processes are managed across regimes of knowledge and power. But the crux of sociologist Marc Aziz Michael’s more Marxian post is very much worth elaboration.

In contrast to evolutionary psychologists Steven Pinker and Matt Ridley, and the fascistic and lobster-spined self-help guru Jordan Peterson, Michael describes the extent to which capital accumulation is almost entirely a cultivated sensibility, one in conflict with humanity’s long understanding our fates are tied to the state of the ecosystem.

Capitalism is no basic instinct housed in an already dubious projection of our biologies. A system teetering on its metaphysics and modes of social reproduction alike must promote the Pinkers and Petersons, the far stupider Webers and Nietzsches of our day, to claim otherwise. Continue reading

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Book Bites Back

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Organic agriculture, Revolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2018 by Rob Wallace

The final proofs have been edited. The website is approaching the landing page. The guerrilleros are amassing along the capital’s limits. Our new book, at 68 pages, as one co-author put it, packs a punch of a 300-page heavyweight. It is dense with critical insight.

If by the scope of our analysis alone, we offer some of the more cutting-edge modeling for vector-borne diseases such as Zika and malaria. We connect a series of pathogen-vector systems of Itô stochastic differential equations to the political economies of deforestation and neoliberal austerity.

As infectious diseases in an age of nation states and global health programs cannot, as much of the present modeling literature presumes, be described by interacting populations of host, vector, and pathogen alone, we also offer a series of control theory models. These models, useful to researchers and health officials alike, explicitly address interactions between government ministries and the pathogens they aim to control.

The new modeling also bites back. We criticize cost effectiveness analyses and the agricultural concept of endemic stability, key moments in modeling disease interventions, as part and parcel of an ethics of economism organized around minimizing state health expenditures. We ask whether along the way these scientific models help undercut global disease control in such a way as to protect corporate bottom lines.

The book is due out April 2018. You can pre-order a copy here.

For those who don’t have the cheddar to cover the cost of a book from an academic publisher, we recommend you ask your library to order it. Or you might order a MyCopy print-on-demand for $25 through your local research institution or library.

Prometheus Rebound

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Organic agriculture, Revolution, Sustainable farming, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2017 by Rob Wallace

Eagle eating snakeIn embracing Prometheus, techno-optimists expunge Zeus’s succeeding curse, an omission that aligns right alongside their myopia around one of two of humanity’s sources of wealth.

Earth’s regenerative natural resources are clearly as necessary an input as human labor. Otherwise, ignoring we’d never have evolved in the first place, any cargo system organized around mutual aid, even resignified in opposition to the colonial enterprise, would be no better than breaking rocks.

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Ten Theses on Farming and Disease

Posted in Evolution, Influenza, Revolution, Sustainable farming, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2017 by Rob Wallace

costarica043Every once in a while, we have to take a stab at putting all the pieces together. In some ways these ten theses on farming and disease only touch on what I, and others, have been saying all along. But there’s a growing understanding of the functional relationships health, food justice, and the environment share. They’re not just ticks on a checklist of good things capitalism shits on. Falsifying Hume’s guillotine, embodying a niche construction at the core of our human identity, justice and the ecosystem appear to define each other at a deep level of cause and effect.

1. Contract farmers around the world are suffering cost-price squeezes. Producers are at one and the same time suffering increasing input costs and low or falling prices for their goods at the farm gate. The farmers are forced to chase an economic Red Queen. Individual farmers must increase production if only in an effort to cover for low prices that increases in production across farms helped depress to begin with.

2. The squeeze is a scam agribusiness is running on farmers. In enforcing high farm output, companies are seeking gluts that cheapen ingredients for their processed product lines. High output, producing food beyond global consumer demand, is also about making money off farmers contractually obligated to buy synthetic inputs they don’t need to grow us enough food.

3. The gap between cost and price, also a form of labor discipline, forces many farmers out, leading to plot consolidation as those smallholders and mid-level operations still left buy up abandoned land, banking on economies of scale, debt-financed mechanization, and appreciation in land equity to pull them through the artificial price squeeze.

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Red Earth

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Organic agriculture, Revolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2017 by Rob Wallace

Red Earth 4They lived like monkeys still, while their new god powers lay around them in the weeds. ― Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars

For a column to be published on Earth Day, the day of the March for Science, a reporter asked me three questions: Why are capitalism and environmentalism inherently incompatible? Why is industrial farming harmful to the environment? And why are corporate sustainability and carbon footprint reduction programs so often a farce?

Drawing from previous essays, the newly emergent ecological Marx, both sides of the John Bellamy Foster and Jason Moore debate, and the clash over environmental destruction under pre-capitalist formations, I answered all three together in what follows, parts of which the columnist may excerpt.

Capitalism is fundamentally different from any other social organization in human history. There is the matter of scale, of course. The environmental destruction arising from the system’s mode of production is now global and geological.
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‘Big Farms’ Makes Big Reviews

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , on December 21, 2016 by Rob Wallace

bfmbf-final-front-coverReviews of my book Big Farms Make Big Flu are beginning to roll in.

Spatial ecologist Marius Gilbert reviews Big Farms for Lancet Infectious Diseases:

The popular narrative of deadly viruses emerging from wild animal reservoirs clearly appeals to humankind’s deeply rooted fascination with wildlife and its dangers. But isn’t such a focus on the zoonotic origin of emerging infectious diseases distracting attention from the more important social, economic, and cultural forces operating at different spatial and temporal scales and contributing to the chain of causality leading to epidemics?

In his book, Big farms make big flu: dispatches on influenza, agribusiness, and the nature of science, evolutionary ecologist Rob Wallace calls on virology, phylogeography, political ecology, mathematical modelling, and economics to tackle those questions by taking us on a rich and fascinating journey through the multiple layers of causality in the emergence of disease. In parallel to multiple dispatches on influenza and other emerging infectious diseases, Wallace addresses a number of biocultural issues linked to the globalisation of food and fibre markets…

What makes Wallace’s book a must-read for those concerned with emerging infectious diseases, and many other issues emerging from modern food systems, is the breadth of interrelated themes and the richness and thought-provoking nature of the assemblage. Readers will put down this book thinking of emerging infectious diseases in a different light; cognisant of their multiple and intertwined root causes in the context of our rapidly changing agro-ecological environment.

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H5Nx Marks Big Poultry’s Spot

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 9, 2016 by Rob Wallace

h5n8-japan-2The causes of the horrible fire that swept through an illegally squatted warehouse in Oakland last week, killing 36 concertgoers, are, as with other disasters, a political football.

Clearly, as city officials were quick to point out, the “Ghost Ship” warehouse floated on illegal construction: no sprinklers and a “boarded-up upstairs exit, a cobbled-together stairway made partly of wooden pallets, propane tanks used to heat water, and piles of flammable debris.”

The community outrage and hurt require a sacrifice, and attention has been thrown on the checkered history of Ghost Ship founder Derick Almena, who “paid $4,500 a month to rent the warehouse, and would then charge tenants $500 to $1,500 for rent — as many as 20 people at a time.” The district attorney reportedly is drawing up a murder warrant.

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