Archive for the Evolution Category

Red Earth

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

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 rgwallace

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 rgwallace

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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Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2016 by rgwallace


dayton-turkeyThe explosion, at last, lies down. As if, though–the two drug enthusiasts who got in and out of its last moment insist–out of pity, rather than because it must. –China Miéville (2015)

A season’s greetings may mark as much a farewell as a salutation.

By a full-throated onamonapia we channel our near-national bird, which, when the other national holiday is upon us, is suddenly lined up for death in the millions. And gobble gobble we continue throughout the day–and into the new year–gnawing Viking drumsticks while watching Meat Packers bludgeon Rust Belt Steelers into what for the team owners are lucrative cases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

By way of zooarchaeologist Stanley Olsen, Heather Horn dates our enthusiasm back before the country, to the Mayans, who among others domesticated the ocellated turkey long before the arrival of the conquistadors. Raising them caught on so wildly in Europe that the birds–mislabeled Turkey in origin by explorers who once thought themselves in India–were brought back to America by colonial Patriots bound for Massachusetts and Virginia.

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Springer Has Sprung

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution with tags , , , , , , on September 2, 2016 by rgwallace

Wallace_cover_FINAL_Front coverSpringer has just published our new book, Neoliberal Ebola: Modeling Disease Emergence From Finance to Forest and Farm.

It is arguably one of the more sophisticated treatments of globalization’s impact on disease to date, combining economic geographies with epidemiological modeling and the political economies of agriculture and science.

Learn more about the book’s scope, and access its preface and table of contents, at the book website.

With Zika and now yellow fever emerging out of a similar juxtaposition of laissez-faire agroeconomics and structurally adjusted public health, the arguments of the book are as apropos as they were way back in 2014.

The volume is academically priced, but we encourage those unable to afford it to

  1. ask their local library to purchase a copy
  2. consider purchasing a MyCopy print-on-demand for $25 through your local research institution.

Our team is proud of the volume. We hope it marks a turning point in the means by which the new diseases are conceptualized and–the point of it all–controlled.

Book Launch | East Coast

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Farming Human Pathogens book, Revolution with tags , , , , , , on June 6, 2016 by rgwallace

Book Tour Poster 1The East Coast/Twin Cities tour for my new book, Big Farms Make Big Flu, has now been finalized!

A day after the book launch with the Marxist Education Project at Brooklyn Commons, I’ll be talking capitalism and the production (and destruction) of animals with Ashley Dawson, author of Extinction: A Radical History, and food systems analyst Siena Chrisman at the CUNY Grad Center.

We’ll be Levitating the USDA in Washington DC! With 25% book discounts for USDA employees.

And we’ve added an appearance at MIT with Science for the People.

Facebook pages for all events are listed here. All are welcome! Feel free to share the tour poster!

The book can be pre-ordered here.

Business as Unusual

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2016 by rgwallace

Chicken in a business suit

John Huston told me he and [Orson] Welles were always trying to stick each other with the tab and once faked simultaneous heart attacks at a restaurant in Paris. –Jim Harrison (1988)

Some of you here in the Twin Cities may have noticed this past year the Star Tribune, the Minneapolis paper, has published almost its entire run of articles on the outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N2 in its business section.

The placement is telling. It reminds us the paper, owned by agribusinessman Glen Taylor, views the virus, killing 50 million poultry across 21 states, as a matter for food companies and investors. It seems the ecologies and epidemiologies in which we are all embedded are to be treated as mere externalities to the matter at hand–the trade in commodities.

An update last week, published–where else?–in the business section, reprinted unsupported declarations about the origins of the outbreak, claims the newspaper turned into facts by year-long repetition. The virus originated in Asia. Migratory waterfowl brought it here and spread it. Farmer error is to blame for the outbreak. Anything but the poultry sector itself.

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