Archive for the Influenza Category

Ten Theses on Farming and Disease

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

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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Rogue Resistance

Posted in Ecological resilience, Influenza, Revolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 29, 2017 by rgwallace

Alt_CDCOne can’t help but cheer the online resistance Fed scientists are waging against the anti-science Trump administration. Among them, Rogue NASA, NOAA Uncensored, and everybody’s favorite Alt US Forest Service: only you can prevent fascism.

But some of us were @Alt_CDC long before it was hip or took a Twitter handle.

Didn’t swine flu H1N1, Ebola Makona, H5N2 (and other H5Nx), Zika, cholera in Haiti, the vaccine gap for yellow fever, H7N9, Ebola Reston, MERS in industrialized camel, the opioid epidemic, and a surge in antibiotic resistance emerge under President Obama’s watch?

Wasn’t it the Obama NSF and NIH that failed to fund scientific efforts to explore the roles agribusiness, deforestation, structural adjustment, and global circuits of capital played in these outbreaks? Continue reading

‘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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Banksgiving

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

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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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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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Yellow Science Journalism

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Farming Human Pathogens book, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , on February 8, 2016 by rgwallace

Apparently there’s a liberal equivalent to Donald Trump’s Sinophobic expediency.

In a New York Times op-ed yesterday, Sonia Shah, the author of a forthcoming book on pandemics, presents a nationalistic disease ecology, characterizing avian influenza as the dirty Chinese’s fault.

As if the industrial model of production didn’t originate in the States.

As if migratory birds haven’t been transporting influenza strains across the Bering Sea for thousands of years, even as those patterns also shift in response to environmental changes global and local. Continue reading