Archive for China

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

Occupy Mathematics

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2011 by rgwallace

I gave the following talk at the New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City October 17 as part of a Festschrift for my father, and collaborator, Rodrick Wallace. A Festschrift is a symposium held–and a book published–in honor of a scholar, often on his or her 70th birthday. As opposed to a Gedenkschrft, held in memoriam (though there are some scholars who deserve the latter long before they’ve left for the great e-journal server in the sky).

I’ll start off with an old joke about Rod, in the de rigueur Boston accent. The joke runs like this: Equation 1. Equation 2. Equation 3. “We can see here an apartheid state entrains both oppressor and oppressed into a synergy of plagues.”

Equation 4. Equation 5. Equation 6. “It follows then that public health can be saved from a catastrophic vortex if and only if we smash the apartheid state.”

All kidding aside, we would make a mistake assuming Rod’s conclusions arise from his formalisms alone or—winky wink—vice versa. Instead, we should say they arise “and vice versa” and honestly so. Or better yet, inextricably so.

That’d be shocking if only because it would imply cultural and political precepts underlie mathematical mechanics. That the field’s formalisms are as much historical objects as many of the phenomena they address, as a number of commentators, including Wittgenstein and the ethnomathematicians, have ventured.

Continue reading

Influenza’s Historical Present

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 11, 2010 by rgwallace

I delivered the following speech, co-written with economic geographer Luke Bergmann, at a NIH-FAO-sponsored workshop held in Beijing earlier this month. The speech is based on a book chapter to be published later this year in Influenza and Public Health: Learning from Past Pandemics (EarthScan, London). The text is slightly edited.

This is the first of two talks I’ll be giving. Both I believe attempt to address one of the key concerns of our workshop: how do we work together?

And work together we must. Influenzas operate on multiple levels of biocultural organization: molecularly, pathogenically, and clinically; across multiple wildlife biologies, epizoologies, and epidemiologies; evolutionarily, geographically, agro-ecologically, culturally, and financially.

But it’s more than just a complicated story. The expanse of influenza’s causes and effects play out to the virus’s advantage. As I discussed at last year’s workshop, influenza appears to use opportunities it finds in one domain or scale to help it solve problems it faces in other domains and at other scales.

Continue reading