Archive for colonialism

Inception Deception

Posted in Ecological resilience, Organic agriculture, Revolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 26, 2011 by Rob Wallace

In Inception Leonardo DiCaprio plays Christopher Nolan’s postmodern spy-for-hire, extracting real-world corporate secrets out of the phantasmagoria of fitfully sleeping executives, until one day he is himself maneuvered into a trap of his own making: he must implant an idea into one executive’s head for the benefit of another.

But off-camera the real DiCaprio, the actor, the man, the quintessential Hollywood liberal, driven from one sound stage to another even between films, appears caught in a dream within a dream. An active environmentalist and creative force behind a documentary on climate change, DiCaprio serves as a board member for World Wildlife Fund, whose aim ostensibly is to save the biosphere. In reality the conservation NGO is spearheading convoluted efforts to destroy it.

WWF has organized a heinous line-up of agribusiness under the presumption those who own the world’s food value chains are the only ones who can ecologically modernize them.

It turns out merely an effort to greenwash the pith helmet: Environmental crises and threats to biodiversity, of agribusiness’ own making, are laundered inside a declensionist colonial narrative. Agribusiness must take over African farmland or Indonesian rain forest to save it, the argument goes. It’s an environmentalism which serves only as due cause for expanding dispossession, pushing subsistence farmers and the indigenous off their lands. Only another iteration of the neoliberal program, which brought about the environmental crises in the first place.

If only DiCaprio would turn into an old man, filled with regret.  Some  sudden sentience somehow. Two years after Nolan’s set wrapped, DiCaprio’s totem spins on. Like many a bourgeois environmentalist he’s still stuck in capital’s inception.

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King Leopold’s Pandemic

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, HIV with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2010 by Rob Wallace

The origins of HIV offer a great example of the ways treating human impact as an afterthought—discussed in our previous post—locks the study of pathogens into limited and oftentimes downright drunken trajectories.

In 2006 Beatrice Hahn and her colleagues identified the likely source for the SIVcpz progenitor that seeded HIV-1 group M, the clade that produced the AIDS pandemic. The team identified two wild chimpanzee groups in the southeastern corner of Cameroon—50 km north of Ouesso—with SIVcpz phylogenetically closest to group M.

The team hypothesized the virus spread to humans there a hundred years or so ago before making its way south by the Sangha and Congo Rivers to Leopoldville (now Kinshasa), one of several new colonial administrative centers in the area. By a relaxed molecular clock permitting different rates of nucleotide substitution across phylogenetic branches, Worobey et al. (2008) dated the emergence of group M to 1908 (1884-1924). After circulating regionally for decades, diversifying into many of its present-day subtypes, the virus exploded in population size and made its way out onto the global travel network and to the rest of the world.

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