Archive for conservation

Bird Flew

Posted in Ecological resilience, Influenza, Organic agriculture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2013 by rgwallace

Snow geese4When the red ants discovered that a new variety of canned goods had arrived, they mounted guard around the cassoulet. It wouldn’t have been advisable to leave a freshly opened can standing; they’d have summoned the whole nation of red ants to the shack. There are no bigger communists anywhere. And they’d have eaten up the Spaniard too. –Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1934)

Conservation biology explores how best to protect and restore biodiversity. The applied science aims at maintaining diversity at a variety of levels of biological organization, including genes, subspecies, species, ecosystems and biomes.

But conservation efforts aren’t interested in preserving things alone. Ecologies are defined by processes; competition, predation, symbioses, and higher-order nutrient cycling among them. Organisms are actualized in part by the actions they take upon, or with, each other.

In any environment we look at we’ll find a food web of some sort. In losing species, local ecologies can degrade and the ability of an ecosystem to buffer a disturbance of one sort of another can be compromised.

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Eat Prey Love

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2012 by rgwallace

I wrote the following for a conservation biology class fifteen years ago, when I was but a wee lad. Despite the outdated references, and a few nip-and-tuck edits, I think it’s aged gracefully. I’ve added two updates for some context.

Vero Wynne-Edwards proposed animal species—specifically the red grouse he studied—regulate their own numbers to avoid overexploitation of their food supply. The contention effectively launched modern evolutionary theory, if only in virulent opposition.

George Williams wrote a scathing critique of such theories of group selection. William Hamilton derived the concept of inclusive fitness, whereby relatives help each other to promote their shared genetics. John Maynard Smith, among others, developed an evolutionary game theory, in which altruism was instead a selfish act, part and parcel of a larger tournament of favors and punishments.

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Fork in the Road

Posted in Ecological resilience, Organic agriculture, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2011 by rgwallace

This is the final installment of the ‘big picture’ on global food crises I co-authored with Richard Kock and Robyn Alders. The first two installments can be found here and here.

We learned food insecurity and disease outbreaks can serve as a cover for a particular capital-securitized science tied into spreading the Livestock Revolution, with profound effects on diet and health worldwide.

Studies of bird flu outbreaks, for instance, at one and the same time repeatedly embody the premises of and serve as tautological arguments for the transition into highly capitalized farming. ‘Biosecurity’ effectively permits agribusiness, a likely source for pathogenic influenzas, to dispossess indigenous farmers, spreading hunger and disease and despoiling local agro-ecologies. The resulting environmental collapses are treated as due cause for subsequent dispossession.

That is, agricultural pathways are as much, if not more, about controlling the means of food production as they are about the food produced.

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