Archive for David Harvey

Broiler Explosion

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2013 by rgwallace

Broiler explosion8As early as the 1820s, high-pressure engines [on the Mississippi River] were technologically residual; they were dirtier and more dangerous than the low-pressure engines that were employed on steamboats elsewhere. They could, however, generate more power than low-pressure engines; they made it possible to run boats faster and harder–over sandbars, against the current, past the competition, and so on. They were also cheaper…That high-pressure engines were more likely to explode and faster boats more likely to sink when snagged were known risks, deliberately taken. Competition in the steamboat business spurred technological degradation rather than technological innovation. Danger was built into the boats. –Walter Johnson (2013)

A new influenza has spilled over from poultry in and around Shanghai. As of April 15, Chinese authorities have reported 60 human cases of H7N9 and 13 deaths. The most serious cases have suffered fulminant pneumonia, respiratory failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome, septic shock, multiorgan failure, rhabdomyolysis, and encephalopathy.

Virologist Richard Webby reports molecular adaptations suggesting the new variant is evolving toward human specificity. “This thing doesn’t any longer look like a poultry virus,” Webby said, “It really looks to me like it’s adapted in a mammalian host somewhere.”

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The Red Swan

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2013 by rgwallace

Cover RG Wallace 'Red Swan' Full Version PDFThe following is an excerpt from our first e-single, available here as a PDF. Consider the single, on the political economy of Nassim Taleb of ‘Black Swan’ fame, a freebie. We do ask that those who can afford it consider donating to Farming Pathogens. Your help is greatly appreciated. The full version adds explorations of Taleb’s animosity towards science, his anti-theoretical theory of history, his assumptions about human nature, and, for good and for ill, applications of Black Swan thinking to disease modeling.

Perhaps by chance alone Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s best-selling The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, followed now by the just released Antifragile, captures the zeitgeist of 9/11 and the foreclosure collapse: If something of a paradox, bad things unexpectedly happen routinely.

For better and for worse, Black Swan caustically critiques academic economics, which serve, more I must admit in my view than Taleb’s, as capitalist rationalization rather than as a science of discovery.

Taleb crushes mainstream quantitative finance, but fails as spectacularly on a number of accounts. To the powerful’s advantage, at one and the same time he mathematicizes Francis Fukuyama’s end of history and claims epistemological impossibilities where others, who have been systemically marginalized, predicted precisely to radio silence.

Power, after all, is the capacity to avoid addressing a counternarrative. Continue reading

That’s the Thicke

Posted in Ecological resilience, Organic agriculture, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , on December 16, 2010 by rgwallace

The logistics of a just, equitable and healthy agricultural landscape here in the United States would remain a problem if Michael Pollan himself, Wendell Berry, or better yet Fred Magdoff were appointed Secretary of Agriculture.

Decades-long efforts pealing back agribusiness both as paradigm and infrastructure, however successful, would require a parallel program. With what would we replace the present landscape?

As a black hole about its horizon, a poverty in imagination orbits the question stateside. The vacuum is most recently felt in the developing animus between public health officials and artisan cheesemakers. What Europe has long streamlined into amicable regulation, the U.S. has lurched into clumsy opposition: cheese wheels are increasingly treated as suitcase bombs filled with Listeria.

After 60 years of industrial production Americans have literally forgotten the logistics of real food.

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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.

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