Archive for declensionist rationale

Whipsaw of Damocles

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza, Organic agriculture, Revolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2014 by Rob Wallace

Last week I gave a talk on climate change and pandemic influenza at the University of Washington. My presentation was a part of the Biological Futures in a Globalized World series held at the Simpson Center for the Humanities.

I was initially dubious about a connection between the crises until, as these things go, I investigated further. There appear a number of mechanistic relationships tying together the two catastrophes.

There may be a number of ways out of the jams as well, as millions of farmers around the world are advancing alternate futures right out from underneath agribusiness.

UPDATE. We should add another possible connection between climate change and influenza not in the presentation.

According to Shaman and Lipsitch (2012), the last four pandemics (1918, 1957, 1968 and 2009) were preceded by La Niña conditions that, changing patterns of waterfowl migration, may have rejuxtaposed serotypes and prompted new reassortants. As Mother Jones‘ Kiera Butler points out, reporting on this year’s H1N1 (2009) influenza, climate change affects the El Niño–Southern Oscillation.

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Von New Man

Posted in Ecological resilience, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , on November 6, 2013 by Rob Wallace

1368191281_gravity-oo6We feel compelled to open the Pandora’s boxes we search for:

The protagonist of Alastair Reynolds’s first space opera discovers an ancient alien artifact. Despite all warnings, his curiosity and ingenuity–and by extension humanity’s–drives galactic archeologist Dan Sylveste to ‘solve’ it.

The artifact proves a von Neumann machine, suddenly weaponized to destroy the civilization a threat enough to open it.

The irony that the aliens are by this time long extinct provoked the thought that should we fail to check the most myopic of our own practices–in my view, capitalism’s first and second contradictions, the Jevons trap, Lauderdale’s paradox, and a self-fulfilling declensionist rationalization–humanity may act as its own von Neumann.