Archive for diseconomies of scale

(Profits + Pathogens) – People

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Revolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2018 by Rob Wallace

I tend to steer clear of biopolitics, what until recently have been Foucauldian investigations of the means by which human life processes are managed across regimes of knowledge and power. But the crux of sociologist Marc Aziz Michael’s more Marxian post is very much worth elaboration.

In contrast to evolutionary psychologists Steven Pinker and Matt Ridley, and the fascistic and lobster-spined self-help guru Jordan Peterson, Michael describes the extent to which capital accumulation is almost entirely a cultivated sensibility, one in conflict with humanity’s long understanding our fates are tied to the state of the ecosystem.

Capitalism is no basic instinct housed in an already dubious projection of our biologies. A system teetering on its metaphysics and modes of social reproduction alike must promote the Pinkers and Petersons, the far stupider Webers and Nietzsches of our day, to claim otherwise. Continue reading


H5N2 Much

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2015 by Rob Wallace

John Gaps III AP Rose Acre Farms, IowaA week from Thursday, June 11, I’ll be talking about the H5N2 bird flu outbreak here in the Midwest at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis. Find out the details here. All are welcome.

Midwest bird flu: A diseconomy of industrial poultry

Industrial turkey and chicken in Minnesota, and other states Midwest and South, have been hit by a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza A (H5N2). Millions of birds have been killed by the virus or culled in an effort to control the outbreak.

In its efforts to protect a $265.6-billion-a-year industry, the poultry sector has laid blame upon farm workers and wild waterfowl. In actuality, H5N2 demonstrates poultry production is defined by inherent diseconomies of scale it survives solely by externalizing the resulting damage to consumers, workers, governments and the environment. In a market economy, such costs, moved back onto company margins, would end the industry as we know it.

We will review the mechanisms by which poultry’s bioeconomics is thought sooner than later to select a deadly disease with the potential for killing millions of people worldwide. We will also address what an alternate food landscape might look like.

You can find a video of the half-hour talk here.

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.