Archive for Ecological resilience

Ten Theses on Farming and Disease

Posted in Evolution, Influenza, Revolution, Sustainable farming, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2017 by rgwallace

costarica043Every once in a while, we have to take a stab at putting all the pieces together. In some ways these ten theses on farming and disease only touch on what I, and others, have been saying all along. But there’s a growing understanding of the functional relationships health, food justice, and the environment share. They’re not just ticks on a checklist of good things capitalism shits on. Falsifying Hume’s guillotine, embodying a niche construction at the core of our human identity, justice and the ecosystem appear to define each other at a deep level of cause and effect.

1. Contract farmers around the world are suffering cost-price squeezes. Producers are at one and the same time suffering increasing input costs and low or falling prices for their goods at the farm gate. The farmers are forced to chase an economic Red Queen. Individual farmers must increase production if only in an effort to cover for low prices that increases in production across farms helped depress to begin with.

2. The squeeze is a scam agribusiness is running on farmers. In enforcing high farm output, companies are seeking gluts that cheapen ingredients for their processed product lines. High output, producing food beyond global consumer demand, is also about making money off farmers contractually obligated to buy synthetic inputs they don’t need to grow us enough food.

3. The gap between cost and price, also a form of labor discipline, forces many farmers out, leading to plot consolidation as those smallholders and mid-level operations still left buy up abandoned land, banking on economies of scale, debt-financed mechanization, and appreciation in land equity to pull them through the artificial price squeeze.

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Occupy Mathematics

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2011 by rgwallace

I gave the following talk at the New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City October 17 as part of a Festschrift for my father, and collaborator, Rodrick Wallace. A Festschrift is a symposium held–and a book published–in honor of a scholar, often on his or her 70th birthday. As opposed to a Gedenkschrft, held in memoriam (though there are some scholars who deserve the latter long before they’ve left for the great e-journal server in the sky).

I’ll start off with an old joke about Rod, in the de rigueur Boston accent. The joke runs like this: Equation 1. Equation 2. Equation 3. “We can see here an apartheid state entrains both oppressor and oppressed into a synergy of plagues.”

Equation 4. Equation 5. Equation 6. “It follows then that public health can be saved from a catastrophic vortex if and only if we smash the apartheid state.”

All kidding aside, we would make a mistake assuming Rod’s conclusions arise from his formalisms alone or—winky wink—vice versa. Instead, we should say they arise “and vice versa” and honestly so. Or better yet, inextricably so.

That’d be shocking if only because it would imply cultural and political precepts underlie mathematical mechanics. That the field’s formalisms are as much historical objects as many of the phenomena they address, as a number of commentators, including Wittgenstein and the ethnomathematicians, have ventured.

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New Book Models the Emergence of Human Pathogens

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Farming Human Pathogens book with tags , , , , , , , on February 16, 2009 by farmingpathogens

Farming Human Pathogens: Ecological Resilience and Evolutionary Process introduces a cutting-edge formalism based on the asymptotic limit theorems of information theory to describe how punctuated shifts in mesoscale ecosystems can entrain patterns of gene expression and organismal evolution. The development is applied to several infectious diseases that have evolved in response to the world as humans have made it. Many pathogens emerging from underneath epidemiological control are ‘farmed’ in the metaphorical sense, as the evolution of drug resistant HIV makes clear, but some, like avian influenza, emerge quite literally as the result of new practices in industrial farming. Effective disease control in the 21st Century must necessarily involve broad economic and social reform for reasons embedded in the basics of pathogen evolution.

The book is aimed at graduate students and researchers working in computational biology and mathematical modeling of biological processes, public health professionals and academic scientists working in public health and medical geography, and mathematically trained evolutionary biologists and ecologists, particularly those concerned with human pathogens.

Farming Human Pathogens will be released by Springer in March 2009.