Archive for hog

Lipstick on a Pig

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Organic agriculture with tags , , , , , , , , on June 12, 2014 by Rob Wallace

I have discovered that I cannot burn the candle at one end and write…with the other. –Katherine Mansfield (1919)

By casuistry as uproarious as it is dismal, a Minnesota hog farmer claims ‘factory farms’ no such thing.

Why yes, our barns, equipped with automatic feeders and temperature and air controls, look like factories. Why yes, hog genetics reducing diversity and fat content limit the animals’ toleration for weather and, left unsaid, disease.

But on the heels of bad publicity around vile abuse at a Pipestone farm damning piglets as so many uncooperative widgets–see the video above–Wanda Patsche tells us don’t call them factories. They’re owned by “my neighbors, my friends, fellow church members…,” who, in actuality, are caught in Big Ag contracts that, as we described here last month, hold the farmers to all the value chain’s liabilities and allows them none of its control.

Y’know, like factory workers. Continue reading


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.