Archive for neoliberalism

Springer Has Sprung

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution with tags , , , , , , on September 2, 2016 by Rob Wallace

Wallace_cover_FINAL_Front coverSpringer has just published our new book, Neoliberal Ebola: Modeling Disease Emergence From Finance to Forest and Farm.

It is arguably one of the more sophisticated treatments of globalization’s impact on disease to date, combining economic geographies with epidemiological modeling and the political economies of agriculture and science.

Learn more about the book’s scope, and access its preface and table of contents, at the book website.

With Zika and now yellow fever emerging out of a similar juxtaposition of laissez-faire agroeconomics and structurally adjusted public health, the arguments of the book are as apropos as they were way back in 2014.

The volume is academically priced, but we encourage those unable to afford it to

  1. ask their local library to purchase a copy
  2. consider purchasing a MyCopy print-on-demand for $25 through your local research institution.

Our team is proud of the volume. We hope it marks a turning point in the means by which the new diseases are conceptualized and–the point of it all–controlled.

Losing Zika for the Trees

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2016 by Rob Wallace

zika mosquito

Children are always ready to believe that adult catastrophes are their fault. –P.D. James (1992)

If you haven’t heard by now, and I’d be surprised as we are full swing in this year’s plague alarm, there is presently a Zika outbreak in Latin America that appears to have begun in Brazil, infecting a million people there alone. The World Health Organization estimates four million will ultimately be infected as the virus spreads across Latin America.

Zika is a RNA virus of the Flavivirus group that includes dengue, yellow fever, West Nile, and chikungunya.

Most adults infected don’t exhibit symptoms. Only one out of five infected actually get sick. Those who do suffer a flu-like syndrome, including fever, rash, joint pain, malaise, dizziness, anorexia, edema, intestinal trouble, and at times conjunctivitis. It’s a comparatively mild infection as far as such diseases go. Zika has been described as a beginner’s chikungunya.

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Did Deforestation Spring Zika?

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , on February 19, 2016 by Rob Wallace

This is the first of three clips in which I’m interviewed by the Real News Network about the outbreak of Zika virus across Latin America.

No matter what turns out to be the cause of the microcephaly thousands of Brazilian newborns are suffering–Zika, pesticides, something else, or some combo–a large literature shows the resurgence of the Flaviviruses–dengue, yellow fever, Chikungunya, and now Zika–is, like Ebola in West Africa, being driven largely by neoliberal deforestation.

By logging, mining, and monoculture agriculture, we appear to be stripping away the ecosystemic limits forests typically place upon many a pathogen.

I’ll have a more in-depth post on Zika in the days to follow.

Is Ebola Vaccine-Resistant?

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution with tags , , , , , , , on November 20, 2015 by Rob Wallace

Ebola vaccine 1The Freudian unconscious also has a formal aspect and is not merely a matter of content: recall the cases where Freud interprets a dream so that what is repressed/excluded from its content returns as a feature of the form of the dream…the true secret of the dream is not its content…but the form itself. –Slavoj Žižek (2014)

News of Ebola in West Africa is ping ponging between joyous declarations the outbreak is over to abashed announcements of its return.

One is reminded of the Onion‘s farcical September 1939 front page: “WA-“. Both a denouement denied and, in the other direction, the return of the repressed.

Our group’s latest commentary, just published online in the International Journal of Health Services, a review and extension of previous work, proposes an explanation for the never-quite-ending outbreak,

[R]egional neoliberalism may affix the stochastic ‘friction’ of ecological relationships imposed by the forest across populations, which, when above a threshold, keeps the virus from lining up transmission above replacement. Export-led logging, mining, and intensive agriculture may depress such functional noise, permitting novel spillovers [across species] larger forces of infection. Mature outbreaks, meanwhile, can continue to circulate even in the face of efficient vaccines.

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Talking Ebola

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 11, 2014 by Rob Wallace

Wallace Ebola Agrifood Collaborative poster_5UPDATE. A video of the talk is now available here. A little rough in voice and ideas, some of which hours later I revised. Such is the nature of the beast of an outbreak. But some good info I hope and some lively discussion afterwards.


For those of you in the Twin Cities area, Monday I’ll be giving a talk on Ebola at the University of Minnesota.

Neoliberal Ebola: the Agroeconomics of a Deadly Spillover

Monday, October 13, Noon

Carlson School of Management, rm 1-149
321 19th Ave South, Minneapolis
University of Minnesota

The first human outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa, and by far the largest and most extensive recorded to date anywhere, began in forest villages across four districts in southeastern Guinea as early as December 2013. Understandably much attention has been placed upon the lethargy of the world’s response to the outbreak as well as the role a broadly painted ‘poverty’ has played in the pathogen’s spread and case fatality rate. Some work has focused on the local deforestation, dedevelopment, population mobility, periurbanization, and inadequate health system that apparently smoothed Ebola’s ecophylogentic transition.

But we can situate these diverse possibilities within a broader framework that unifies Ebola’s origins and its failure of containment. The neoliberal policies that truncated regional medical infrastructure also redirected forest development. The latter may have reset multispecies agroecologies, including perhaps between frugivore bats, a documented Ebola reservoir, and partially proletarianized pickers of increasingly commoditized oil palm.

Dawn of a New Science

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Revolution with tags , , , , , , on October 6, 2014 by Rob Wallace
Globalized croplands

Globalization of croplands, 2004. Percentage of landscape area occupied by croplands whose products are incorporated as part of commodity chains (agricultural or otherwise) whose first consumers are located internationally. Calculations by Bergmann and Holmberg (c.f. Bergmann 2013a, Bergmann 2013b).

Bestselling David Quammen, who I skewered on Ebola, has a new book out on the virus. It’s an extract from his tome on spillovers I reviewed here.

While Quammen pays lip service to generalized poverty as one means by which the West African strain emerged, he diligently propagates the fallacy of the culture of infection.

In this ooga-booga interview he’s practically giddy with the notion proximate indigenous practices–sorcery and bushmeat–are to blame for Ebola, offering nary a word on the neoliberal policies driving deforestation and land grabbing.

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Neoliberal Ebola?

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, HIV, Influenza, Revolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2014 by Rob Wallace

Ebola2With an update about David Quammen’s response at the bottom.

In spite of writing a long book on diseases spilling over from animals to humans, well-regarded author David Quammen can’t seem to get his mind wrapped around the possibility Ebola has likely evolved a new ecotype, for the first time spreading into a major urban area.

The first outbreak of Flaviviridae Filoviridae Ebola in West Africa apparently began in forest villages across four districts in southeastern Guinea as early as December 2013 before spreading to Conakry and the outskirts of Monrovia, the capitals of Guinea and Liberia respectively.

The number of deaths across West Africa presently stands at 149 killed out of 242 infected. According to the WHO, with a three-week incubation period cases are likely to continue to accumulate for months.

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Beware the Blob

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, HIV, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2012 by Rob Wallace

Gay Aids Protest Shame on ObamaFor World AIDS Day 2012 I post an edited excerpt of a speech I gave a decade ago to the Second Scholarly Conference on Women and Work: Health and Wellness held at the Center for Worker Education in New York City. I ask whether HIV can search for the most vulnerable populations.

Identifying trends in health and disease doesn’t mean we know how these patterns came about.

Why, for instance, is HIV/AIDS so prevalent in Africa? It’s where the virus first emerged, of course. Cases have had more time there to accumulate. But at 22 million HIV cases, initial conditions are hardly explanation enough. An array of interacting socioeconomic circumstances and cultural happenstance locks millions of people to precarious fates (and, in this case, greater risk of infection). Many of Africa’s countries are the poorest in the world and the workaday people live in are channeled in such a way that the term ‘choice’, at the heart of much public health commentary, loses its connotation of free will.

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We Need a Structural One Health

Posted in Ecological resilience, Influenza, Revolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2012 by Rob Wallace

No one ever says to you, “Lie to me.” The enemy says, You will do and believe certain things. It is your decision to falsify, in the face of his coercion. I am not sure this is what the enemy wants, or anyway the usual enemy. Only a Greater Enemy, so to speak, would want that, one with greater objectives, and a clearer idea of what the ultimate purpose of all motion is. –Philip K. Dick (1974)

Perhaps unbeknownst even to themselves, many an epidemiologist, veterinarian and wildlife biologist confounds episodic and structural crises.

The good doctors gun from outbreak to outbreak, isolating samples, sequencing genetic markers, administering prophylaxes, and, for epizooses, culling the sickest and burying the dead. To be sure, that kind of firefighting is critical. We can’t have deadly pathogens running amok now, can we?

But the oft-difficult mechanics of an intervention do not lend credence they address the cause of the outbreak. Disease isn’t synonymous with its etiological agent or the map of its victims, whether or not either is placed within a One Health context that acknowledges the functional ecologies humans, livestock and wildlife share.

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Inception Deception

Posted in Ecological resilience, Organic agriculture, Revolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 26, 2011 by Rob Wallace

In Inception Leonardo DiCaprio plays Christopher Nolan’s postmodern spy-for-hire, extracting real-world corporate secrets out of the phantasmagoria of fitfully sleeping executives, until one day he is himself maneuvered into a trap of his own making: he must implant an idea into one executive’s head for the benefit of another.

But off-camera the real DiCaprio, the actor, the man, the quintessential Hollywood liberal, driven from one sound stage to another even between films, appears caught in a dream within a dream. An active environmentalist and creative force behind a documentary on climate change, DiCaprio serves as a board member for World Wildlife Fund, whose aim ostensibly is to save the biosphere. In reality the conservation NGO is spearheading convoluted efforts to destroy it.

WWF has organized a heinous line-up of agribusiness under the presumption those who own the world’s food value chains are the only ones who can ecologically modernize them.

It turns out merely an effort to greenwash the pith helmet: Environmental crises and threats to biodiversity, of agribusiness’ own making, are laundered inside a declensionist colonial narrative. Agribusiness must take over African farmland or Indonesian rain forest to save it, the argument goes. It’s an environmentalism which serves only as due cause for expanding dispossession, pushing subsistence farmers and the indigenous off their lands. Only another iteration of the neoliberal program, which brought about the environmental crises in the first place.

If only DiCaprio would turn into an old man, filled with regret.  Some  sudden sentience somehow. Two years after Nolan’s set wrapped, DiCaprio’s totem spins on. Like many a bourgeois environmentalist he’s still stuck in capital’s inception.