Archive for pandemic influenza

Whipsaw of Damocles

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

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.

The Great Recession Flu

Posted in Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , on January 2, 2011 by rgwallace

Swine flu is so 2009. Like La Roux and v-neck t-shirts.

And yet here we are nearly two years later and the United Kingdom is suffering a swine flu attack worse than anything it previously faced. The number of flu patients in intensive care has risen by 60% in the past week to 738, four times greater than at the pandemic’s peak in 2009. Some hospitals are on ‘black alert,’ canceling non-urgent operations and running short on intensive care beds.

Children are taking the worse of the blows. The incidence for the under-four age group is approaching 200 per 100,000, the epidemic threshold, even before the post-holiday return to school, where flus best incubate.

Since its emergence the novel H1N1 strain which swept the planet mid-2009 has quietly remained the world’s dominant influenza strain, sharing the stage with seasonal H3N2 and influenza B. As we’ve discussed several times here, the sustained global presence would likely permit the virus the opportunity to evolve independently across multiple populations under different social and public health regimens.

Continue reading

Imperial Storm Scientists

Posted in Ecological resilience, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 21, 2010 by rgwallace

The Red Army Faction was a communist guerilla group operating 1970-1998 in, of all places, West Germany. The RAF engaged in a variety of operations in the 1970s, including assassinations and bombings, primarily around the German government’s material support of the U.S. war in Vietnam.

As depicted in the Baader-Meinhof Complex and this BBC documentary, the RAF and the West German government entered a spiral of mutual self-deception. Each told itself the lies necessary to defeat the other. However inaccurately depicted in the films, truths, spoken and lived, were sacrificed for the victory neither side could achieve:

The scope of the RAF’s bombing campaign outpaced its initial public support and sharpened the fascistic reaction the group claimed its enemy. Supporters think the latter repression emblematic of RAF’s success but they’d be hard pressed to claim even a moral victory as the German people acclimated to, and even openly supported, a burgeoning police state. Post-Nazi Germany meanwhile suffered a funktionshäftling‘s shame killing dissidents, however violent, in the name of colonial liquidations ruthlessly conducted abroad.

If only American fallacies were so rottenly principled.

Continue reading