Archive for pathogens

Ten Theses on Farming and Disease

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

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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The Parallax Pig

Posted in Organic agriculture, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2011 by farmingpathogens

Slavoj Žižek on the historical linguistics of  food production and consumption:

“‘Pig” refers to animals whom farmers deal, while “pork” is the meat we consume–and the class dimension is clear here: “pig” is the old Saxon word, since Saxons were the underprivileged farmers, while “pork” comes from French “porque,” used by the privileged Norman conquerors who mostly consumed the pigs raised by farmers.

Such a parallax–dual or dueling perspectives–can be found along other dimensions.  The kinds of social histories symbols and what they represent share can also be found in the mathematical modeling used to characterize these little piggies, their roast beef, and their wee pathogens all the way home.

The epidemiological formalisms deployed grew out of historical trajectories of their own, with all manner of interests–personal and political–shaping their inputs and  outcomes. We’re not talking here about acts of blatant corruption–how gauche!–but the way social presuppositions are built into modeling as ethically practiced.

Setting aside the obvious complications we are likely to encounter, in the interests of bringing the issue to a head, if you’ll excuse the hog pun, let me ask, Is there such a thing as a Norman modeling and its Saxon counterpart? Can we find Robin Hood in Sherwood Formalism?

Make It Your Book!

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza, Organic agriculture, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , on July 26, 2011 by farmingpathogens

Twenty-nine thousand hits in a little over two years. Not bad for a microblog. But it hasn’t been about the numbers (let’s hope not!). We here at ‘Farming Pathogens’ have much appreciated your thoughtful comments and questions, as well as your encouragement.

Today we are asking for a touch more.

We’ve just launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for completing a book based on the blog–largely on influenza and agribusiness. We are asking for contributions through our RocketHub site (which works a lot like Kickstarter).  We are also asking that you share the site’s link through your social media: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and–old school–your friends around the lunch table.

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The Declensionist Diet

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 9, 2011 by Rob Wallace

We continue with the ‘big picture’ of food crises I co-authored with Richard Kock and Robyn Alders. This is the second of three excerpts. The first can be found here.

We argued the causes of our ongoing and oncoming food crises are manifold, rooted in present-day policies as well as humanity’s history, as far back as even our species’ origins.

The past offers us some unlikely lessons. Agriculture, for one, wasn’t so much a bright idea as a damning necessity for populations forced upon overhunting to scavenge for food. Subsequent shifts in food regimes, including those under way today, were likewise defined by such path-dependent contingency.

At the same time, history appears to have produced an illusion of inevitable existence. Humanity was able to repeatedly overcome food and other resource limitations, even as archaeological strata are also littered with dead civilizations. These near-misses, however, can offer no sample sufficiently representative for guaranteeing humanity a future.

Indeed, we now face a complex of problems of another nature entirely.

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The Expulsion

Posted in Evolution with tags , , , , , on January 21, 2010 by Rob Wallace

In 1845 a diplomat delivered a letter from Friedrich Wilhelm to Louis Philippe of France protesting the insults leveled at the Prussian king by expatriates living in Paris. King Louis had the radicals’ newspaper closed down and the group, along with one Karl Marx, deported.

This was not the first time Marx’s pen had piqued a monarch. A protest from the Tsar of Russia had Marx previously expelled from Germany. And he would be banished twice more before landing in England for the rest of his life.

There is a tapestry of ironies in this. In pushing the man from country to country, Europe’s monarchs exposed Marx to a series of epistemological niches that informed his later works, including Capital: German philosophy, French political thought, British economic theory and, of course, Belgian beer and chocolate. Marx’s mash-up would eventually frame and inspire revolutions and rebellions around the world, several culminating with European authorities expelled in a hurry from newly liberated territories.

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