Archive for Richard Levins

The Paraphyletic Commune

Posted in Evolution, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2016 by rgwallace

564px-Barricade_Paris_1871_by_Pierre-Ambrose_RichebourgToday marks the 145th anniversary of the founding of the Paris Commune, the revolutionary socialist government that ruled France’s capital for seventy-two days in 1871.

Upon the collapse of the Second Empire in the face of a Prussian invasion, the Parisian proletariat, backed by radicalized National Guard from working class neighborhoods, rejected the bourgeois Third Republic that rose in its stead, electing a Commune council of Blanquists, Proudhinists, and other radicals in its place.

The Commune’s bottom-up legitimization represents a refutation of the kind of double bind liberals demand of their constituencies to this day: if you don’t want the troglodytic Donald Trump, you must support Hillary Clinton–the Kissinger of Honduras–and the neoliberal kleptocracy she represents, impoverishing millions at home and murdering millions more abroad.

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Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , on December 16, 2013 by rgwallace

BSL-4 WorldA new report shows an increasing global population exposed to the risk of accidents from biosafety laboratories studying some of the world’s most dangerous diseases.

Princeton University post-doc Thomas Van Boeckel and colleagues show the population living within the commuting field of BSL-4 labs increased by a factor of four from 1990 to 2012. The fields encapsulate nearly 2% of the world’s population, but by virtue of infectivity any one escape pathogen may turn epidemic.

The team mapped friction surfaces of the commuting time over which a potentially infected lab worker would carry an infection home. The resulting isochronal belts were used to determine the population within the direct vicinity of each lab.

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The Red Swan

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2013 by rgwallace

Cover RG Wallace 'Red Swan' Full Version PDFThe following is an excerpt from our first e-single, available here as a PDF. Consider the single, on the political economy of Nassim Taleb of ‘Black Swan’ fame, a freebie. We do ask that those who can afford it consider donating to Farming Pathogens. Your help is greatly appreciated. The full version adds explorations of Taleb’s animosity towards science, his anti-theoretical theory of history, his assumptions about human nature, and, for good and for ill, applications of Black Swan thinking to disease modeling.

Perhaps by chance alone Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s best-selling The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, followed now by the just released Antifragile, captures the zeitgeist of 9/11 and the foreclosure collapse: If something of a paradox, bad things unexpectedly happen routinely.

For better and for worse, Black Swan caustically critiques academic economics, which serve, more I must admit in my view than Taleb’s, as capitalist rationalization rather than as a science of discovery.

Taleb crushes mainstream quantitative finance, but fails as spectacularly on a number of accounts. To the powerful’s advantage, at one and the same time he mathematicizes Francis Fukuyama’s end of history and claims epistemological impossibilities where others, who have been systemically marginalized, predicted precisely to radio silence.

Power, after all, is the capacity to avoid addressing a counternarrative. Continue reading

That’s the Thicke

Posted in Ecological resilience, Organic agriculture, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , on December 16, 2010 by rgwallace

The logistics of a just, equitable and healthy agricultural landscape here in the United States would remain a problem if Michael Pollan himself, Wendell Berry, or better yet Fred Magdoff were appointed Secretary of Agriculture.

Decades-long efforts pealing back agribusiness both as paradigm and infrastructure, however successful, would require a parallel program. With what would we replace the present landscape?

As a black hole about its horizon, a poverty in imagination orbits the question stateside. The vacuum is most recently felt in the developing animus between public health officials and artisan cheesemakers. What Europe has long streamlined into amicable regulation, the U.S. has lurched into clumsy opposition: cheese wheels are increasingly treated as suitcase bombs filled with Listeria.

After 60 years of industrial production Americans have literally forgotten the logistics of real food.

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We Can Think Ourselves into a Plague

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Farming Human Pathogens book, HIV, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2010 by rgwallace

The power of the mind is a New Age staple. But really, can I concentrate enough to levitate myself (much less get my laundry done today)?

The materialist answers, funny you mention it, but, yes, you can. A few minds thought through the ideas that produced the airplane and perhaps soon enough the personal jet pack with smart phone dock and coffee maker.

The dialectical materialist would modify science’s self-congratulations with the observation it’s taken many generations’ labor to produce the surplus permitting a few their deep thinking. Ingenuity is itself a social object.

And yet, despite, or perhaps because of, that backing, we can think ourselves into era-specific traps. Among these include animal and plant diseases that rope-a-dope us into a frustration we feel obliged by our lords and masters to fail to understand.

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