Our economy is transforming planet Earth into planet Farm. Forty percent of the planet’s surface is dedicated to agriculture. Livestock, representing over 70% of vertebrate biomass, use a third of our available freshwater and a third of our cropland for feed. Industrial animal production is a major source of greenhouse gases.
Agribusiness’s impact extends to the deadliest of diseases. If by its global expansion alone, commodity agriculture increasingly acts as a gateway through which a wide array of deadly pathogens are migrating from the deepest forests and most backwater of farms to the most cosmopolitan of cities.
As a matter of standard industrial practice, such diseconomies of scale are externalized off agribusiness margins to governments, the indigenous, workers, consumers, taxpayers, livestock, and wildlife. Green capitalist approaches meanwhile exacerbate environmental degradation.
Alternate modes of production are not only possible, but already underway, reconnecting our agricultural economies to local ecologies, a wealth available only when shared in common. A state-supported probiotic agroecology can at one and the same time produce good food, compensate farmers fairly, preserve ecosystem services, and protect us from virulent pathogens.
Rob Wallace will discuss and sign copies of his new book, Big Farms Make Big Flu, a collection of essays on infectious disease, agribusiness, and the nature of science published by Monthly Review Press.
Rob is an evolutionary biologist presently visiting the University of Minnesota's Institute for Global Studies. Among other topics, his research has addressed the evolution and spread of influenza as it relates to the economics of agriculture, Ebola in West Africa and the Philippines, the social geography of HIV/AIDS in New York City, the emergence of Kaposi’s sarcoma herpesvirus out of Ugandan prehistory, and the evolution of infection life history in response to antivirals.He is co-author of Farming Human Pathogens: Ecological Resilience and Evolutionary Process (Springer) and Neoliberal Ebola: Modeling Disease Emergence from Finance to Forest and Farm (Springer), and author of Big Farms Make Big Flu: Dispatches on Infectious Disease, Agribusiness, and the Nature of Science (Monthly Review Press). He has consulted for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“If you’ve missed the wit and brilliance of Stephen Jay Gould, here’s a consolation: holistic, radical science from the frontlines of the battle against emergent diseases. Using the wide-angle lens of political ecology, Rob Wallace demonstrates the central roles of the factory-farming and fast-food industries in the evolution of avian flu and other pandemics that threaten the entire planet. Bravo to MR Press for publishing this landmark collection of essays.”
—Mike Davis, author, Monster at Our Door and Planet of Slums
“These essays put you in the company of a delightful mind. Wallace is filled with curiosity, deep learning, and robust skepticism. In his company, you’ll learn about phylogeography, clades and imperial epizoology. He can also weave a mean story, with the kinds of big picture analysis that puts him alongside minds like Mike Davis’s. Who else can link the end of British colonial rule in China or the devaluation of the Thai Baht to the spread of bird flu? This collection is a bracing innoculant against the misinformation that will be spewed in the next epidemic by the private sector, government agencies and philanthropists. My copy is highlighted on almost every page. Yours will be too.”
—Raj Patel, author, Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System