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Rob Wallace, Agribusiness would risk millions of deaths, 2020

23 mars 2020 Laisser un commentaire

The coronavirus is keeping the world in a state of shock. But instead of fighting the structural causes of the pandemic, the government is focusing on emergency measures. A talk with Rob Wallace (Evolutionary Biologist) about the dangers of Covid-19, the responsibility of agribusiness and sustainable solutions to combat infectious diseases

How dangerous is the new coronavirus?

Rob Wallace: It depends on where you are in the timing of your local outbreak of Covid-19: early, peak level, late? How good is your region’s public health response? What are your demographics? How old are you? Are you immunologically compromised? What is your underlying health? To ask an undiagnosable possibility, do your immuogenetics, the genetics underlying your immune response, line up with the virus or not?

So all this fuss about the virus is just scare tactics?

No, certainly not. At the population level, Covid-19 was clocking in at between 2 and 4% case fatality ratio or CFR at the start of the outbreak in Wuhan. Outside Wuhan, the CFR appears to drop off to more like 1% and even less, but also appears to spike in spots here and there, including in places in Italy and the United States.. Its range doesn’t seem much in comparison to, say, SARS at 10%, the influenza of1918 5-20%, »avian influenza« H5N1 60%, or at some points Ebola 90%. But it certainly exceeds seasonal influenza’s 0.1% CFR. The danger isn’t just a matter of the death rate, however. We have to grapple with what’s called penetrance or community attack rate: how much of the global population is penetrated by the outbreak. Lire la suite…

Maria Mies, Woman, Nature and the International Division of Labour, 1987

interview by Ariel Salleh

The eco-feminism of Maria Mies stands at the crossroads of the feminist, ecological and colonial liberation movements. Mies attempts to bring Marxian theory face to face with the newly emerging political crises of the late twentieth century. This has involved a heuristic reading of Marx’s text in the light of modern anthropology and what she calls “object-relations”. But Mies is as much an activist as an academic sociologist. Her concerns range from prescriptive essays on methodology in social science, to empirical studies of exploitation among Indian women lace-makers, campaigns against pornography and the reproductive technology industry in West Germany. Ariel Salleh spoke with her in 1987 and formalized this interview by correspondence. Lire la suite…

Miguel Amorós, Midnight in the Century, 2012

1 février 2020 Laisser un commentaire

notes against progress

An examination of the history and significance of the concept of “progress”, its origins as an expression of the Enlightenment’s battle against religious bigotry and ignorance, its transformation into a “new [scientific] superstition” characterized by indifference to nature and the worship of technological change, and its current status as “a threat to the survival of the human species”.

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“Memory needs to reestablish the thread of time to recover the central point of view from which the road forward may be discovered. From that point begins the reconquest of the capacity for critical judgment that will be based on verifiable facts, that will be able to respond to the degradation of life, and that will precipitate the split in society, the preliminary moment for a revolution, proposing the historical question par excellence, that is, the question of progress.”

“History of Ten Years”, Encyclopédie des Nuisances, No. 2

Made famous by the Enlightenment, in its origins the idea of Progress was almost subversive. The Church imposed the dogmas of creation and permanence that established the immutability of living beings, created by the divinity just as they were, which is why there are very few lines in the Encyclopedia under the caption of “Progress”, which is simply defined as “forward movement”. On the other hand, Diderot and the other Encyclopedists did not consider civilized society to be superior to the society of the savages—quite the contrary—which is why their position with regard to progress was sceptical or reserved, to say the least. For one reason or another, the idea was imposed in Europe during the Industrial Revolution. As Mumford said, “progress was the equivalent in history of mechanical motion through space”. It was the interpretation of the fact of change as something that only went in one direction, in which going backwards, or decline or regression, were explicitly excluded. Enlightenment thought interpreted industrial production as the herald of a world free of religious prejudices and ruled by Reason, where happiness would be within the reach of everyone. Lire la suite…

The physical economy of France (1830-2015)

25 janvier 2020 Laisser un commentaire

The history of a parasite ?

Abstract

This article explores long-term trends and patterns of material use in France for a 185-year period. It is the first long-term study of material flows for France with national and yearly data for most of the period. Based on a material flow analysis (MFA) that is fully consistent with current standards of economy-wide MFAs and covers domestic extraction, imports, and exports of materials, we investigated the evolution of the French metabolism from industrialization to financialized capitalism. Over the whole period, there is a 9-fold increase in domestic material consumption, an expansion of material use per capita, and a spectacular addition of abiotic resources (fossil fuels and minerals) to biotic materials. Using a world-ecology framework, we exhibit a specific metabolic path: that of a state benefiting from successive world-systems for its economic development through massive material imports.

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Nelo Magalhães, Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, François Jarrige, Gaëtan Levillain, Margot Lyautey, Thomas Le Roux, Guillaume Noblet, Christophe Bonneuil.

Ecological economics, november 2018.

Jean-Pierre Berlan, From a Mercenary to an Emancipated Agronomy, 2011

30 octobre 2019 Laisser un commentaire

Abstract

Since the Industrial Revolution, plant breeders have strived to replace farm varieties with “copies” of selected plants that can be fittingly called “clones.” “Pure lines” of wheat, barley, and other autogamous species are homozygous clones, twentieth-century maize “hybrids” (and other allogamous species) are heterozygous clones, while GMOs are patented pesticide clones. This devotion to cloning is founded: a) on logic since there is always a gain to be made from replacing any particular variety with all its diversity with copies of the “best” selected plant extracted from the variety; b) on the industrial principles of uniformity, standardization, and normalization; and c) on the drive for property rights. Pure lines, being homogenous and stable, are legally protected by a “breeder’s certificate.” “Hybrids” carry a built in biological breeder’s protection device since farmers have to buy back their seeds every year and GMOs are legally protected by patents. Since cloning rests on an irrefutable logical principle, it requires no justification. The endless debates about heterosis which, according to geneticists, makes it necessary to “hybridize” maize are, then, a smokescreen to conceal the first success of the historical drive to make reproduction a privilege.

Lire la suite…

John von Neumann, Can We Survive Technology?, 1955

23 octobre 2019 Laisser un commentaire

For the kind of explosiveness that man will be able to contrive by 1980, the globe is dangerously small, its political units dangerously unstable.

 

« The great globe itself » is in a rapidly maturing crisis — a crisis attributable to the fact that the environment in which technological progress must occur has become both undersized and underorganized. To define the crisis with any accuracy, and to explore possibilities of dealing with it, we must not only look at relevant facts, but also engage in some speculation. The process will illuminate some potential technological developments of the next quarter-century.

In the first half of this century the accelerating industrial revolution encountered an absolute limitation — not on technological progress as such but on an essential safety factor. This safety factor, which had permitted the industrial revolution to roll on from the mid-eighteenth to the early twentieth century, was essentially a matter of geographical and political Lebensraum: an ever broader geographical scope for technological activities, combined with an ever broader political integration of the world. Within this expanding framework it was possible to accommodate the major tensions created by technological progress. Lire la suite…

Murray Bookchin, Market Economy or Moral Economy?, 1983

21 septembre 2019 Laisser un commentaire

Sooner or later, every movement for basic social change must come to grips with the way people produce the material means of life — their food, shelter, and clothing — and the way these means of life are distributed. To be discreetly reticent about the material sphere of human existence, to loftily dismiss this sphere as « materialistic, » is to be grossly insensitive to the preconditions for life itself. Everything we eat to sustain our animal metabolism, every dwelling or garment we use to shelter us from the inclemencies of nature, are normally provided by individuals like ourselves who must work to provision us, as we, one hopes, are obliged to provision them.

Although economists have blanketed this vast activity with amoral, often pretentiously « scientific » categories, preindustrial humanity always saw production and distribution in profoundly moral terms. The cry for « economic justice » is as old as the existence of economic exploitation. Only in recent times has this cry lost its high standing in our notion of ethics, or, more precisely, been subordinated to a trivial place by a supraeconomic emphasis on « spirituality » as distinguished from « materiality. »

Accordingly, it is easy to forgive the great German thinker Theodor Adorno for acidly observing a generation ago: « There is tenderness only in the coarsest demand: that no one shall go hungry anymore » (Minima Moralia). Lire la suite…

Maria Mies, The Need for a New Vision: the Subsistence Perspective, 1993

18 août 2019 Laisser un commentaire

The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (UNCED, June 1992) again made clear that solutions to the present worldwide ecological, economic and social problems cannot be expected from the ruling elites of the North or the South. As Vandana Shiva points out in this book, a new vision – a new life for present and future generations, and for our fellow creatures on earth – in which praxis and theory are respected and preserved can be found only in the survival struggles of grassroots movements. The men and women who actively participate in such movements radically reject the industrialized countries’ prevailing model of capitalist-patriarchal development. They do not want to be developed according to this blueprint, but rather want to preserve their subsistence base intact, under their own control.

This quest for a new vision, however, is to be found not only among people in the South, who cannot ever expect to reap the fruits of ‘development’; the search for an ecologically sound, non-exploitative, just, non-patriarchal, self-sustaining society can also be found among some groups in the North. Here, too, this search for a new perspective involves not only middle-class people, disenchanted and despairing about the end-result of the modernization process, but even by some at the bottom of the social pyramid.

We have called this new vision the subsistence perspective. Lire la suite…

From Cadarache to Bure, stop the nuclear madness immediately!

12 août 2019 Laisser un commentaire

« Why was this harmless centre not simply installed in Paris, and especially in the useless gardens of the Elysee? […] If I am told that, despite its certified safety, this nuclear centre would cause some danger in Paris and the guests of the Elysée, I will answer that our fate and that of our children present and future are also very dear to us. »

Jean Giono, on the construction of Cadarache, Provence, 1961.

In 70 years, the French nuclear industry has produced 1.62 million cubic meters of radioactive waste, the equivalent of 648 Olympic-sized swimming pools full of matter that will remain highly toxic for hundreds of thousands of years (1). Each year, it produces 25,000 m³ more. At 30 km from here, 42,000 m 3 of nuclear waste are stored in the gigantic centre at Cadarache where, as the authorities themselves admit, they contaminate the soil and groundwater.

The « solution » decided by the state is to bury the most dangerous waste at Bure, in the north-east of France, a rural region that has suffered from the two world wars and the impact of agribusiness. This gigantic nuclear rubbish dump, dubbed « Industrial Geological Storage Center » (Cigeo), up to 500 meters underground and with 300 km of galleries, should cost at least 25 billion euros of public money (2) . Lire la suite…

Mara Hvistendahl, Inside China’s Vast New Experiment in Social Ranking, 2018

23 juin 2019 Laisser un commentaire

In 2015, when Lazarus Liu moved home to China after studying logistics in the United Kingdom for three years, he quickly noticed that something had changed: Everyone paid for everything with their phones. At McDonald’s, the convenience store, even at mom-and-pop restaurants, his friends in Shanghai used mobile payments. Cash, Liu could see, had been largely replaced by two smartphone apps: Alipay and WeChat Pay. One day, at a vegetable market, he watched a woman his mother’s age pull out her phone to pay for her groceries. He decided to sign up.

To get an Alipay ID, Liu had to enter his cell phone number and scan his national ID card. He did so reflexively. Alipay had built a reputation for reliability, and compared to going to a bank managed with slothlike indifference and zero attention to customer service, signing up for Alipay was almost fun. With just a few clicks he was in. Alipay’s slogan summed up the experience: “Trust makes it simple.” Lire la suite…