In Big Farms Make Big Flu (Monthly Review Press), a collection of dispatches by turns harrowing and thought-provoking, Wallace tracks the ways influenza and other pathogens emerge from an agriculture controlled by multinational corporations. With a precise and radical wit, Wallace juxtaposes ghastly phenomena such as attempts at producing featherless chickens with microbial time travel and neoliberal Ebola. Wallace also offers sensible alternatives to lethal agribusiness. Some, such as farming cooperatives, integrated pathogen management, and mixed crop-livestock systems, are already in practice off the agribusiness grid.
While many books cover facets of food or outbreaks, Wallace’s collection is the first to explore infectious disease, agriculture, economics, and the nature of science together. Big Farms Make Big Flu integrates the political economies of disease and science into a new understanding of infections.
“If you’ve missed the wit and brilliance of Stephen Jay Gould, here’s 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 Monthly Review 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, Research Professor, University of Texas at Austin, author, Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System
Rob Wallace was born and raised in New York City. He is an evolutionary biologist presently visiting the University of Minnesota’s Institute for Global Studies. His research has addressed the evolution and spread of influenza as it relates to the economics of agriculture, the social geography of HIV/AIDS in New York City, the emergence of Kaposi’s sarcoma herpes virus out of Ugandan prehistory, and the evolution of infection life history in response to antivirals. Wallace is co-author of Farming Human Pathogens: Ecological Resilience and Evolutionary Process (Springer) and blogs at ‘Farming Pathogens.’ He has consulted on influenza for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wallace lives in St Paul, Minnesota, with his daughter.