Dead Epidemiologists: On the Origins of COVID-19
260pp, $17 pbk, ISBN 978-1-58367-902-9
Big Farms Make Big Flu: Dispatches on Infectious Disease, Agribusiness, and the Nature of Science
400 pp, $24 pbk, ISBN 9781583675892
Rob Wallace‘s timely new book Dead Epidemiologists: On the Origins of COVID-19, and his preceding work on the same general topic, Big Farms Make Big Flu: Dispatches on Infectious Disease, Agribusiness, and the Nature of Science, have officially circumambulated the globe, from Canada and India, to Greece and Italy, to Basque country and Brazil and onward. Rob Wallace reports:
“Along with the wonderful news that “Big Farms” is being translated into Italian, here are some other items from these quarters: Yesterday I gave the keynote for a short course at the Royal Veterinary College in London. The course addressed integrating radical political economy into veterinary studies! What a time to be alive!”
Let’s start in English, with a conversation between Rob Wallace and Firoze Manji, of the Canadian publication Daraja Press:
And in Italian…
Rob Wallace has just been informed that his book Big Farms Make Big Flu will soon reach Italian audiences in translation. Close to the time he received the good news, he was interviewed during a worker’s assembly that occurred in mid-April. You can hear an interview in English from the Assemblea dei Lavoratori e delle Lavoratrici Combattivi, below:
Wallace was also interviewed for “Rai Play,” in an episode introduced thus:
“The investigation by the international scientific team appointed by the World Health Organization on the origins of the pandemic has just ended in Wuhan, China. But at the end of the investigation carried out by scientists from all over the world, WHO director general Tedros Ghebreyesus declared that “the tracks are still open” on the origin of the virus…..”
“Si è da poco conclusa a Wuhan, in Cina, l’inchiesta del team scientifico internazionale nominato dall’Organizzazione Mondiale della Sanità sulle origini della pandemia. Ma alla fine dell’indagine svolta da scienziati di tutto il mondo, il direttore generale dell’Oms Tedros Ghebreyesus ha dichiarato che sull’origine del virus “le piste sono ancora tutte aperte”. Più di un anno di attesa e mesi di preparazione, ma le risposte sulla più grande catastrofe sanitaria del secolo ancora non ci sono. PresaDiretta è riuscita a intervistare uno dei membri del team internazionale, Dominic Dwyer, microbiologo dell’Università di Sidney e a ricostruire con testimonianze esclusive e documenti inediti cosa è successo durante i 27 giorni della missione in Cina dell’Oms. E poi un viaggio in giro per l’Europa per raccontare le altre epidemie diffuse tra gli animali, di cui si parla poco ma che sono sempre più aggressive e pericolose anche per l’uomo.”
Head to Rai Play to watch in Italian
A sophisticated level of understanding, in Brazil
In April, the female-founded news source, Pública, the first non-profit investigative journalism agency in Brazil, sent Author Anna Beatriz Anjos to speak to Rob Wallace. She writes, “he envisions new epidemics in the not-so-distant future. ‘It is unlikely that it will take another hundred years for us to have a really serious new pandemic, as it did after 1918 [with the Spanish flu]. It is very likely that we have Covid-22, Covid-23 ‘, he says. At the end of last year, in partnership with other researchers, Wallace released a new book, ‘Dead Epidemiologists: On the Origins of Covid-19’, addressing this and other aspects of the pandemic. A former consultant to the FAO-UN and the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the epidemiologist also criticizes ‘right-wing neoliberal’ governments that have adopted ‘a Malthusian approach’ and bet on ‘herd immunity’, but he highlights that, even so, the case of Jair Bolsonaro is ‘unique’: ‘This genocidal political philosophy already existed long before the emergence of Covid-19, so, in a way, we are not surprised by it. Even so, it is horrible, because what good is a government that is unable to protect its population?’, He asks.”
“….Embora não tenha sido o influenza a varrer o mundo, ele explica que o aparecimento do coronavírus causador da doença, cuja origem possivelmente são morcegos, está intimamente relacionado ao atual modelo de produção de alimentos. “Na China e em outros lugares, a vida selvagem está sendo incluída no modelo industrial do agronegócio”, disse à Agência Pública.
Por isso, ele vislumbra novas epidemias num futuro não tão distante. “É improvável que demore mais cem anos para que tenhamos uma nova pandemia realmente grave, como aconteceu a partir de 1918 [com a gripe espanhola]. É muito provável que tenhamos a Covid-22, a Covid-23”, afirma. No fim do ano passado, em parceria com outros pesquisadores, Wallace lançou um novo livro, “Dead Epidemiologists: On the Origins of Covid-19”, abordando esse e outros aspectos da pandemia.
Ex-consultor da FAO-ONU e do Centro de Controle e Prevenção de Doenças dos Estados Unidos (CDC), o epidemiologista também critica os governos “neoliberais de direita” que adotaram “uma abordagem malthusiana” e apostaram na “imunidade de rebanho”, mas destaca que, ainda assim, o caso de Jair Bolsonaro é “único”: “A filosofia política genocida já ocorria muito antes do surgimento da Covid-19, portanto, de certa forma, não nos surpreendemos com ela. Mesmo assim é horrível, porque do que vale um governo que não consegue proteger sua população?”, questiona…”
You can read the full article at Agencia Pública
German readers are catching on
In an article very directly entitled, “How capitalism creates and promotes epidemics,” Frank Seeman relates Wallace’s description of the “ideal breeding grounds for new viruses” and their spread from animals to humans, places “where wild animals mix with large numbers of farm animals due to the loss of their habitat, where breeding animals that are genetically more and more similar live and immunocompromised under the catastrophic conditions of factory farming where these animals constantly change location over long distances, bacteria and viruses cheer as it were. The massive presence of weakened host animals, which later also include casual workers, not only enables rapid spread, even over long distances, but is the ideal place for ever new, more adapted mutations….Global mobility, megacities and an underlying health system are the other ingredients for a ‘man-made’ and man-made pandemic.”
All dies beschreibt der Autor als ideale Brutstätten für neue Viren und deren Übersprung von Tieren auf Menschen, den Zoonosen: Wo Wildtiere sich wegen des Verlusts ihres Lebensraums mit Mengen von Nutztieren mischen, wo genetisch immer ähnlichere Zuchttiere unter den katastrophalen Bedingungen der Massentierhaltung immungeschwächt leben und wo diese Tiere ständig den Ort über weiter Entfernungen wechseln, da ‚jubeln‘ gleichsam Bakterien und Viren. Das massenhafte Vorhandensein geschwächter Wirtstiere, zu denen später auch Gelegenheitsarbeiter zählen, ermöglicht nicht nur eine rapide Ausbreitung, auch über weite Entfernungen hinweg, sondern ist der ideale Entstehungsort für immer neue, angepasstere Mutationen, auch solcher, die schließlich die Mensch-/Tier-Schranke überwinden. Weltweite Mobilität, Megastädte und ein zugrunde gespartes Gesundheitssystem sind die weiteren Zutaten für eine ‚Menschen gemachte’ und von Menschen verbreitete Pandemie.
For the full article, head to Südostasien, a German publication focused on Southeast Asia.
A global view, in English, from India
For some unusually rich perspective on his work, you can head to India Forum, where Dead Epidemiologists is reviewed by Satyaki Roy:
“….with the rising food prices caused by rising energy cost and declining sustainability, industrial agriculture, driven by the corporate food regime, seems to have lost its steam. There is a crisis of declining bio-physical productivity, soil depletion, and reduction in efficiency of nitrogen use. Global capital, in search of cheap sources of land, water, and labour, has focused on the global South, and integrated huge tracts of land and livestock into global agricultural value chains. At the same time it has created financial assets linked to corporate production of food and fuel for speculative gains.
The resurgence of plantations in southeast Asia and Latin America has razed roughly 40% of tropical forests located in seven countries of these two regions during just the first decade of 21st century (Malm, 2020). Soybean, corn, palm oil, ethanol, and cattle rearing for large scale production of beef has encroached tropical forests and destroyed biodiversity. An average plantation of palm oil in Indonesia covers 3,000 hectares of land and a typical cattle ranch in Brazil dedicated for the production of beef covers 1,000 hectares. Large corporate cross-country alliances around production of soybean, rapeseed, ethanol operate in the US, China, South Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil, India, and Mozambique. In developing countries, 227 million hectares of land, an area equal to the size of Western Europe, has been leased out or sold since 2001…”
Read the full, in-depth review, at India Forum
A rich review from the Greek publication, Commune:
The review concludes: “Criticism of the productive model of the agri-food industry, producer communities, the mobilization and re-emergence of invisible food workers highlight an ecological, communitarian alternative. A production with strong locality and connected to communities, utilizing the natural potential of soil, water, biodiversity and human knowledge that celebrates the reproduction of human life and not production exists today and shows that a ‘different food world is possible.’ A world that will not favor the evolution of deadly viruses like COVID-19 and a productive model that will protect the environment along with human societies.”
“Η κριτική στο παραγωγικό μοντέλο της αγροτοδιατροφικής βιομηχανίας, οι κοινότητες παραγωγών, η κινητοποίηση και η επανεμφάνιση των αόρατων εργατών παραγωγής τροφής αναδεικνύουν μια οικολογική, κοινοτιστική εναλλακτική. Μια παραγωγή με έντονη τοπικότητα και δεμένη με τις κοινότητες, αξιοποιώντας τις φυσικές δυνατότητες του εδάφους, του νερού, της βιοποικιλότητας και της ανθρώπινης γνώσης που γιορτάζει την αναπαραγωγή της ανθρώπινης ζωής και όχι τον παραγωγισμό υπάρχει σήμερα και δείχνει ότι ένας «άλλος διατροφικός κόσμος είναι εφικτός». Ένας κόσμος που δε θα ευνοεί την εξέλιξη θανατηφόρων ιών σαν τον COVID-19 και ένα παραγωγικό μοντέλο που θα προστατεύει το περιβάλλον μαζί με τις ανθρώπινες κοινωνίες.”
Head to the Greek publication Commune to read the rest.
New Spanish translations
Wallace’s work is also garnering the attention of Spanish audiences, following the recent translation of his prior work Big Farms Make Big Flu, also published by Monthly Review Press. The Basque publication txalaparta.eus recently featured Big Farms Make Big Flu, as did Productor de Sustenibilidad:
“While viruses are capable of adapting to the rhythms of industrial production, animals selected for characteristics that are of interest to the market lose the option of creating resistance to new virus varieties or of transferring genetic adaptations to subsequent generations.”
“Mientras que los virus son capaces de adaptarse a los ritmos de la producción industrial, los animales seleccionados por características que interesan al mercado pierden la opción de crear resistencia a las nuevas variedades de virus o de trasladar adaptaciones genéticas a las siguientes generaciones.”