Archive for May 1st, 2009

Swine Flu - Gift of Industrial Agriculture

Sharon May 1st, 2009

I’m on my way to Maine for a talk at a Grange near Portland, about our agricultural system, so a short one from me today.

If you haven’t read Tom Philpott’s excellent analysis of the possible role industrial hog production has played in the development of what is now pretty much a pandemic (we’re at level five on the pandemic alert, and the WHO keeps forgetting that we’re not there yet), albeit so far a mildish one, do it now.

If it turns out to be the case that this virus emerged out of the nightmare situation of industrial agriculture, I would expect to hear lots of calls for “regulation” of confinement meat operations, and new “safeguards.” 

But I think the emergence of a global flu pandemic (and we should remember that that’s on top of a host of other emergences, including possible links to avian influenza) should remind us that the problem we’re facing can’t be fixed by very small refinements upon a vast foolishness. 

That is, as long as we keep raising a million hogs at any given time in a comparatively small place that can’t, in itself, support them, we’re facing an endless stream of contaminations and incubations of disease.  The only possible solution is decentralization - a fundamental shift away from replacing people with oil and industrial equipment, and the re-placing of people into agriculture.

It looks like we may dodge the bullet on an incredibly destructive pandemic - with luck, this will not mutate into anything worse.  But that’s only because we got lucky.  And that’s worth remembering when people start talking about “regulation” and “safeguards.”