Two upcoming events in the UB Geography Department may be of interest to food systems scholars. On Friday, Nov. 4, at 3:13pm Dr. Tony Weis will be speaking at the Geography Colloquium in Fillmore 170. His will be speaking on “Ghosts and Things: Industrial agriculture and the trajectory of (non-human) animal life on earth”. An abstract for this talk is below.
Additionally, Dr. Tony Weis and many others will take part in the day-long Geography Symposium on Saturday, Nov. 5, from 9am-4:30pm in 509 O’Brian Hall. Titled Global Governance and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the symposium will critically evaluate the TPP’s attempts to deepen transnational governance of labor, the environment, and intellectual property, among other areas. Dr. Weis will specifically focus his talk on the implications of the new trade agreement for Pacific food systems.
For more information on they symposium, click here. Information about Dr. Weis and his Friday colloquium are found below.
Tony Weis is an Associate Professor in Geography at Western University in London, Ontario. He is the author of The Ecological Hoofprint: The Global Burden of Industrial Livestock (Zed Books, 2013) and The Global Food Economy: The Battle for the Future of Farming (Zed Books, 2007), and co-editor of A Line in the Tar Sands: Struggles for Environmental Justice (BTL/PM Press 2014) and Critical Perspectives on Food Sovereignty (Routledge 2014). His research is broadly located in the field of political ecology, with a focus on agriculture and food systems.
Ghosts and Things: Industrial agriculture and the trajectory of (non-human) animal life on earth
The ‘sixth extinction spasm’ is starting to receive a lot of popular attention. While disturbing enough in itself, as an important paper in Science recently stressed extinction events are ‘only a small part of the actual loss of biodiversity’; drastic population losses are occurring among many non-threatened species and across non-domesticated vertebrates as a whole. The term de-faunation is coming to mark this phenomenon, though it was more memorably evoked by one conservation biologist who likened it to creating landscapes of ‘ghosts’.
The industrial grain-oilseed-livestock complex is an important force in this expansive ecological violence, as I have tried to emphasize with the ecological hoofprint, at the same time as it is creating growing spaces where animals face conditions of intensive violence. By 2050, if the current trajectory continues, there will be 120 billion animals killed for food every year, with the vast majority raised in industrial settings where they are hidden from sight and transformed into pure commodities, minimal welfare protections notwithstanding. In short, there is a powerful interrelation between the landscapes of animal ghosts and the industrial spaces where soaring numbers of animals are little more than fungible things – or between de-faunation and commodi-faunation. This is typically disregarded in most environmentalism and is, I suggest, an important aspect of capitalism as world-ecology.