Humans have lived in close proximity to other animals for thousands of years. Recent scientific studies have even shown that the presence of animals has a positive effect on our physical and mental health. People with pets typically have lower blood pressure, show fewer symptoms of depression, and tend to get more exercise.
But there is a darker side to the relationship between animals and humans. Animals are carriers of harmful infectious agents and the source of a myriad of human diseases. In recent years, the emergence of high-profile illnesses such as AIDS, SARS, West Nile virus, and bird flu has drawn much public attention, but as E. Fuller Torrey and Robert H. Yolken reveal, the transfer of deadly microbes from animals to humans is neither a new nor an easily avoided problem.
Beginning with the domestication of farm animals nearly 10,000 years ago, Beasts of the Earth traces the ways that human-animal contact has evolved over time. Today, shared living quarters, overlapping ecosystems, and experimental surgical practices where organs or tissues are transplanted from non-humans into humans continue to open new avenues for the transmission of infectious agents. Other changes in human behavior like increased air travel, automated food processing, and threats of bioterrorism are increasing the contagion factor by transporting microbes further distances and to larger populations in virtually no time at all.
While the authors urge that a better understanding of past diseases may help us lessen the severity of some illnesses, they also warn that, given our increasingly crowded planet, it is not a question of if but when and how often animal-transmitted diseases will pose serious challenges to human health in the future.
"Betting the Earth explores the uneasy parallels between our contemporary environmental challenges and our national fascination with gambling. How much should we bet on preserving biodiversity? Should we bet more on responding to climate change? where should we place each bet: on federal or state laws, on acquiring public or private preserves, on preventing environmental harms or saving places of special environmental significance? Like it or not, we must make such choices every day, and Betting the Earth helps us to understand how we do so."
Professor John Copeland Nagle, John N. Matthews Chair in Law, University of Notre Dame Law School
Conflicts over subterranean resources, particularly tin, oil, and natural gas, have driven Bolivian politics for nearly a century. “Resource nationalism”—the conviction that resource wealth should be used for the benefit of the “nation”—has often united otherwise disparate groups, including mineworkers, urban workers, students, war veterans, and middle-class professionals, and propelled an indigenous union leader, Evo Morales, into the presidency in 2006. Blood of the Earth reexamines the Bolivian mobilization around resource nationalism that began in the 1920s, crystallized with the 1952 revolution, and continues into the twenty-first century.
Drawing on a wide array of Bolivian and US sources, Kevin A. Young reveals that Bolivia became a key site in a global battle among economic models, with grassroots coalitions demanding nationalist and egalitarian alternatives to market capitalism. While US-supported moderates within the revolutionary regime were able to defeat more radical forces, Young shows how the political culture of resource nationalism, though often comprising contradictory elements, constrained government actions and galvanized mobilizations against neoliberalism in later decades. His transnational and multilevel approach to the 1952 revolution illuminates the struggles among Bolivian popular sectors, government officials, and foreign powers, as well as the competing currents and visions within Bolivia’s popular political cultures. Offering a fresh appraisal of the Bolivian Revolution, resource nationalism, and the Cold War in Latin America, Blood of the Earth is an ideal case study for understanding the challenges shared by countries across the Global South.
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