[permaculture] MHC and PC

Marimike6 at cs.com Marimike6 at cs.com
Wed Mar 19 21:47:36 EST 2003

In a message dated 3/19/2003 10:32:52 AM Eastern Standard Time, 
rmhoward at omninet.net.au writes: 
> Measles flourishes in conditions of extreme poverty like refugee camps or 
> following wars. It is one of the diseases that people are expecting to crop 
> up in the expected refigees in Iraq. In 1891 the small newly established 
> town of Broomehill in Western Australia had it's first show Agricultural 
> Show - a great success for the otherwise remote commuinty on the eastern 
> edge of the high rainfall area of the south west. An unfortunate 
> consequence was the ferocity f the inffluenza epidemic that killed several 
> people in the white community (none of whom had been in the area for more 
> than thirty years). The effect of influenza on the black community was not 
> noticed. 
> Whooping cough spreads explosively through communities being very 
> infectious when the herd immunity from the previous epidemic is reduced. 
> These affects have nothing to do with race, ethnicity or any other 
> distinguishing feature of the people involved. They are function of the 
> environmental factors such as population density, health, nutrition and 
> hygeine and the dynamics of herd resistance (that is the percentage of teh 
> population immune at a particular time. Genetic variability is irrelevant. 
Dear Bob--

You're very right-- herd immunity and individual immunity are central to the 
spread of infectious disease. As it is true, however, that mothers can confer 
an immunity to their infants, would you know how they can do that if "genetic 
variability is irrelevant'? Would it be through the colostrum? How is the 
immune system primed to identify pathogens the child will encounter once 
born, if not through some sort of genetic mechanism? I'm asking because I 
don't know.

Today's world is so well mixed that I think it would be very hard to find a 
virgin population with no immunity to the usual worldwide diseases, like the 
flu. In 1891 this would have been much less so. Most influenzas are incubated 
in the pig and duck-tending populations of southeast Asia, so it may have 
been that the Australians had periodically been exposed to the flu where the 
Anglo colonists may not have been at the time. That's just a speculation.

But what I've seen for a fact is that back in the 1960's when Americans 
showed up in odd parts of rural Mexico and Latin America, the more isolated 
Indian populations would die like flies if you brought a cold in with you-- 
they had never been exposed before. This was a hazard one had to be very 
aware of when travelling off the path. Not only out of concern for their 
health-- if you caused the deaths of a number of children and old folks in an 
isolated area, your own health was highly at risk.

I'm proposing a truce. My observation originally was not that white men have 
superior genes and thus shed disease more easily-- it was that people from 
the Eurasian continent colonized the rest of the world, and brought the 
diseases to which they had some degree of immunity with them. These diseases 
killed a lot of people before the New World populations also achieved 
equilibrium with them-- some as late as the 1960's, some perhaps still today. 
These Europeans-- coincidentally white people-- carried weed seeds 
unwittingly, in the holds of their ships and the seams of their boots. So in 
time, the American field and roadside came to look much like that of England. 
Newfoundland, for instance, never had many wildflowers before the Irish 
showed up, because it didn't have bees. Now it's quite colorful in the 
spring, although the bees still don't look entirely comfortable there. 

The striking fact is that weeds have hardly ever gone in the other direction. 
American volunteer species taking hold on the European continent are quite 
rare, and hardly ever spread aggressively enough to be a nuisance. I wonder 

Peace, Brother.....
Mike Elvin

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