By Jake Weber
Albion's academic highpoint, the annual Elkin R. Isaac Student Research Symposium, was held April 18-19. Nearly 100 students made platform and poster presentations, including students from École Supérieure de Vente in St. Germain, France, who worked with Gerstacker Institute students to develop international business plans. Other presentations stretched across the College's academic disciplines, with such topics as Toni Morrison novels, strength training studies, British counter-espionage, Beethoven's symphonies, silver nanoparticles and Plains palaeontology.
The Symposium closed with the Calvaruso Keynote, given by prize-winning author and Council on Foreign Relations adviser Laurie Garrett, who painted an alarmingly detailed picture of the controversial "man-made" H5N1 flu virus. Recently, the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity asked two scientific journals not to publish reports on H1N1 research, citing it "constituted a 'road map for terrorists' to create a human virus that could kill hundreds of millions worldwide." This unprecedented censorship, Garrett noted, is reasonable given the poor state of global regulation of deadly pathogens used in research.
Garrett pointed out that the SARS flue scare, which killed a very small number of humans, wiped out poultry flocks throughout Asia and contributed to a large amount of human suffering. The H1N1 flu scare of 2009, she explained, had been predicted by industry monitors and professionals, who warned that monoculture, the practice of raising one breed of animal in large quantities, was a perfect breeding ground for pandemics that could kill pigs, chickens or humans.
"The response of the world [to H1N1] was not what we would have liked," Garrett said, noting that unsuccessful global trade quarantines and successful black market flu-remedy industries were part of the pandemic fallout. "It's difficult to imagine [a human pandemic] – one that the World Bank predicts would be a three-trillion-dollar event, not to mention taking hundreds of millions of lives – we are not ready and we will react the wrong way," Garrett said.
As with climate change and other global concerns, Garrett noted that regulation of research and resources are problems with no clear or simple solutions. Right now, "We're asking people in the poor world to make all the sacrifices. They're killing their chickens….they are the ones who are paying the price to try and protect the rest of the world," Garrett stated. "If we want real global solidarity, it means we share benefits and mutually take on the challenges."