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Rinderpest has been eradicated, but it is not extinct. In the conclusion, I ask readers to consider the importance of international cooperation in keeping the virus contained in laboratories. The key point is that the necessity of global community did not end with eradication, but must continue, because our global environmental interdependence has only grown with time.
Chapter 4 centers on FAO’s efforts to eradicate rinderpest during the final years of the 1940s and throughout the 1950s. It shows that FAO embraced rinderpest eradication because it believed that the new vaccines had made it an achievable goal and because FAO believed that victory in that effort would help demonstrate FAO’s own value and the value of internationalism in general. The vaccines encouraged a biological approach to development: one that pitted humans against nonhuman foes to emphasize the idea of a common humanity. This chapter not only enriches the development narrative by focusing on FAO, whose role has been largely overlooked, but also the global community narrative by highlighting its biological component.
Chapter 5 explores the threat that the Cold War posed to postwar internationalism by narrating how the United States, Canada, and Great Britain sent scientists back to Grosse Île in 1949 to undertake new explorations of turning rinderpest into a biological weapon. This was the darker side of the growing sense of environmental interconnectedness. Efforts to research rinderpest as a biological weapon continued on Grosse Île until 1957, after which they were moved to Plum Island, but they remained limited. The Cold War threatened the international eradication effort, but it did not destroy it. Work continued despite and outside of that global conflict. Following that story reminds readers of the limitations of the Cold War framework as a way of making sense of international relations in the second half of the twentieth century.
Chapter 2 brings the reader back to Grosse Île between 1942 and 1946, narrating the decision to create the vaccine and to share it freely once the war was over. This chapter not only introduces the technology at the heart of the story, but also shows how that technology encouraged officials to think differently about international relations. The vaccines were useful against all strains of rinderpest and were easily transportable. They were not threatening. In fact, their global distribution promised only to help, not to harm the nations that had paid for their creation. Although paving the way for the globally focused actions that unfold in chapters 3 and 4, chapter 2 ends with the warning note that not all of the scientific research undertaken on Grosse Île was shared. Offensive research remained hidden, highlighting the point, which will be developed in chapter 5, that internationalist thinking had to contend with national security concerns in the postwar era. The vaccines, which emphasized global environmental interdependence, opened the door to new pursuits along both lines.
Chapter 6 takes the reader from the 1950s to rinderpest’s official eradication in 2011. The international effort had seriously limited the virus’s freedom of movement by the late 1950s and FAO considered it a success story at that point, but the fight was not over. This chapter explores the technological and bureaucratic innovations—the machinery—that ultimately made eradication possible. Studying those bureaucratic initiatives in particular demonstrates internationalism’s vitality throughout decades when it seemed to be lost and/or in decline. Indeed, the struggle to build a global community remained strong and was what made eradication possible
Chapter 3 narrates how the rinderpest vaccines encouraged US, British, and Canadian officials to embrace the idea of global development and to create international machinery to pursue it. The chapter looks particularly at UNRRA anti-rinderpest efforts and argues that those efforts helped to transform Allied thinking from a focus on relief and rehabilitation to a focus on development. This is an important argument, because it makes the UNRRA a key part of the development narrative and emphasizes its pre-Cold War origins. Again, the technology itself—the vaccines—played a critical role. The technology made the action possible.
This chapter introduces the reader to a brief history of rinderpest and its role in the history of international cooperation. It focuses on the late 19th and early 20th centuries and reveals how rinderpest played an important role in encouraging international cooperation for disease control with special attention paid to the establishment of the OIE in the 1920s.
Amanda Kay McVety has written the first history of the international effort to eradicate rinderpest - a devastating cattle disease - which began in the 1940s and ended in 2011. Rinderpest is the only other disease besides smallpox to have been eradicated, but very few people in the United States know about it, because it did not infect humans and never broke out in North America. In other parts of the world, however, rinderpest was a serious economic and social burden and the struggle against it was a critical part of the effort to fight poverty and hunger globally. McVety follows the deployment of rinderpest vaccines around the globe, exploring the role of the environment in the understanding of development, internationalism, and national security. She expands the standard Cold War narratives to show how these concepts were framed not only by economic and political concerns, but also by biological ones.