Editor’s Desk: Hot Farm podcast …. and recent stories

By Sam Fromartz

Get Ready! Next Tuesday 4/12 marks the launch of FERN’s Hot Farm podcast, a four-part series on what climate change is doing to farmers — and to your food. Hosted by Eve Abrams, Hot Farm takes you across the Midwest, listening to farmers describe how climate is affecting them and seeing what they are doing, or could be doing, to fight back. Watch the new video trailer and then subscribe on our website or wherever you get your podcasts.

Meanwhile, we haven’t stopped turning out print stories. Here’s a rundown.

The return of ‘good fire’ to eastern U.S. forests and grasslands

A growing movement of scientists, land management agencies, conservation organizations, and indigenous groups is working to return fire to fire-adapted ecosystems, including forests and grasslands, throughout the U.S. Fire, advocates argue, is a critical solution to address a panoply of stark and growing challenges: biodiversity loss, wildfire risk, climate change, human health, and more. For many ecosystems in the eastern United States, fire’s century-long absence has been catastrophic. Forests once dominated by fire-adapted trees like oaks, hickories, and pines have been taken over by species that support far less wildlife. And overcrowded trees growing in woods without regular fire have stifled understory biodiversity, while raising the risk of damaging blazes. The story by Gabriel Popkin was produced in collaboration with Yale Environment 360.

The controversial biofuel threatening British Columbia’s forests

Last year, a peer-reviewed study found that British Columbia’s inland rainforest was endangered and could experience ecological collapse within a decade. This forest once totaled over 1.3 million hectares and it is home to 2,400 plant species, many of them rare, and wildlife such as wolves, wolverines, and southern mountain caribou. The study also found that 95 percent of the region’s core habitat, forest located more than 100 meters from a road, had been lost since 1970. Most recently the wood pellet industry has been consuming wood at a ferocious pace, shipping pellets to Europe and Asia where they are burned for electricity. “We’re fighting over the last pieces,” says ecologist Michelle Connolly. The story by Brian Barth was produced with The Walrus, one of Canada’s largest general interest magazines.

Big Tech’s food-delivery apps face a grassroots revolt

“At the start of the pandemic, food delivery apps, including the ‘Big 3’ — Grubhub, Uber Eats, and DoorDash — were hailed as saviors, facilitating a takeout boom meant to keep restaurants and their staffs working,” reports Dean Kuipers in FERN’s latest story, published with Mother Jones. “But eateries were quickly confronted by a harsh reality: These Silicon Valley and Wall Street–backed firms, which together dominate 93 percent of the market share nationwide, are designed to scrape money out of local businesses — sucking up a combined $9.5 billion in revenues in 2020 alone — and send it to shareholders. In cities around the country, Kuipers explains, restaurant owners are fighting back, forming local-delivery co-ops in an attempt to drive the third-party interlopers out.