FERN’s Friday Feed: A California water-rights smackdown

Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.

Water fight pits pistachio farmers against U.S. Navy

FERN and Bloomberg Green

A legal dispute over water rights in California’s Mojave desert has growers for The Wonderful Co. on one side and a town reliant on a sprawling naval base on the other. As Brent Crane reports, the case offers a glimpse of the coming water wars in California, as the state’s all-powerful agriculture interests increasingly square off against thirsty communities over a dwindling supply of fresh water.

A worker rebellion in the Central Valley

Mother Jones

“As some pickers and packers reached that breaking point, there have been blips of COVID-related organizing up and down the West Coast,” writes Julia Lurie. “Hundreds of fruit packers in Washington’s Yakima Valley left production lines to protest a lack of safety precautions and hazard pay. In Santa Maria, California, strawberry pickers walked off the job to protest wages falling just as many families were particularly cash-strapped. Blueberry pickers near Fresno also struck over a wage cut, standing by the fields waving red-and-black UFW flags. Could the pandemic and the recognition of agricultural workers as essential begin to change the power dynamic between farmworkers and their employers?”

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‘If Proust ate Pringles’

Good Beer Hunting

“[I]t was this combination—parabolic arc of extruded potato starch, coated in sundry dextrins and glutamates, alongside skunky Dutch Lager—that transported me down the rabbit hole,” writes Eoghan Walsh. “One minute I was sitting in the tired beige surrounds of our temporary living room, the early evening gloaming encroached on our toy-strewn patio, congratulating myself on successfully putting the children to bed. The next, as sour cream and onion dust co-mingled with beer and crept into the expectant papillae on my tongue, I had left the Netherlands entirely. Instead, I found myself somewhere I hadn’t been in years—a place to which I’d never expected to return.”

The overlooked power of vast seagrass meadows


“Growing in interstitial spaces too deep for SCUBA-diving scientists and too shallow for deep-sea exploration vehicles, deep-water seagrasses are hidden powerhouses that have sprouted silently on the peripheries for tens of millions of years,” writes Georgina Wood. “Yet even as seagrasses are globally recognized as among Earth’s most important and productive ecosystems … known to sequester up to twice as much carbon per acre as terrestrial forests, and at dramatically faster rates … studies have largely focused on shallow meadows found at depths of 15 meters or less.”

The ‘hell of the present moment’ for service workers

The New Republic

“Service industry jobs are disproportionately worked by people of color, who are currently suffering the highest infection and death rates of the pandemic,” writes Casey Taylor. “Most are struggling through it, perhaps taking the odd week off here and there to gather their fortitude if they’re able to take any time at all. Then it’s back to work for another shift of serving complete strangers whose adherence to coronavirus guidelines and restrictions is only enforced by the honor system. They know they are, through a simple numbers game as infection rates rise, serving sick people, just as the owners know that sick people are coming through their doors.”