FERN’s Friday Feed: A chicken pox?

FERN’s Friday Feed: A chicken pox?

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

Will the next pandemic start with chickens?

The New Republic

“For most Americans, this devastation [wrought by bird flu] has amounted to little more than a blip on the evening news—the price of eggs gone up. Nearly three years into our own still-raging pandemic, perhaps it’s hard to care about chickens, even when they’re dying by the tens of millions,” writes Boyce Upholt. “But that very fact—that it’s easy for us to ignore trouble in the ecology that surrounds and supports us—also shows what little we’ve learned about how pandemics begin. The expansion of U.S.-style industrial agriculture across the globe has driven the spread of viruses. It’s more than possible that the next Covid, or something far worse, could emerge on our own farms.”

Why was killing my own food so hard?

Bon Appétit

“I was here now, at Vermejo, a New Mexico eco-reserve half the size of the Grand Canyon, where Ted Turner’s deer and antelope roam. The 83-year-old billionaire … has dedicated the last three decades to restoring wildlife and, in turn, this land it lives on. Managing populations of bison, cutthroat trout, and a herd of 7,000 elk that includes some 4,000 female elk, which is what we’re hunting,” writes Rachel Levin. “No antlers, trim beige coats, bottomless brown eyes, and puffy white butts so cute and bouncy they belong in a Charmin commercial. So cute, so alive, I’m not sure I—an urban-dwelling, gun-shunning omnivore who can’t pull her own kid’s loose tooth (gross)—will be able to do what I came to do: pull a trigger, and then do every unappetizing thing it actually takes to eat a steak for dinner.”

Thirsty alfalfa is at the center of fight over the Colorado River

The Guardian

“The large-scale production of alfalfa during a megadrought is, in a large part, possible because the Imperial Valley is the single biggest controller of rights to Colorado River water,” writes Jessica Fu. “Now, with the basin on the brink of the most severe water cuts in history, the alfalfa industry has been propelled to the center of longstanding debates over sustainable water use and the future of farming in the west.”

Oregon farmers turn ditches into pipes to save water


“In the desert of central Oregon … farmers have been working the arid soil for more than a hundred years,” relying on a “network of open-air canals carved into the landscape that would carry water from the Deschutes River to their fields for irrigation. But as the Western megadrought sucks more and more water out of these channels, farmers and water managers across this part of Oregon are struggling,” writes Emily Pontecorvo. “Now … irrigation districts are racing to implement a relatively simple, but expensive solution to save water — one that also has the potential to create a new source of clean electricity. All they have to do is turn their ditches into pipes.”

The mysterious, vexing search for the origin of eels

Hakai Magazine

“The Sargasso is the only place on Earth where [eels] breed. The slithery creatures … arrive from Europe, North America, including parts of the Caribbean, and North Africa, including the Mediterranean Sea,” writes Christina Couch. “[Reinhold] Hanel, a fish biologist and director of the Thünen Institute of Fisheries Ecology in Bremerhaven, Germany, makes his own month-long migration here alongside a rotating cast of researchers, some of whom hope to solve mysteries that have long flummoxed marine biologists, anatomists, philosophers, and conservationists: What happens when these eels spawn in the wild? And what can be done to help the species recover from the impacts of habitat loss, pollution, overfishing, and hydropower? … But, thus far, eels have kept most of their secrets to themselves.”