FERN’s Friday Feed — A pandemic who-done-it

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

The murky path of Covid-19, from wild animal to global pandemic

The New Yorker

“The first human victim probably did get infected from a wild animal,” writes David Quammen. “But it’s unknown whether that animal was a bat or a pangolin or something else, or whether it was in a cage on its way to Wuhan, or maybe living in the wild, defecating on somebody’s vegetable garden … The scientific discussion of the pandemic’s origins is still in kaleidoscopic flux. Among even just the hypotheses for which empirical evidence exists—ignoring the nutcase theories, the unsupported slanders, and the paranoid speculations purveyed online—ideas vary, and some sets of data conflict with others.”

How to plant the forests of the future

Anthropocene Magazine

“I have come to Canada to learn more about climate-based seed transfer. It’s an innovative adaptation strategy for promoting healthy forests over time, based on matching seedlings to the projected climate of planting sites,” writes Lauren E. Oakes. “I’ve come to see the next generation of white spruce, Douglas fir, and western larch to understand how and why scientists determine the locations for planting various species and populations. But I have traveled here also because I am thinking about the billions of trees planted globally. I wonder about their fate and what their death or survival means for our ability to combat the climate crisis itself.”

Can aquaculture learn from agriculture’s mistakes?

Hakai Magazine

“[T]echnology has turned aquaculture … into the world’s fastest growing food production sector,” writes Jude Isabella. But “[a]s is the case with terrestrial plants and animals, the environmental impacts of growing aquatic species run the spectrum of benign to malign. Bivalves, plants, and algae? Relatively benign. Finfish and crustaceans? Not so much. Feed, disease, and pollution issues plague these industries.”

Peter Meehan helped ‘redefine food media,’ but his colleagues paid a price


“Peter Meehan’s transgressive vision helped redefine food media with the groundbreaking Lucky Peach, and later transformed the LA Times’s food coverage,” writes Meghan McCarron. “But that vision came with a toxic management style characterized by intimidation, a barrage of sexualized commentary, and explosive anger, according to two dozen current and former staffers.” 

In 2016, Trump cried ‘war on coal’; in 2020 it’s a ‘war on meat’


“At a rally in Iowa last week, Vice President Mike Pence warned farmers and ranchers of a coming war on red meat … ‘We’re not going to let Joe Biden and Kamala Harris cut America’s meat!’ Pence’s battle cry echoed Trump’s declaration in 2016 that Democrats were waging a ‘war on coal,’” writes Amanda Little. Rather than take the bait, like Hillary Clinton did, Little says Biden and Harris “should take a bolder stance on America’s changing relationship to meat — one that focuses on economic opportunity, not the loss of a way of life.”