FERN’s Friday Feed: As the Salton Sea shrinks, a public-health crisis looms

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

The hidden cost of making a desert bloom

FERN and The Weather Channel

The Salton Sea, the largest lake in California, is drying up, revealing a bed packed with toxic chemicals, the residue of a century of runoff from Imperial Valley farms. Public-health experts worry that those chemicals pose a grave risk to the health of people who live nearby, mostly farmworkers, the elderly and families too poor to relocate, as Lindsay Fendt reports in FERN’s latest story.

Stereotypes belie sophistication of Appalachian food

Atlas Obscura

Travis Milton grew up in coal country, then spent years in fancy restaurants trying to convince his fellow chefs that the food traditions from Appalachia were as rich and worthy as anything they were cooking. Now Milton is leading a project that seeks to redefine this troubled region by re-establishing the creative food culture of his ancestors, from Bloody Butcher corn to Black Nebula carrots. “We want to build a beacon that tells people that left the region, or those that’re thinking about leaving: ‘Things are changing. You can put your talents to work here,’” he says.

FERN Talks & Eats NYC – Surf ‘n’ Turf

Panel: Can our seafood survive Big Ag and climate change?
As oceans warm, our major fisheries are shifting. At the same time, farm runoff is contributing to dead zones from the Gulf of Mexico to Long Island. Both of these issues – climate change and farming practices – affect the health of ocean ecosystems and, ultimately, the seafood that winds up on our plates.

Come to our panel discussion Feb. 10, 2020, 7:30 p.m., at Subculture in New York City. VIP reception with drinks and bites beforehand. Information and early bird tickets.


Some of the highest-profile deals and hires in New York’s restaurant industry are driven by consultants you’ve probably never heard of. “The work they do involves access to the household names and brands that even the most casual dining enthusiast would recognize,” writes Erika Adams. “Often, they have say over how millions of dollars are distributed across the restaurant world — and, for better or for worse, who has access to it.”

The long legacy of Prohibition

The Associated Press

This month marks the 100-year anniversary of Prohibition, an unsuccessful attempt to reduce Americans’ drinking that was also characterized by anti-immigrant rhetoric and racist enforcement. Prohibition failed, but its legacy is still felt. “Americans are consuming more alcohol per capita now than in the time leading up to Prohibition, when alcohol opponents successfully made the case that excessive drinking was ruining family life. More states are also moving to decriminalize marijuana, with legalization backers frequently citing Prohibition’s failure.”

The deregulators in charge of air and water policy

The New York Times

Under the Trump administration, the majority of the people appointed to protect America’s air and water used to work in extractive industries and have rolled back nearly 100 environmental rules. “Of 20 key officials across several agencies, 15 came from careers in the oil, gas, coal, chemical or agriculture industries, while another three hail from state governments that have spent years resisting environmental regulations,” write Lisa Friedman and Claire O’Neill.