FERN’s Friday Feed: Climate change and our failing infrastructure

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

The New Republic 

The recent devastating floods in Nebraska and elsewhere point up how decades of infrastructure neglect have run headlong into the reality of climate change. “How do we, as a nation, ready ourselves?” asks Ted Genoways, a FERN contributor, when so many people—including the President—refuse to acknowledge man-made climate change. “How do we get small and medium-size towns in deep red, rural states to undertake rebuilding and upkeep projects that are based on predictions for climate change and shifting weather patterns over the next 50 to 100 years?”

“Technological developments over the past two decades have meant that we can now engineer tiny particles much more easily – and their unusual properties make them useful in the food industry,” writes Mićo Tatalović. “For example, silicon dioxide is added to salts, spices and icing sugar to improve their flow. Salt and green tea are ground to nano-sized particles to boost their flavor or to improve their antioxidant properties.” But research suggests that nanoparticles, which are unregulated in the U.S., could have long-term effects on human health.

A bankruptcy raises questions about Big Pharma’s ability to produce new antibiotics


The unexpected bankruptcy of a promising new antibiotic producer has some wondering whether the private sector is able to create new antibiotics at all. It may be “that the traditional structure of the pharma business, which works so well to bring forth cancer and cardiovascular and lifestyle drugs, can’t profitably produce the antibiotics that society needs,” writes Maryn McKenna, a FERN contributor. “Which means it may be time to stop asking pharma to make them, and create some other entity—a government institute, an international nonprofit, a utility—to perform the task instead.”

No sacrifices: Impossible Foods and the future of protein.


Forget “ethical consumerism” and all the moralizing that goes with it. The new faux-meat revolution, led by Impossible Foods, wants to erase the choice between virtuous eating and your “inner caveman,” writes Chris Ip. “These products don’t aim to resemble the ascetic formlessness of health foods that trade taste for moral rectitude. But neither are they the soulless nutrition-delivery systems of Soylent and RX bars that trade it for efficiency. The problem with most future-of-food plays is how hard it is to feel any emotion about them. No matter how optimized they are, they’re insipid on a sensory level … These new meat facsimiles aspire to be good enough on flavor, health, price and ethics, proposing the outcome we seldom get in life: Why choose?”

China’s takeout food industry has the country drowning in plastic

The New York Times

“The astronomical growth of food delivery apps in China is flooding the country with takeout containers, utensils and bags. And the country’s patchy recycling system isn’t keeping up,” write Raymond Zhong and Carolyn Zhang. “The vast majority of this plastic ends up discarded, buried or burned with the rest of the trash, researchers and recyclers say.” The takeout industry generated 1.6 million tons of packaging waste in 2017.