FERN’s Friday Feed: Climate change comes for a frozen pastime

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

The future of ice fishing in a warming world

Belt Magazine

“That the world of ice fishing seems to exist on its own faraway planet is one of the great attractions of the pastime. It is precisely the slowness of this world that draws people in … seek[ing] reprieve from the exhausting pace of their lives,” writes Ben Ratner. One man he met on the frozen expanse of Michigan’s Houghton Lake put it this way: “‘You slow down from the rat-race of everyday life, man.’ He had a grin on his face. ‘Being on the ice, it’s peaceful. It’s us.’ … That’s what had dragged me out there in the first place  — to think about the future of winter in the state I call home, and what climate change might take from us.”

How Navy’s hunt for ‘phantom enemies’ led to the study of marine bioacoustics

Smithsonian Magazine

After World War II, the Navy, suspecting that sea creatures were responsible for the baffling array of noises submarine sailors had reported hearing, hired Marie Poland Fish to investigate. As Ben Goldfarb writes, “By 1954 Fish had auditioned more than 180 species, from eels (which emitted a ‘bubbling put-put’) to sea bream (‘guttural thumps’) … Sculpin, she wrote, hummed like generators. Sea horses clicked like a person snapping their fingers. Herring knocked, hardtails rasped, bass grunted … Chattiest of all was the sea robin, a bottom-dweller whose yakking, to Fish’s ears, evoked ‘the cackling and clucking of barnyard fowl.’”

The rural South lost 13 hospitals in 2020

Facing South

“Rural health care providers in the South, and across the nation, warned from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that they were financially vulnerable,” writes Olivia Paschal. But “[t]he factors that lead rural hospitals to close are complex, and they can vary from community to community. Rural communities themselves are diverse in population, needs, and infrastructure … Because of this … there’s no silver bullet policy solution that will fix rural health care’s precarity problem.”

SARS-CoV-2 spilled over from animals to humans. Is it now spilling back?


“A small cadre of scientists is warning that we have not paid sufficient attention to the possibility that … the virus … may be with us long-term,” writes Maryn McKenna. “[N]ot just because it might become an endemic disease, surging up periodically when population immunity dips low enough to let it gain a foothold. We haven’t yet tackled the dimensions of a second phenomenon, what researchers are calling spillback. That is the process by which the novel coronavirus jumps from humans into additional animal species, giving it new territory in which to survive and mutate, and maybe jump again. There are already signs that may be happening.”

Veteran restaurant workers discuss how they survived the past year

Los Angeles Times

“Restaurants provide solace, sustenance, acceptance, joy and a much-needed escape for countless communities,” writes Jenn Harris. “The employees who greet you at the door, take your order and mix your cocktails are essential workers who create memories and make magic happen every day. But in the last year, frequently changing guidelines and restrictions have upended the lives of millions of people who work in hospitality nationwide — people who are now experiencing under-employment, unemployment or job descriptions they never could have imagined.”