FERN’s Friday Feed: Europe’s butterfly crisis

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

Europe’s butterflies are vanishing along with its small farms

FERN and National Geographic

“Some 90 percent of Catalonia’s butterfly species live in open space and thrive in flower-rich grasslands, as they do in most temperate climates. But across Europe these butterflies are undergoing huge declines,” writes Bridget Huber. “Butterflies, like other pollinators, are being squeezed from two sides. In some places, as small-scale livestock farms give way to industrial agriculture, butterfly-friendly meadows are being aggregated into much larger fields of a single crop like corn or sunflowers. In others, pastures and fields are being abandoned and are slowly turning to forest. Both trends threaten butterflies.”

Brazil’s Amazon beef plan will ‘legalize deforestation’

FERN and The Guardian

Exports by Brazil’s beef industry have suffered as it became clear that the vast majority of deforestation in the Amazon is due to cattle farming. “In May, government officials began fleshing out the details of the so-called Amacro sustainable development zone,” which they say will both boost agriculture in the Amazon region and also “prevent illegal deforestation,” write Brian Barth and Flávia Milhorance. But critics, including “Humberto de Aguiar, a federal prosecutor … who handles environmental crimes,” says “that the effect of the plan is such as ‘to legalize the deforestation already being done.’”

The humble hedgerow gets its due as ‘vital reservoir of biodiversity’

Knowable Magazine

“Hedgerows are as British as fish and chips … and some of today’s are as historic as many old churches, dating back as far as 800 years,” writes Katarina Zimmer. Yet “[i]n recent years, ecologists — especially in Britain, Ireland and continental Europe, but also in places that have more recently adopted hedgerows, such as California — have come to view these man-made structures as important ecosystems in their own right. They form a vital reservoir of biodiversity in human-dominated landscapes where many species might otherwise struggle to survive. By nurturing pollinating insects, they can enhance the yield of crops. And they do it all while pulling carbon out of the atmosphere.”

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The forgotten Chinese chef who taught America to stir-fry

Mother Jones

“​​In her cookbook, How to Cook and Eat in Chinese, 55-year-old Chinese immigrant Chao Yang Buwei described a process common in her homeland, wherein cooks would cut meat and vegetables into small bites and tumble them rapidly together over heat,” writes Mayukh Sen. “The Mandarin term for the technique, ch’ao … ‘cannot be accurately translated into English,’ Chao lamented. For short, she decided, ‘We shall call it ‘stir-fry.’ The term soon burrowed its way into the American vernacular and has since taken on a life of its own. Nowadays, stir-frying isn’t just a method — ‘stir-fry’ has become its own category of recipes. Yet most home cooks have never heard of Chao.”

Cambodia’s history, sustained through taste

Hippocampus Magazine

In 1975, the Khmer Rouge informed the Cambodian people that we had no history, but we knew it was a lie,” writes Chantha Nguon. “Cambodia has a rich past, a mosaic of flavors from near and far: South Indian traders gave us Buddhism and spicy curries; China brought rice noodles and astrology; and French colonizers passed on a love of strong coffee, flan, and a light, crusty baguette. We lifted the best tastes from everywhere and added our own: sour pickled fruits and vegetables, the famous Kampot peppercorn, and the most distinctive flavor (and aroma) of all: prahok, Cambodia’s (in)famous, stinking fermented fish paste. Even now, I can taste my own history.”