FERN’s Friday Feed: A high-tech fix for a water crisis shrouded in racism

FERN’s Friday Feed: A high-tech fix for a water crisis shrouded in racism

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


A California town’s creative effort to end its century-long water crisis

FERN and KQED’s California Report (audio)

In California, clean, safe and affordable drinking water is considered a human right under state law, but nearly a million residents don’t have access to it,” writes Teresa Cotsirilos. “To some extent, the state’s historic, climate-change-fueled drought is to blame … But the drought has also exacerbated long-standing water access issues that in many Central Valley communities can be traced … to decades of neglect and racist policies. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Allensworth. Founded in 1908, it was the first community in California to be financed, built and governed by African Americans. Ten years later, it had been all but decimated by white farmers and corporate interests, and water was one of their weapons of choice. Now, more than a century later,” local leaders’ creative approach to securing sustainable, clean drinking water could become a blueprint for other communities in California.


Finding the political will to confront America’s food emergencies

Science History Institute

In 1969, after years of intense activism by anti-hunger activists, President Richard Nixon organized “an unprecedented White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health.” The result was a major expansion of federal food stamp and school meal programs, as well the Head Start childcare program. But policymakers stopped short of addressing some of the systemic issues that led to the food insecurity and obesity crises the nation confronts today. Later this month, President Biden will host another White House conference on nutrition and hunger. What lessons are there from that earlier conference that might help this one succeed?


What happened when an obesity researcher went off-script

Knowable Magazine

“In the 1990s, Katherine Flegal and her CDC colleagues published some of the first reports of a national increase in the proportion of people categorized as overweight based on body mass index (BMI), a ratio of weight and height,” writes Alice Callahan. “The upward trend in BMI alarmed public health officials and eventually came to be called the ‘obesity epidemic.’ But when Flegal, along with other senior government scientists, published estimates on how BMI related to mortality — reporting that being overweight was associated with a lower death rate than having a “normal” BMI — she became the subject of intense criticism and attacks.”


The father of environmental justice meets the moment

The New York Times

“[M]ore than four decades after Robert Bullard took an unplanned career turn into environmentalism and civil rights, the movement he helped found is clocking one of its biggest wins yet,” writes Cara Buckley. “Some $60 billion of the $370 billion in climate spending passed by Congress last month has been earmarked for environmental justice, which calls for equal environmental protections for all, the cause to which Dr. Bullard has devoted his life.”



A taste of home for workers at this California winery

Modern Farmer

“Somerston Estate is one of many farms and wineries focused on improving working conditions and quality of life for its skilled workers,” writes Shelby Vittek. “It starts off by paying them a living wage, which is rare but crucial. The vineyard also “devotes a plot of land for them on which to garden, where they can grow and harvest fruits and vegetables with which to feed their families. Beyond being a source of food, [Craig] Becker says the garden also presents an opportunity for migrant workers to connect with the lives they left behind in their home country.”