FERN’s Friday Feed: Home is where the … toxic air is?

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

The New Yorker

“Unlike outdoor air, the air inside our homes is largely unregulated and has been all but ignored by researchers,” writes Nicola Twilley. “We know barely the first thing about the atmospheres in which we spend the vast majority of our time.” But early results from an experiment that hopes to close the information gap “seem to show that the combined emissions of humans and their daily activities—cooking, cleaning, metabolizing—are more interesting, and potentially more lethal, than anyone had imagined.”

The Washington Post

Last month, news broke that David Bernhardt, a former oil-industry lawyer who Trump has nominated to be his Interior Secretary, had blocked a federal report on the threat posed by three widely used pesticides. Critics roared. Yet, as Elena Conis writes, this was just business as usual in Washington. “Since the dawn of the modern pesticide era during World War II, federal regulators in administrations from both major parties have adopted lax, pro-industry standards that have allowed potentially dangerous pesticides to remain legal.”

The decline of Vietnam’s wildlife

The New York Times

Vietnam has been heralded as a world hotspot for biological diversity—but poaching has decimated animal populations. “Yes, the country is an epicenter for wild species diversity,” writes Stephen Nash. But “[i]ts wild populations, already hemmed in by habitat destruction because of an exploding human population, are also being shot, snared and live-captured so efficiently that national parks and other natural areas are now mostly afflicted with ‘empty forest syndrome’: suitable forest habitat from which even small animals and birds have been hunted into local extinction.”

South Korea’s successful campaign against food waste


“Once a city where unsightly and foul-smelling landfills loomed over entire neighborhoods, Seoul now operates one of the most rigorous food waste recycling programs in the world,” write Max S. Kim. “The South Korean government banned sending food to landfills in 2005 and, in 2013, also prohibited the dumping of garbage juice (leftover water squeezed from food waste) into the sea. Today, a staggering 95 percent of food waste is recycled ― a remarkable leap from less than 2 percent in 1995. Seoul has managed to cut the amount of food waste produced by 400 metric tons per day.”

A massive farmworker strike reveals predatory farm labor contracting system

Civil Eats

“On January 11, 2019, [The Wonderful Company] announced, through its contractor field supervisors, that it would reduce farmworkers’ pay by 12 percent. In response, about 1,800 nonunionized farmworkers, the majority of whom were undocumented, spontaneously walked out of Wonderful’s citrus fields outside of Bakersfield,” writes Sam Ribakoff. “Through four days of protests at the edge of the fields, the workers…not only won their wage rate back from one of the largest and most profitable corporations in the country. They’ve also begun to expose a predatory and mostly under-the-radar farm labor contractor system, and they’re part of a larger effort to revitalize and empower workers in the food system.”