FERN’s Friday Feed: How humanity gave up whaling

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

The first great energy transition

The Guardian

“For centuries … [w]haling was a voracious industry on which half the world’s economy was built. Blubber became an essential natural resource, and whaling ramped up in step with technological advances,” writes Oliver Dirr. “Then, in 1986, a moratorium was announced, driven by newfound awareness of the glories of whale song – and, through that, an interest in their behaviour, intelligence and culture. In mere decades, the global economy performed an incredible about-turn, and weaned itself off blubber – and on to crude oil. Could this first great energy transition offer us clues, as the climate crisis forces us to grapple with giving up oil, in turn?”

What is ‘American food’?

Bon Appétit

“The current moment in American food is pushing the boundaries of what ‘American’ means—resolutely taking what was historically not considered American and making it so. Yet amidst this burst of creativity and invention,” writes Navneet Alang, “a question has emerged: What do we call the kind of food that defines how Americans eat now? Instead of being neatly confined by geography or a single culture, the food of cutting-edge chefs pulls from varied cultural backgrounds, as well as the cities where they learned to cook. Such cooking, like the things that defined this year’s best-of lists, blends cuisines and cultures in a way that we don’t quite yet have a name for.”

When it comes to food, ‘authenticity’ is meaningless

Literary Hub

“The debate over authenticity in food really comes down to how you define the word ‘authentic.’ The word is often used to describe something that’s either fake or genuine, such as a brand name handbag or a pair of shoes, but in the case of food it doesn’t really apply (unless it’s plastic). If every time we saw the words ‘authentic food’ and replaced it with the word ‘traditional, the sentence itself would probably be much less controversial,” writes Ronnie Woo. “But even thinking of ‘traditional food’ doesn’t maintain the intended meaning. I can guarantee that every time a recipe has been passed down to the next generation, changes were made. Authenticity is simply a buzzword that some people have adopted as a way to declare that they are the real food-lovers and are somehow better than you based on what they perceive to be ‘real.’”

The humble sandwich, saboteur of the American diet

The Wall Street Journal

“Most Americans consume too much sodium, sugar and saturated fat, according to government survey data. Sandwiches—which almost half of Americans eat on any given day—are a primary culprit. Nutritionists, doctors and public-health officials are trying to nudge people to make their sandwiches healthier, believing that even simple changes can improve health,” writes Andrea Petersen. “Sandwiches are the number one source of sodium and saturated fat in Americans’ diets, making up about one-fifth of our daily sodium intake and 19% of our daily saturated fat calories, according to an analysis of federal survey data. Sandwiches contribute 7% of daily added sugars, the same percentage as breakfast cereals and bars.”

How Indigenous people are restoring Brazil’s Atlantic Forest

Yale Environment 360

Logging in “Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, a domain that covers almost 35,000 square miles, running along more than 1,800 miles of the Atlantic Coast … began in the early 16th century as land was cleared for timber and mines and then, in the 19th century, for coffee plantations, beef, sugar, firewood, and charcoal. Today, developers continue to clear the Atlantic Forest for housing, as the populations of São Paulo — currently home to 12.4 million people — and Rio de Janeiro explode,” writes Jill Langlois. “As the forest has fallen, so have populations of native bees. And without the pollination they provide, the forest that remains — in places like Yvy Porã — has struggled to survive. So the Guarani Mbya decided to do something about it.”