FERN’s Friday Feed: Kill floor

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

A police killing on the packing line

FERN and The New Republic

“David Alvarez couldn’t stop shivering. As he pulled out of the parking lot at the Seaboard Foods pork processing plant outside of Guymon, Oklahoma, and accelerated down Route 54, it was just after 7:30 on the morning of January 10, the temperature still around freezing,” writes Ted Genoways. “This part of the panhandle is ironing-board flat, and at that time of year, the Southern sun reduces the landscape to a faded-denim sky stretched over expanses of washed-out yellows—fields of corn stubble, dead grass, dirt. The plains are windswept and frozen, but Alvarez wasn’t cold. His chills were the buzz of adrenaline. ‘I couldn’t process what I had just witnessed,’ he said later. As he drove along the edge of Guymon, past the roadside hotels, the diners and taco stands, past the gas stations and the farm supply store, his mind raced. ‘I was replaying the sound of all the screaming,’ he said, ‘and then the gunshot.’”

A young chief tries to help his tribe confront climate change

FERN and Harvard Public Health magazine

“Devon Parfait steers his truck into the parking lot of what used to be a firehouse on Shrimpers Row in Dulac, Louisiana. He tries to get his bearings in a landscape both familiar and strange,” writes Barry Yeoman. “Parfait’s January 2023 visit isn’t just for nostalgia. He’s the new chief of the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw, and he’s getting reacquainted with his community. The 1,100-citizen tribe has traditionally fished and hunted along this fertile edge of the Gulf of Mexico. But human engineering and extreme storms have reshaped Louisiana’s coastline, swallowing up 2,000 square miles of land since the 1930s.”

Can a pipe to the Pacific save the Great Salt Lake?


“Twenty years into a once-in-a-millennium drought, exacerbated by the ­effects of climate change, the lake level has declined to record lows. Marinas have closed, migratory birds are struggling, and high winds whip up massive dust clouds. “In January,” writes Bill Gifford, “a group of scientists and environmentalists warned that what was once the largest lake in the West could disappear completely in as little as five years. ‘Examples from around the world show that saline lake loss triggers a long-term cycle of environmental, health, and economic suffering,’ they wrote in a report. ‘We are in an all-hands-on-deck emergency.’ The Great Salt Lake crisis has spurred a novel and extreme idea: Why not build a pipeline to bring in water from the ocean to revive and replenish it?”

Reclaiming a North Carolina plantation

Garden & Gun

“Delphine Sellars and her sister … first set foot on one of the Cameron family plantation in Durham, called Snow Hill, knowing little about [its] dark history. That day in 2016, the property sat in disarray. Massive trees were strewn about like a giant’s abandoned pickup sticks. The only road in and out became a car-stalling mud bath after rain,” writes Cynthia R. Greenlee. “Sellars didn’t mind—she was envisioning what the onetime plantation, founded in the late 1700s and operated well into the twentieth century, could be. Now she imagined a farm, where people could raise their own food and she could establish an incubator for new and future farmers through the nonprofit … the sisters had recently launched to encourage gardening and fight food insecurity. Now the sisters are on the cusp of finally fully getting their wish.”

An L.A. teen sued her school district—and the USDA—to promote non-dairy milk


“Last fall, Marielle Williamson, a senior at Eagle Rock High School in Los Angeles, set up a table outside her school’s college center. Stocked with free stickers and cartons of Oatly oat milk, she settled in to tell people about the environmental and ethical benefits of plant-based milk,” writes Joseph Winters. “Classmates soon crowded around for samples of oat- or pea protein-based beverages. ‘Students love it,’ Williamson told Grist. But when she began planning a similar event this spring, school administrators pushed back.”