FERN’s Friday Feed: Murder at sea

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

A quest for justice on the high seas

Hakai Magazine

“On a clear September 2012 afternoon in the middle of the Indian Ocean … the crew of a traditional Arab boat called a dhow is tending to their fishing nets when four much larger commercial longliners close in. Armed guards on each longliner appear on deck. With no chance to escape and a temperamental engine slowing them down, the 20 or so crew members from the dhow leap into the water as bullets begin to shower the ocean around them,” writes Sarah Tory. “Were it not for 10 minutes and 26 seconds of grainy footage uncovered two years later … this violent attack and an earlier one that took the lives of as many as 38 fishermen in total would likely never have come to light. Instead, like most crimes at sea, it would have gone unreported and unpunished, a product of the rampant impunity that exists across the world’s oceans.”

A half a million teenagers work in U.S. farm fields

Teen Vogue

“During the last weeks of her freshman year of high school, Eva started work picking strawberries near Salinas, California. For eight hours a day all summer long, she hunched over at the waist in sometimes triple-digit heat, pulling sweet red strawberries and placing them into plastic boxes. Like most of the other teenagers working the fields, Eva exists in a kind of invisible space: She got the job with fake social security and identification cards. I grew up in Salinas and, in high school … I spent a summer picking zucchinis,” writes Jessica de la Torre. “Teens and even preteens laboring in the fields are so common where I’m from that I never thought of it as child exploitation until I was in college and people were shocked when I mentioned it.”

The rise of ‘sponge cities’


As climate change supercharges storms that then overwhelm municipal sewer systems, “urban planners are increasingly thinking of cities less as rain jackets—designed to whisk water away as fast as possible before it has a chance to accumulate—and more as sponges,” writes Matt Simon. “By deploying thirsty green spaces and digging huge dirt bowls where water can gather and percolate into underlying aquifers, ‘sponge cities’ are making rain an asset to be exploited instead of expelled.”

Centuries of converting land into cheap commodities


“For those of us living in a city or suburb, a typical day starts with rising from (cotton) sheets, hopping under the shower for a quick wash with (palm oil-based) soaps, dressing in (cotton) shirts and pants, drinking a hot beverage (coffee or tea) and then eating a (sugary) cereal or jam, perhaps followed by a (soy-fed) processed meat sandwich, wrapped in (fossil-fuel-based) plastic,” write Sven Beckert and Ulbe Bosma. “What describes an unremarkable day in the lives of hundreds of millions of the world’s urbanites, a day you have experienced year in and year out without much thought, is actually a miracle produced not least by the stunning expansion of commodity frontiers over the past 600 years.”

A giant asteroid hits Earth. How do we rebuild our food supply?


“Imagine a giant asteroid strikes the Earth a few years from now, blocking out the Sun and collapsing agriculture worldwide,” writes Philip Maughan. “At first glance, our chances don’t look good. The planet is engulfed in flames. Dead fish carpet the rivers and canals. Farmers lose most of their livestock. After just a few days, the air begins to cool, and global average temperatures plummet. Crops fail catastrophically, and the food supply system as we know it falls apart. Yet what if I told you we were able to survive – that we managed to build a new food system by repurposing heavy-duty infrastructure and excavating knowledge from the past?”