FERN’s Friday Feed: Nothing to see here, folks

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

Big Beef’s message machine: confuse, defend, downplay

The Guardian

“The US beef industry is creating an army of influencers and citizen activists to help amplify a message that will be key to its future success: that you shouldn’t be too worried about the growing attention around the environmental impacts of its production. In particular,” writes Joe Fassler, “it would like you not to be especially concerned about how meat consumption needs to be reduced if we are to avoid the most violently disruptive forms of planetary heating (even if all fossil fuel use ended tomorrow).”

Afghanistan’s spectacular, vanishing forests

Scientific American

“Eastern Afghanistan’s province of Nuristan is a green oasis in a country largely in the grip of desertification,” writes Kern Hendricks. “The area is replete with tree-covered mountains and clear rivers that wind through lush, narrow valleys. Along with the neighboring province of Kunar, Nuristan is home to some of the region’s densest, oldest and most ecologically diverse forests. Yet during the past few decades, relentless and mostly illegal logging has reduced many of these rich ecosystems to shadows of their former selves. And what’s left remains under serious threat, with residents of these valleys growing increasingly desperate for income amid dire economic circumstances.”

The cult roots of American health food

Atlas Obscura

“The [Source Family] cult/commune is remembered for a number of things .. but their most enduring legacy is food, including a killer salad dressing,” writes Diana Hubbell. “During the early 70s, they operated The Source, on Sunset Boulevard, one of the most influential alternative restaurants in the United States. The premise was simple: straightforward food, totally vegetarian, mostly raw, some ‘organic,’ and all as fresh as possible. Almost immediately, the joint became a hub for celebrities, movers-and-shakers, and counter-culture types. It famously makes a cameo in Annie Hall, when Woody Allen’s character orders ‘alfalfa sprouts and mashed yeast’ … Long after its restaurant shuttered, the Source Family and the brand of mysticism it loved continue to have a profound impact on the ways that Americans eat—whether we realize it or not.”

A symbol of loss in nearly every Ukrainian kitchen

The New York Times

“Soledar — which means gift of salt — fell in January, allowing the Russians to step up their assault on Bakhmut, about 40 miles to the south. The small town, with only 10,000 residents before the attack, also held a special place in Ukraine’s economy and history,” writes Marc Santora. “The mine provided more than 90 percent of the country’s salt, and its operator, the state-owned company Artemsil, exported salt to more than 20 countries. Now Ukraine is relying on imported salt for the first time in its modern history. But the country’s connection to its salt runs deeper than economics: It is a matter of national pride. Nearly every home had a package of salt from Soledar.”

As CO2 rises, plants lose nutrients

Knowable Magazine

“It’s clear that rising carbon dioxide levels change plant makeup in a variety of ways. Scientists have done years-long studies in which they pump carbon dioxide over crops to artificially raise their exposure to the gas, then test the plants for nutrient content,” writes Amber Dance. “One large analysis found that raising carbon dioxide by about 200 parts per million boosted plant mass by about 18 percent, but often reduced levels of nitrogen, protein, zinc and iron. Vegetables like lettuce and tomatoes may be sweeter and tastier due to added carbon-rich sugars, but lose out on some 10 percent to 20 percent of the protein, nitrate, magnesium, iron and zinc that they have in lower-carbon conditions, according to another large study. On average, plants may lose about 8 percent of their mineral content in conditions of elevated carbon dioxide.”