FERN’s Friday Feed: Of capitalism and conservation

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

Can fashion help save the Amazon?

FERN and The New Republic

In the Amazon rainforest of Brazil, a small but significant movement is underway to protect the rainforest by connecting small-scale producers tapping rubber trees with multinational brands, report Brian Barth and Flávia Milhorance in FERN’s latest story. The links give settlers and Indigenous groups a means to make a living from the forest, although it hasn’t been strong enough to counter the pressure to cut trees for cattle ranching. “Rubber is one of dozens of products that activists hope may help save the rainforest by bolstering the Amazon’s emerging bio-economy,” they write. “Açaí, the fruit of a native palm sold as a superfood, is the most famous example and the most lucrative to date.”

The movie made the sandwich, but what belongs on a Godfather?


“If you had to pick the food most associated with The Godfather, it would probably be the basket of spilled oranges, rolling down a bloodied New York street like runaway neon bouncy balls,” writes Adam Erace. “Yet, somehow, a generation of Italian American deli owners saw the 1972 film and all seemed to decide, simultaneously, ‘Sandwich.’ As the movie The Godfather collected awards and became sacred cinema, the sandwich the Godfather became a mainstay at delis all across the country. Whether you call it a hoagie, a sub, a hero, or something else, everyone agrees that the former gave the latter its name. What no one can agree on is what actually constitutes one.”

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Beavers vs. humans, the struggle continues

The New York Times

“Four centuries after they were hunted to extinction, mainly for their fur, beavers are back in Scotland, and so is their age-old battle with humans,” writes Stephen Castle. “Gnawing and felling trees, building dams that flood fields or wreck drainage systems and burrowing into river banks — sometimes causing them to collapse — beavers have incurred the wrath of a farming community, which won the right to request permits allowing them to kill the animals legally.”

How your friends affect your food

Grub Street

“Taste is an interesting thing. We might like to think that our own tastes are uniquely ours, and that they are somehow more ‘correct’ than others’,” write Dominic J. Packer and Jay J. Van Bavel. “When it comes to the ‘right’ way to prepare our favorite dishes, people revel in what distinguishes us from the next town over, no matter how slight the differences might seem from a distance. Beyond pizza, Americans are happy to praise local styles of barbecue, hot dogs, chili, or cheesesteak. These differences are often attributed to regional pride, but the reality is more complicated, and they are deeply informed by our relationships with others.”

Will we ever get a clear idea about what we should eat?


“The history of humanity is in no small part the story of our increasing control over our sustenance,” writes Amos Zeeberg. “[A]fter modern production drove the cost of food way down, our attention shifted from eating enough to eating the right things. During that time, nutrition science has provided the directions that we’ve followed toward more healthful eating. But as our food increasingly becomes a creation of humans rather than nature, even many scientists suspect that our analytical study of nutrition is missing something important about what makes food healthful.”