Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.
Mckenzie Patrice-Croom was only 18 months old when she died, in 2018, in Flint, Michigan. Her grandfather, Michael Harris, believes the city’s water crisis contributed to Mckenzie’s death. He wanted to do something in her memory, “[s]o he and several others in the community collaborated to launch the Mckenzie Patrice-Croom Water Lab, which provides free water testing for Flint residents,” writes Nina Ignaczak. “The project is more than just a water testing lab, Harris told me. It’s a place for Flint residents to begin to rebuild trust in their community.”
The “uniquely British sport of growing giant vegetables” has “grown from a Welsh bar bet into a massive online community of giant vegetable enthusiasts with participants on every continent,” writes Luke Fater. “But if 30-foot-long beets, 10-pound tomatoes, or one-ton pumpkins sound like a waste of food and time, government researchers around the world are now taking a serious look at leviathan produce.”
The Bitter Southerner
“As Florida’s population rises, multiple sources of pollution are threatening the manatees, pinfish, and seagrass that call North America’s most biodiverse estuary home,” writes Xander Peters. “Researchers like Casey Craig and her team at the University of Central Florida are looking at nanoplastics in oysters, and ‘water quality advocates’ like Nyla Pipes are among those fighting to protect the precious Indian River Lagoon — before it’s too late.”
Brazil’s Cerrado is the “most biologically rich savanna in the world,” and “also an important motor in Brazil’s economy, producing over half of Brazil’s beef, 49% of its soybeans, 47% of its sugar cane and almost all its cotton,” writes Dom Phillips. It’s “sometimes called an ‘upside-down’ forest because of the deep, extensive roots its native plants use to dig down for nutrients and moisture. The roots and soil store high levels of carbon, making the region an important carbon sink. But as industrial agriculture continues to swallow up huge tracts of the Cerrado, it could become a source of carbon … meaning it would emit more of the climate-warming gas than it stores.”
Street food has always been an essential part of life in Chengdu, China. Starting in the 2000s, “this thread of city life was nearly broken when … the Chinese government began declaring street stalls ‘backward’ and ‘uncivilized’ … But when the COVID lockdowns lifted in May, the Chengdu government …started actively encouraging small vendors to set up their stalls on the streets of the city,” writes Lauren Teixiera, in an effort to “jumpstart the stalled economy.”