FERN’s Friday Feed: Rice from the sea?

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

Ángel León’s plan to harvest rice from seagrass


Chef Ángel León dreams of “[a] wind-swept, sun-kissed saltwater economy” that “extends well beyond the walls of his restaurant and into the coastal plains of Cádiz,” writes Matt Goulding. Of “men with long wooden brooms scraping the surface of the marshes, piling up coarse salt crystals in little white hills that shimmer in the Andalusian sun,” and “the region’s vast network of estuaries overflowing with flora and fauna—tiny, candy-sweet white shrimp, edible seaweeds like marine mesclun mix, sea bream and mackerel in dense silver schools.” The centerpiece, he believes, will be “fields of rice stretched out for miles of paddies, the feathery stalks protruding from the sea itself.”

NYC street vendors fighting hunger—their neighbors’ and their own

New York Magazine

When the pandemic hit, the ranks of the hungry in New York City skyrocketed. As the city ground to a halt, street vendors struggled, too, to pay “bills like rent or electricity” but also to cover the cost of  “their permits and to pay rent to the commissaries where they store their carts,” writes Chris Crowley. “So last May, the Street Vendor Project, a nonprofit that advocates for vendors rights, began a pilot program to feed those in need around the city and to give a much-needed boost to vendors themselves … The meals were provided to people in need and cooked by others in need.”

The steady collapse of the world’s aquifers


“All over the world—from the Netherlands to Indonesia to Mexico City—geology is conspiring with climate change to sink the ground under humanity’s feet,” writes Matt Simon. “More punishing droughts mean the increased draining of aquifers, and rising seas make sinking land all the more vulnerable to flooding. According to a recent study published in the journal Science, in the next two decades, 1.6 billion people could be affected by subsidence, with potential losses in the trillions of dollars.”

Will a shallow genetic pool doom the unforgettable corpse flower?


“[D]espite the corpse flower’s fame, its future is uncertain. The roughly 500 specimens that were living in botanical gardens and some university and private collections as of 2019 are deeply related — a lack of genetic diversity that can make them more vulnerable to a host of problems, such as disease or a changing climate,” writes Doug Johnson. “Corpse flowers aren’t doing much better in their native home of Sumatra, where they are dwindling because of deforestation for lumber and crops.”

The ‘stunningly deadly’ pursuit of lobsters in Nicaragua

The New York Times

Edmundo Stanley Antonio “still feels pain in his back and his heart when he dives. A doctor has repeatedly told him not to go in the water again, warning the next dive could kill him. His wife begs him to stop; she’s already lost her brother and a son-in-law in diving accidents. His response, however regretful, is always the same: There’s no other work. This is a sadly familiar lament on the northeast Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, an impoverished region whose mostly Indigenous population depends on fishing,” writes Kirk Semple. “Spiny lobster is among the most sought-after quarry because it pays so well. Most of the catch from these waters ends up on plates in the United States.”