FERN’s Friday Feed: The Great Salt Lake on the brink

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

The ecological collapse of the Great Salt Lake

The Salt Lake Tribune

“As the Great Salt Lake continues to shrink to unprecedented levels, a key component of its landscape and food web is missing,” writes Leia Larsen. “The lake is known for thick, black clusters of brine flies by the billions, which pupate in its salty water then gather in dense mats to reproduce on shore. The insectile masses occasionally gross out beachgoers, but the bugs are harmless to humans. Crucially, they provide a nutrient-rich feast for millions of migrating birds. This year, however, the fly swarms are gone. And something’s off about the few bugs that remain. Scientists say it’s a sign the lake’s ecological demise is here.”

How ‘fist rice’ came to symbolize South Korean democracy

Atlas Obscura

“On May 18, 1980, some 600 students and civilians gathered at Gwangju’s Chonnam National University in peaceful protest against Chun Doo-hwan. The military dictator blockaded the city from aid and journalists, then deployed 18,000 riot police and 3,000 elite paratroopers … to attack locals,” writes Jia Jung. “Anywhere from 200 to 2,000 civilians were killed in the next few days. Some individuals disappeared forever, “unknown even to rats or birds,” as the Korean saying goes … When the freedom fighters ran out of food, the city’s women and merchants set up distribution centers for jumeokbap. They emptied their kitchens and shared their last coal briquettes to steam rice in cauldrons out on the chaotic streets. The only additional ingredient was a sprinkling of salt.”

Scotland could become the first ‘rewilded’ nation

National Geographic

“At the end of the last ice age, Scotland was a truly wild place, where the Highland tiger, a distinctly banded wildcat, and the wolf, lynx, and bear roamed among Caledonian pine forests,” writes Mike Maceacheran. “But over time, humans purged the land for timber, charcoal, and agriculture. Native species such as wild boar, polecat, and elk vanished. By the turn of the 20th century, only 5 percent of Scotland’s land area was covered by forest. Now the country is experiencing a zeitgeist moment for rewilding—in essence, the rebuilding of ecosystems to their natural uncultivated states—with new efforts and a matrix of wild lands and natural corridors spreading across the country.”

How lost fishing gear became the deadliest marine plastic

The Guardian

“Known officially as abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) – and unofficially as ‘ghost gear’ – this marine waste comprises fishing nets, ropes, line, traps and other fishing paraphernalia, mostly made up of durable plastics,” writes Emma Bryce. “Highly buoyant plastic fishing gear is more likely to become concentrated in places such as the north Pacific gyre, but it is also dispersed across the ocean. The quantity is notoriously difficult to measure, but it is estimated that between 500,000 and 1m tons a year tumble into the seas.”

Asian supermarkets and the ‘boba liberalism’ trap


“When you’re feeling culturally isolated, it’s easy to crave the tastes you associate with family or home. I understand the impulse to find comfort in something as universal and accessible as the aisles of a grocery store,” writes Katia Lo Innes. “But the very genuine desire to access belonging through food can also create some friction when one’s sense of connection depends upon consumerist impulses. The reverence for Asian supermarkets is one of many manifestations of ‘boba liberalism,’ a term coined … to connote the shallow, consumer-capitalist behaviour prevalent in middle-class East and Southeast Asian communities. Simply put, boba liberalism suggests that if you buy more Asian commodities, like boba or instant ramen, you’ll fully actualize as an Asian person.”