FERN’s Friday Feed: Too much salt

FERN’s Friday Feed: Too much salt

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

Climate change and the coming salt incursion

Yale Environment 360

“As sea levels rise, salty ocean water is pushing ever further into the [Mekong] delta, one of Southeast Asia’s most densely populated and productive rice-growing regions. During this year’s spring dry season, the salinity boundary — where salt levels exceed 4 grams per liter — reached up to 40 miles upstream, more than 10 miles further than it has historically,” writes Fred Pearce. “The saline influx is in part caused by faltering flows of fresh water coming down the Mekong River … as China fills giant hydroelectric dams far upstream. But a new and pioneering modeling study of the delta … has concluded that by around 2050, rising sea levels in the South China Sea will be the dominant driver of salinization, making wide areas uninhabitable for rice farmers long before they are inundated by the ocean itself.” (For more on this problem, check out FERN’s story on salt incursion in the Chesapeake Bay.)

Bread by fire

Gravy (audio)

“Irina Zhorov takes listeners to the little house in Marshall, North Carolina, whose residents have produced some of the most exciting baking in the South. The property is a hotbed for baking specifically because of the ovens. Two large, wood-fired ovens anchor the space and attract a very specific kind of baker to their side. Here’s how the ovens work. You build a fire inside the oven’s chamber and let the heat soak into the masonry, a process that can take many hours of maintaining the fire. Eventually, you let the fire go out, sweep out the ashes, and you’re left with a hot box that functions as an oven. Unlike a gas or electric oven, you can’t just turn up the oven once it cools, or add a little fire if it doesn’t seem hot enough.”

You may be eating a credit card’s worth of plastic each week


“When it comes to eating microplastics, scientists have documented plastic particles in about 40 percent of the human diet, including beer, honey, salt, and seafood,” writes Katharine Gammon. “People may be eating as much as a credit card’s worth of plastic each week—or more, because scientists still haven’t figured out how to reliably determine microplastic levels in meat, vegetables, grains, or packaged foods, which means we still don’t know how much plastic we actually eat.”

Are New York dairies buying into biogas boondoggle?

New York Focus

“Lawnhurst started operating the [anaerobic] digester in 2013, producing more than enough biomethane to power the farm and selling the excess to the local utility. But a few years ago, waste-to-energy companies began approaching the farm’s owner, Don Jensen, with a sweeter deal: capture the methane for use as transportation fuel rather than electricity, and sell carbon credits to oil corporations seeking to offset their emissions,” writes Tracy Tullis. “Jensen’s dairy is part of a quickening trend in New York. Eight dairy farms are producing pipeline-quality biomethane, or soon will be. Two more are seeking permits to join them … Environmental experts worry this handful of farms are at the leading edge of a boom that subsidizes poor manure management practices and could promote the reckless expansion of large-scale factory farming.”

How the franchise model drives wage theft in fast food industry

The New Republic

“At a time when the media paints heroic depictions of well-salaried office employees quitting their jobs to pursue their passions, some 2.6 million people still toil at White Castle, Burger King, Carl’s Jr., and the outlets of other fast food chains in the United States alone,” writes Alex Park. “They work late nights and early mornings (sometimes in succession) and face a greater risk of being murdered on the job than cab drivers or liquor store employees. What’s more, they often work for free.”

Photo: A Vietnamese farmer pumps saltwater into his fields in the Mekong Delta, turning what was once a rice paddy into a shrimp farm. As sea levels rise with climate change, the salt incursion is destroying the livelihoods of rice and other farmers, forcing many to turn to shrimp farming. Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images.