FERN’s Friday Feed: Turning up the heat on OSHA

FERN’s Friday Feed: Turning up the heat on OSHA

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

As heat rises, who will protect the farmworkers?


“In much of the country, as climate change drives increasingly brutal heat waves, farmworkers lack protection,” write Bridget Huber, Nancy Averett and Teresa Cotsirilos. “How they fare will largely depend on whether their employers voluntarily decide to provide the access to water, shade and rest breaks that are critical when working in extreme heat. There are currently no nationwide regulations that spell out what employers must do to protect workers from heat and, while efforts to draft a federal rule recently began, it will likely be years before the standards are in place.”

In Bangladesh, a climate adaptation gone wrong

FERN and The Guardian

“For generations, Islam’s family farmed rice. But beginning in the 1980s, rising seas and storm surges began pushing saltwater through the banks of tidal rivers and ruining their crops. His father, along with millions of other coastal farmers, decided to flood the family’s rice paddies with brackish water and stock the briny ponds with black tiger prawn fry,” writes Stephen Robert Miller. “Backed by the Bangladeshi government, which saw shrimp and prawn production as a lucrative export opportunity … farmers flooded more than 275,000 hectares, mostly in the southwest, for intensive aquaculture … However, the tradeoff for a few years of income has been decades of environmental degradation and sometimes violent conflict that shows how some adaptations can end up making people more, not less, vulnerable.”

Last call in a Nebraska farm town

The New York Times

“Elsie Eiler is the sole resident of Monowi, Neb. In the mornings, she walks along the empty main street to open its one remaining business, the Monowi Tavern, which her family has run since 1971 … The tavern serves as one of the last gathering places for the remaining residents of [Boyd County],” writes Alyssa Schukar. “About 2,000 people still live in the county, down from a peak of 8,800 in 1910. The decline is part of a trend playing out across the state. Farm sizes have steadily grown in recent years, as larger, more efficient operations became better suited to survive the industry’s shift to a global market. Small family farms — once the backbone of the local economy — had to expand their operations or get out. Many got out.”

How America drained the swamp

The New Yorker

“Many people vaguely understand that wetlands cleanse the earth. In fact, they are carbon sinks that absorb CO2, and they are unparalleled in filtering out human waste, material from rotten carcasses, chemicals, and other pollutants. They recharge underground aquifers and sustain regional water resources, buffering the excesses of drought and flood. In aggregate, the watery parts of the earth stabilize its climate,” writes Annie Proulx. The land that eventually became the United States was once covered with wetlands. “[S]cientists have estimated that approximately two hundred and twenty-one million sopping acres existed in the early seventeenth century, much of it swamps … By the nineteen-eighties, roughly half of America’s wetlands had been wiped out.”

A community’s quest to document every species on its island home

Hakai Magazine

“For the past six years, the thin 36-year-old with a macro-lens Olympus point-and-shoot forever around his wrist has been on a quixotic mission to document every last species on Galiano Island, from the lone pair of elk that swam ashore one day from another of the Gulf Islands, to the orb spiders guarding glistening webs, to the oysters clustered beneath the tides,” writes Marina Wang. “His project spans animal, plant, fungal, and protozoan life forms, and includes marine life up to a kilometer offshore and down to a reef 120 meters below the surface, as well as every bird that flies overhead. Biodiversity Galiano … is among the more ambitious, comprehensive, and grassroots biological inventories being carried out anywhere on Earth.”