FERN’s Friday Feed: Why factory farming octopuses is a bad idea

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

Free the octopus!


China, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Mexico and Chile are pushing ahead with plans to launch octopus factory farms, despite the fact that the animals “are not part of a regular diet anywhere in the world,” writes Kelsey Piper. This is problematic for a number of reasons—environmentally, for sure, but also because they are “solitary, carnivorous” and “badly suited to captivity.” The main reason, Piper argues, is because it would be cruel. “Octopuses are highly intelligent animals; they use tools, feel pain, make plans, and communicate with one another to coordinate hunting.”

Is that Chinese food organic?

San Francisco Chronicle

Asian food in America has always been categorized as “cheap eats” due to assumptions that many now describe as racist. “But in the multicultural, food-woke Bay Area, shouldn’t Chinese entrepreneurs be able to set their restaurants apart from their competition by embracing the organic and sustainable?” asks April Chan. “If superb ingredients speak for themselves, as Alice Waters preaches, shouldn’t organic-focused Chinese restaurants be able to escape the institutionalized expectation that Chinese food must offer the biggest bang for the buck?” Maybe not.

Can Big Data save the sea?

The Washington Post

The ocean is a complicated, ever-changing world, and now we have the tools to manage it in ways that benefit both the creatures that live there and the fishermen who rely on it for their livelihood. “Dynamic ocean management,” writes Andrew Van Dam, “is powered by what oceanographer Elliott Hazen of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called a ‘revolution’ in available ocean data and processing power. ‘We can run these models on our computer in minutes to maybe an hour that would have taken us months 10 years ago,’ Hazen said.”

Nashville hot chicken has gone viral. But who gets the credit, and the money?

The New Yorker

In the part of Nashville where hot chicken was born, at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, 42 percent of the children live below the poverty line. It has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country. Yet even as the traditionally African-American food has gone global, from Los Angeles to Singapore, KFC to Pringle’s, writes Paige Williams, “an unusually broad cross-section of residents” and tourists—a mix of race, income, and ethnicity—still parade to Prince’s for the real deal, and a taste of history.

Did massive death and reforesting spur an era of climate change?

The New York Times

Before Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean in 1492, 60.5 million people lived in the Western Hemisphere. With European contact, disease and war wiped out 90 percent of this indigenous population. A new study finds that this population loss led to such a vast reforesting of the landscape in the Americas that it reduced atmospheric carbon by a significant amount. Lower carbon in turn contributed to a cooling period known as the Little Ice Age — notable because the cooler weather and shorter growing seasons from around 1400 to 1900 led to devastating crop losses and repeated famines in Europe, propelling events like the French Revolution. But this climate episode also provides a gruesome example of the power of forests to reverse global warming.