Editorial office: Beyond climate change headlines


We have published two articles in the past week that embody FERN’s approach to the evolution of climate change and its impact on agriculture. In the first, writer Teresa Cotsirilos sifted through the wreckage after a series of climate-induced “atmospheric rivers” flooded farming communities along the Washington state-Colombia border. British, drowning cows and sending farmers on jet skis to save them. She found a story about a decades-long dispute over how to manage the Nooksack River in a way that protects farmers’ interests without harming the endangered chinook salmon that spawn there.

The dispute, which pits Canada against the United States and farmers on both sides of the border against Indigenous communities, was reinvigorated by storms last fall. Farmers want the United States to dredge (or dam or aggressively control) the Nooksack to alleviate flooding. But indigenous communities who depend on salmon runs and fishing and river management experts who have studied the matter say such changes could be disastrous for a river ecosystem that is already at risk of collapse.

It’s a story about the myriad ripple effects of a changing climate – the complex and contentious choices humans face as the weather becomes more extreme, upsetting the status quo and forcing calculations where dead ends have persisted.

FERN’s mission is to dig beyond the headlines to uncover the complicated reality beneath. With climate change and agriculture, this often means exploring proposed ‘solutions’, from carbon sequestration to ‘living coastlines’.

The second piece is such a story. Journalist Stephen Robert Miller traveled to Arizona to learn more about guayule (pronounced why-oo-lee), a latex-producing desert shrub that could help alleviate the region’s water problems, if a Japanese tire company manages to convince enough farmers to grow it. “The West is mired in a water crisis that is difficult to fully comprehend,” Miller writes. “More than 40 million people in seven states and two countries depend on the Colorado River, and its waters are running out at a terrifying rate…For decades, leaders have searched for a way to fairly share what was left of the dwindling supply, but there has always been a stubborn sticking point: farmers consume three-quarters of the region’s precious water, often to grow thirsty, inedible crops like cotton and hay.”

From a 300-acre lab south of Phoenix, Miller explains, the Bridgestone Corporation “is trying to establish the nation’s only national source for the type of high-grade natural rubber used in aircraft tires and gloves. surgical – and they were doing it with a culture accustomed to drought.

As the effects of climate change become increasingly evident, FERN’s determination to go beyond simple stories of disaster and crisis will become even more important. With that in mind, keep an eye out — and an ear — later this spring for news from our next podcast, which explores how climate change is reshaping agriculture in the Midwest. And as always, our work depends on your generosity. If you would like to help support stories like these, please consider donating to FERN.


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