FERN’s Friday Feed: A blow against plastic pollution

welcome to FERN’s Friday Stream (#FFF), where we share stories from this week that got us thinking.

The great victory of a retired fisherwoman against plastic pollution of the oceans

National geographic

“Nearly every day for three years, Diane Wilson and a handful of other volunteers spent hours snooping through the swampy, swampy grasses of the Gulf Coast … looking for tiny plastic pellets called nurdles,” Beth writes. Gardiner. “They found lentil-sized pieces everywhere, filling gallon bags and submerging bottles to collect water contaminated with raw plastic powder. In March 2019, Wilson, a retired shrimp boat captain and fisherwoman, loaded a trailer with 2,400 of those samples — 46 million individual pellets, she estimates — and drove her van to federal court to confront Formosa. Plastics, the company responsible for the spills. Her victory there led to what is said to be the largest settlement ever in a lawsuit filed by a private citizen under the Clean Water Act.

As guest worker ranks increase, so does wage theft

The Center for Public Integrity

“From 2005 to 2020, U.S. employers across the country have been ordered to pay more than $42.5 million in back wages to 69,000 workers who work in low-wage seasonal jobs on H-2A visas and H-2B,” write Susan Ferriss and Joe Yerardi. “But workers’ rights advocates fear that many other workers are being cheated. They also worry that investigations by the Department of Labor – which exercises special oversight over guest workers – are not keeping pace with a dramatic increase in the number of workers. Closed cases focused on alleged violations specific to H-2A and H-2B visas increased only slightly, from 424 cases in 2011 to 478 in 2019, according to an analysis of the department’s public data integrity. During the same period, the total number of such annual visas issued for guest workers rose from 106,000 to 302,000. Demand for more visas is growing, despite increasing anti-foreign worker rhetoric under the Trump era in some states.

How Russia Could Weaponize the Global Food Supply Chain


“After just a day of invasion, Russia effectively controlled almost a third of world wheat exports, three-quarters of world sunflower oil exports and substantial amounts of barley, soybeans and other chains. grain supply”, write Ian Ralby, David Soud. and Rohini Ralphy. “Additionally, Ukraine alone accounts for 16% of global corn exports and has been one of the fastest growing corn producers – a dynamic that is particularly critical to meeting China’s growing corn demand. . It is important to note that while hydrocarbon production can be immediately increased in different locations to meet changing needs, grain production cannot be increased in the same way, and even a major expansion cannot compensate the huge volume of agricultural production that Russia now directly or indirectly controls.”

The Rise and Fall of Oakland Community Foods


“Brahm Ahmadi knew it would be difficult to raise funds to build the first grocery store in West Oakland in 40 years. He also knew that even if he raised the funds, finding affordable property in the Bay Area’s competitive real estate market might be impossible,” writes Alix Wall. “What he couldn’t have foreseen was that once he collected the money and found the site…some food distributors would refuse to deliver to West Oakland because ‘it wasn’t not on their way.” And then, of course, there was a global pandemic less than a year after opening. “How this will go down in history and why we failed and where the blame will be put will be important,” he said. “Will people recognize that it was mostly bad timing, that we opened and got hammered by a pandemic and didn’t have the resources to deal with it, or will they continue to consider these neighborhoods as too risky to invest in?

A consultant who vouched for irrigation with petroleum wastewater had ties to Big Oil

Inside climate news

In 2015, California’s Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board “found itself under a microscope for allowing farmers to irrigate their crops with oilfield wastewater, a practice it had tolerated for decades.” , after evidence emerged that “the testing and treatment of hazardous chemicals in oilfield wastewater used for irrigation was inadequate,” writes Liza Gross. The council hired a consultant, GSI Environmental, to study question, then used that study to assure the public that he had found “no identifiable increased health risk” from irrigating crops with recycled water from oil wells. that GSI had “close ties to the petroleum industry – ties so close that GSI has previously listed Chevron, ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum as customers we cater to”.

Bryce K. Locke