BRB w/ Nathan P – Mangrove Reforestation, Roasted Maple Butternut & The Third Plate
How one mighty ecosystem protects from the impacts of climate change, a savory dish to ring in Fall, and reflections on food from the 2-Michelin chef at Blue Hill (#39).
Welcome back to BRB w/ Nathan P, your 5-min weekly dose of climate information to inspire climate action.
My mission is to make it fun, easy, and delicious to make more sustainable decisions.
Each Wednesday, I share 💥1 Breakthrough, 🥘1 Recipe, and 📚1 Book on food & climate.
💥 Breakthrough: Mangrove Reforestation
If there is one ecosystem with disproportional positive impact, it is mangroves.
Mangroves account for only 1% of the world’s surface yet sequester 50% of the world’s marine carbon in sediments.
🌊 Protect from flooding and tsunamis
🌾 Filter pollutants and excess nutrients from agriculture
🦀 Provide homes to species as diverse as clams, manatees, and Bengal tigers
This post dives into why they’re so essential, and what we can do to help them regenerate.
Why mangroves are so essential
Mangroves are found in 123 countries, mostly in tropical areas. There are more than 80 species – from dwarfs to four-story giants – who inhabit the low-oxygen and slow-moving coastal waters.
Mangroves are often rooted in areas with brackish water – a combination of fresh and saltwater – where the salt levels would kill 99% of plants.
It’s no surprise that they purify water extremely well. Over 200 million years of evolution, mangroves developed the best desalinization mechanisms on Earth. Scientists are even learning to create “synthetic mangroves” to desalinize water, mimicking their structure that generates highly negative pressures 5X stronger than conventional reverse osmosis (Wang et al., 2020).
Mangroves are not only treasure troves of biodiversity and marine innovation, but also essential players to mitigate climate change and its impacts. Mangroves buffer against sea-level rise, protect fisheries on which our food security depends, and capture impressive amounts of carbon.
They can sequester four times the carbon of a terrestrial forest per acre. Mangroves store around 6 billion tons of carbon worldwide, mostly in the sediments beneath. This carbon stored in coastal sediments is referred to as blue carbon.
However, millions of acres of mangroves have been wiped by both man-made and natural events. Mangroves are often cut to grow rice paddies or palm plantations. And an especially strong El Niño in 2016 led to the largest recorded mangrove dieoff in Australia.
Reforesting mangroves is an opportunity for disproportional environmental benefits. With the right measures in place, protecting mangroves could remove or avoid an additional 3 billion tons of emissions by 2030.
What we can do to help
There are a few organized efforts that have shown to be highly effective in regenerating mangroves:
Integrating mangroves into climate policy with national inventories
Create protected areas for mangroves
Curb plastic pollution and ensure responsible tourism in mangrove areas
Involve local knowledge and communities to manage mangrove forests
Incentivize mangrove protection and end incentives for their destruction
Promote media campaigns on their benefits to fishermen and local economies
For more tips and actions you can take, check out the helpful resources on Nexus.
🥘 Recipe: Roasted Maple Butternut
It’s Fall, which means squash season is here.
This week, I’ve paired a butternut squash oven-roasted in thyme and maple syrup with a nut-crusted salmon filet. Reply to this email and I’ll send you the recipe.
If you make it, please send pictures :)
📚 Book: The Third Plate
Dan Barber is the two-Michelin star chef behind Blue Hill at Stone Barns. I got to tour the farm and try their lunch menu at the '“Cafeteria” a few weeks ago – everything burst with flavor.
The dinner menu at his restaurant is now top of my wishlist – and even more so after reading his book The Third Plate.
Dan Barber calls for a new paradigm on the future of food. He recognizes the detriment to soil, health, and flavor caused by the commoditization of agriculture, which he tries to remedy with a farm-to-table approach.
His take on a few topics changed my perspective on food and agriculture:
🌾 Wheat dominates US agriculture by land – there are 60 million acres of wheat farmland in the US alone, more so than all other fruits and vegetables combined. We should give organic whole wheat grain the same attention we give to organic produce.
🌊 Plankton can be a flavorful and nutritious ingredient, as pioneered in the cuisine of Spanish chef Angel León. And it carries deep emotional ties to the oceans. Using plankton in bread can actually improve yeast rising by 70%.
🌽 Industrial corn has swept away century-old varietals, as well as their rich flavor. Bringing them back can result in the most flavorful polenta of our lives.
Blue Hill at Stone Barns is not just the epitome of a farm-to-table restaurant: it is a restaurant in the middle of a farm. Though Dan Barber acknowledges that the farm-to-table movement is falling short: it fails to change what we eat and how we eat.
Sustainability in food is not simply the sustainability of individual ingredients, arranged in the portions and protein-vegetable ratios we choose. It is when our plates match what the land has to offer, in a harmonious and regenerative rather than extractive relationship.
Some favorite quotes:
The greatest lesson came with the realization that good food cannot be reduced to single ingredients. It requires a web of relationships to support it.
The more you learn about the destruction of the prairie, the more difficult it becomes to see a modern wheat field as a a thing of beauty, in the same way it is hard to see beauty in a clear-cut forest.
Farm-to-table chefs may claim to base their cooking on whatever the farmer’s picked that day (and I should know, I do it often), but whatever the farmer has picked that day is really about an expectation of what will be purchased that day. Which is really about an expected way of eating. … The farmer ends up servicing the table, not the other way around.
If you’re working on a problem you can solve in your own lifetime, you’re not thinking big enough.
Thank you for reading – BRB next week ✌️
Hi there! My name is Nathan Paumier – I’m an avid reader, food enthusiast, and climate optimist. I started this newsletter after frequent questions on food tech, reading recommendations, and my secret recipes.
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