Fossil fuel divestment, Aboriginal knowledge, avian discoveries: 3 stories you may have missed

© Art Wolfe

Editor's Note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Conservation News shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

1. BlackRock C.E.O. Larry Fink: Climate crisis will reshape finance 

An investment firm that oversees the management of US$ 7 trillion in global funds is divesting from fossil fuels.

The Story: BlackRock founder and CEO Laurence D. Fink announced that the investment management firm would begin to exit investments that pose a “high sustainability-related risk,” such as those in coal and oil, reported Andrew Ross Sorkin for The New York Times. A BlackRock-led research initiative found that climate change is already impacting the economy, evidenced by higher insurance premiums for extreme weather events and an increase in investments in the clean energy sector. Moving forward, BlackRock will also introduce new funds that will exclude all fossil fuel-oriented stocks and urge companies to disclose plans for reducing their carbon emissions.

The Big Picture: “Awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance,” Fink wrote in his annual letter to chief executives of the world’s largest companies. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report, the top five risks facing the global economy are environmental — and companies must support new policies that align the targets for boosting economies with science-based solutions that protect nature. As the world’s largest investment manager, BlackRock — and its pledge to support sustainable investments — could help influence other large management firms to make similar divestments from fossil fuels. 

Read more here.

2. How Australia’s indigenous experts could help deal with devastating fires 

Aboriginal Australian communities are using traditional methods to fight fire — with fire. 

The Story: As unprecedented fires burn through Australia, experts are turning to indigenous leaders to help strategize how to manage the flames using traditional methods, reported Aarti Betigeri for Time. These traditional methods involve setting small, controlled fires at specific times during a season to burn dry grass, branches and invasive species that could fuel future flames. 

The Big Picture: “I see this resulting in greater community leadership and revival of indigenous knowledge,” said Victor Steffenson, an indigenous cultural burning expert. A critical aspect to controlling these purposely set fires is understanding the surrounding ecosystem, including its vegetation, wildlife and climate. With thousands of years of knowledge of this land, indigenous peoples can provide crucial insights into the Australian landscape and how to help control — and prevent — future fires. 

Read more here.

3. 10 new birds discovered in ‘lost world’

Scientists uncovered new bird species on three rarely explored islands in Indonesia. 

The Story: Researchers announced the discovery of 10 new species and subspecies of birds on three islands near Sulawesi, Indonesia, reported Tim Vernimmen for National Geographic. During an expedition to these islands in 2013 through 2014, this team of researchers was able to track the birds by listening to their unique songs, which did not match any previously documented bird melodies. 

The Big Picture: On average, fewer than six new bird species are discovered each year across the entire globe. Yet in just six weeks, these scientists were able to uncover 10 bird species and subspecies on three small islands. Indonesia provides a habitat for 17 percent of known bird species around the world — and national bird conservation efforts in the country are crucial to conserving global avian biodiversity. 

Read more here.

Kiley Price is a staff writer at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.

Cover image: A brush fire in 2007, Australia. (© Art Wolfe/www.artwolfe.com)


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