Green Echoes #4

Key investigative stories, data sources, funding/training opportunities and our projects from across Asia.

Dear friends and supporters,

Welcome to Green Echoes, a newsletter from the Environmental Reporting Collective that highlights key investigative stories, data sources, reporting and training opportunities and our projects from across Asia. 

If you have questions, ideas or suggestions, reach me by responding to this email.

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Survey Results

Firstly, our deepest thanks to the more than 50 of you who took the time out of your schedules to fill out our survey. Here are some key points you raised:.

  • 80% of respondents said quality mattered more than cost or brand. This is great news for many of us not working in the big flagship publications. 

  • The most prominent themes of interest among those surveyed were climate change and wildlife and biodiversity, followed by corruption and crime.

  • Respondents said that environmental journalism needed to do a better job in connecting the raw data to the lives of ordinary people, and make it understandable.

  • Many believe that journalism should distinguish itself from advocacy.

  • And when it comes to this newsletter, most wanted to see us focus on 1. new environmental reporting, 2. new research and data, and 3. opportunities to collaborate.

You can read a summary of all the findings here, by Ryan Ho Kilpatrick.

This week’s best reporting from across Asia

Our colleague Keith Anthony Fabro reports for Mongabay on how communities in the biodiversity haven of Palawan in the Philippines are protecting natural habitats. They're doing this even amidst a dramatic drop in tourism income since the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Indonesia’s wildlife markets are “like a cafeteria for animal pathogens,” but they have resisted efforts to close, according to Richard C. Paddock and Dera Menra Sijabat report for the New York Times. That's even as China has shut its own markets over coronavirus fears.

Ilaria Mazzocco reports for Marco Polo on the uncertainties facing new energy industries in China. Will Beijing be able to keep bending the emissions curve? That largely hinges on how China’s post-pandemic economic stimulus plan will look like.

Did you know that Nepal has the greatest variety of birdlife for its area in all the world? They are facing threats, and in this piece for our friends at the Nepali Times, Sewa Bhattarai looks into why every year, fewer and fewer birds are wintering in the Himalayan nation. 

The Tech Transparency Project has released the results of an investigation that found several Facebook pages offering to sell pangolins, or their scales. It's the latest of several reports and investigations that point the finger at the social network for failing to police illegal wildlife trafficking on its platform. 

(We're wondering if these sales are just scams or actually trade in wildlife. If you have insights, lets us know.)


The Sue Palminteri WildTech Reporting Fellowship from Mongabay is accepting applications. It's a part-time, 6 months fellowship. The fellow will write roughly six news stories and six interviews over six months, on a variety of conservation technology topics. Apply here (Deadline June 5).

The FIRE Newsroom is accepting applications to fund freelance investigative proposals. Note: these grants are for English-language outlets only, and while international stories are welcome, they note that "it's helpful to have a United States angle." (Rolling deadline). 

The Goethe Institute is accepting applications for a digital storytelling workshop that will take place from this coming July to January 2021. It is open to young journalists from Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand (Deadline June 1).

Reminder: Today is the deadline to apply for the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative workshop in October on good governance and civil society across ASEAN and Timor Leste. 

If you’d like to highlight a funding opportunity, let me know by responding to this email.  

Data and other resources

Starting with two useful academic studies. Firstly, this just published early, unedited manuscript in Nature that one coronavirus isolated from a Malayan pangolin showed between 90.7 and 100% amino acid identity with SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for Covid-19.

While there is much research (and reporting) to be done, more signs are pointing towards wildlife trafficking playing a causal role in the ongoing global pandemic. (Here’s a related Sustainable Asia podcast episode)

Secondly, this study analyzed the illegal trade in Indian Star Tortoises in Asia. Its authors used data collected by the Wildlife Justice Commission between 2016 and 2019.

Last week, our colleague Bao Choy exposed how Chinese courts are giving lenient punishments to those convicted of pangolin-related crimes in her report for Oxpeckers. She shared the court data here. It is part of Oxpeckers effort to track and share wildlife trafficking cases across Asia.

Related: Hong Kong handed down its stiffest sentence yet for pangolin scale smuggling this week. Karen Zhang reports on this for The South China Morning Post.

For those of you interested in the fishing industry, check out Spyglass: a cooperative platform that provides access to records for nearly 3,700 fishing vessels and 1,200 companies so far. 

Also, Global Fishing Watch just started a series of blog posts on the impact of the pandemic on the fisheries. Remarkably, their data suggests that unlike in the rest of the world, Chinese fleets have largely returned to normalcy

Is there a new data source you’d like us to highlight? Let me know by responding to this email.

Events and Trainings

Sustainable Asia will host a Facebook livestream Q&A on May 20 with two biologists from the University of Hong Kong on whether “COVID-19 can save pangolins”. 

The International Center for Journalists and the Facebook Journalism Project are organizing a four-party webinar series on virtual video content creation for journalists in Asia, starting on May 15, and running until May 22. You can register for them here.

The Economist is hosting a World Ocean Summit Insight Hour on the topic: The future of seafood: how can we feed the world? It takes place on May 28. Register here.

Are you hosting an event you want to feature here? Let me know. 

Nithin Coca,

The Environmental Reporting Collective is a group of reporters and editors across Asia and elsewhere, working together to rethink how environmental journalism is done. We support collaborative journalism projects that start new conversations on how our societies impact our planet. Such stories are complex and expensive. That’s why they require new approaches to research, reporting, editing and distribution.

To learn more about our work, check out our website, Investigative.Earth, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook. You can also let us know what you would like to see in this newsletter by responding to this email.