Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Today’s top story is a letter penned by a 19 year old activist, Victoria Barrett, in response to a belittling remark by a politician to another young activist. It should give us hope that the next generation will hold the current law makers to account. In other news, don’t miss the historical narrative on how scientists discovered climate change from 1979-1989 or the article on how your family can take practical steps to reduce your waste… to one small bag of rubbish a week. It’s daunting as an idea, so break it down into small steps.

Top Story

‘You’re the naive one’: youth activist’s open letter to a candidate for governor | The Guardian
As an environmental activist, Barrett represents marginalized voices at international conferences and has addressed the United Nations General Assembly on the topic of youth involvement in its sustainable development goals. Barrett, 19, attends University of Wisconsin-Madison on a full scholarship and intends to pursue a career in politics.

USA – Last month, a young environmentalist, someone like me, tried to hold you accountable for your actions, as we should with all public servants. At a town hall meeting, Rose Strauss, a Sunrise Movement activist, asked you why you accept fossil fuel campaign donations when we know climate change is going to harm young people at an unjust rate. But, instead of doing your duty as a politician and being transparent with your actions, you responded by calling her “young and naive”.

Climate Change

Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change | The New York Times
This narrative by Nathaniel Rich is a work of history, addressing the 10-year period from 1979 to 1989: the decisive decade when humankind first came to a broad understanding of the causes and dangers of climate change. Complementing the text is a series of aerial photographs and videos, all shot over the past year by George Steinmetz. With support from the Pulitzer Center, this two-part article is based on 18 months of reporting and well over a hundred interviews. It tracks the efforts of a small group of American scientists, activists and politicians to raise the alarm and stave off catastrophe. It will come as a revelation to many readers — an agonizing revelation — to understand how thoroughly they grasped the problem and how close they came to solving it.

Environment and Biodiversity

Pollutionwatch: city sparrows’ decline linked to car exhausts | The Guardian
UK – The cheeky house sparrow is the archetypal city bird. You can find them around the world, but they are in serious decline in cities in Italy, Canada, India and the UK. London’s house sparrow population fell by 60% between 1994 and 2006. Scientists from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds fed London sparrows in 33 colonies and compared them with birds at 33 other places where no extra food was offered. More food meant more fledglings, but it did not improve their wintertime survival.

‘A lot of transparency’: Frydenberg defends $444m grant to small reef charity | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – The environment and energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, has dismissed concerns about the Turnbull government’s decision to hand an unsolicited grant of $444m to a small Great Barrier Reef not-for-profit without a tender process.

Nearly half of Coomera koalas die after Gold Coast relocation | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – The Queensland Government is reviewing its koala “translocation” policy after more than 40 per cent of animals removed from the booming northern Gold Coast suburb of Coomera died within five years.

Rare Kakahi (fresh water mussels) released in Wellington |
NEW ZEALAND – Kākahi (fresh water mussels) are in decline in New Zealand, but 200 have been relocated to Wellington where their growth will be studied. At wildlife sanctuary Zealandia, the Kākahi will be tracked by microchip and monitored by scientists. One of the country’s lesser-known species, Kākahi are said to be more threatened than the little spotted Kiwi or Kōkako.

The monitored translocation on Thursday was the first of its kind for moving Kākahi in New Zealand. Photo: Linton Miller/Supplied

The monitored translocation on Thursday was the first of its kind for moving Kākahi in New Zealand. Photo: Linton Miller/Supplied

Economy and Business

Kraft Heinz targets 100% sustainable packaging by 2025 | Climate Action Programme
The Kraft Heinz Company is upping its game on the circular economy. According to a statement this week, the manufacturer has committed to making all its packaging “recyclable, reusable, or compostable” within the next eight years. Kraft Heinz joins a group of other companies, including Coca-Cola, Mars, and L’Oréal, which used the World Economic Forum in January to make the same pledge.

Plugging in to mains power saves Air New Zealand millions of litres of fuel | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – Air New Zealand says it has saved the enough fuel for 20 flights between Auckland and Los Angeles by plugging in to mains power while on the ground here during the past year. Instead of using big Auxiliary Power Units in their tails, jets are running off mains power to run onboard lighting, air conditioning and mechanical systems at the gate when the main engines are off.

A strategic public procurement policy for NZ? | Newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – Does a sustainable procurement policy make sense for New Zealand? Earlier this week, Newsroom ran an article in which Environmental Choice New Zealand called on the Government to leverage its buying power to increase the availability of sustainable products and technology, suggesting that New Zealand was 10 or 20 years behind the rest of the world. About a year ago, a similar article ran on the same topic. I suspect many people would be surprised that the New Zealand Government does not have such a policy and is not a leader in this field.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Why can’t all plastic waste be recycled? | The Conversation
UK – The UK produced 11m tonnes of plastic waste in 2017, and recycled around two thirds of it. Or so it seemed. A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) shows that over half of the UK’s recyclable waste is sent overseas for recycling, but much of it is likely to end up in landfill or the ocean instead. The recycling regime is a mess in the UK – but what’s stopping Britain from making all of its plastic waste recyclable and ensuring it is actually recycled?

Related: Why compostable plastics may be no better for the environment | The Conversation

How a family can reduce their waste to just one bag a week | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – The Lovetts, a family of four living in a breezy tropical house in suburban Darwin, don’t consider themselves exceptional. But each week they do something that others might regard as miraculous and put just one small bag of household rubbish out in their kerbside waste. With the war on waste raging on multiple fronts, and the City of Darwin this week joining a number of councils to ban single-use plastics, you might be wondering how to holistically reduce your own household’s impact on the environment.

Photo: Rachel Lovett has been taking small, practical steps to get the rest of the family recycling. (ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson)

Photo: Rachel Lovett has been taking small, practical steps to get the rest of the family recycling. (ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson)

On the road to tackling Australia’s waste crisis | SMH
AUSTRALIA – In May, Hume City became the first council in Australia to trial a new form of asphalt – known as Plastiphalt – that is made out of plastic bags and glass bottles diverted from landfill. The project has put Rayfield Avenue on the map. It has been mentioned in conferences as far afield as Sweden and Nigeria, and Hume City has fielded lots of phone calls from local councils wanting to know more.

Politics and Society

Australia and other countries must prioritise humanity in dealing with displaced people and migration | The Conversation
After six rounds of consultations, United Nations member states have produced the final draft of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM). Key points include securing the human rights of migrants, reducing vulnerabilities in migration, and the use of migration detention only as a last resort. The global compact also promotes “integrated, secure and coordinated” border management. Its aim is for states to cooperate rather than focus strictly on their domestic priorities.

California vows to ‘fight this stupidity’ as EPA moves to scrap clean car rules | The Guardian
USA – The Trump administration has moved to weaken US vehicle emissions standards and has set up a major confrontation with California by scrapping its ability to enact stricter pollution standards and mandate the sale of electric cars.

Colombia bans the use of mercury in mining | Mongabay
Colombia’s government announced on July 16 that it has banned the use of mercury in all mineral extraction activities. By 2023 mercury will be entirely prohibited for industrial use. In March of this year, Colombia also ratified the Minamata Convention, an international treaty that seeks to reduce global emissions of mercury and its detrimental effects on health and the environment. The challenge now will be to control mercury use in illegal mining.

In mining, mercury is commonly used to separate ore from rocky substrate. Reports have documented many instances of miners throughout the Amazon using the substance without any protection. Exposure to mercury can result in neurological impairment, as well as the loss of hair, teeth, nails and kidney function. Photo by Manuel Saldarriaga / El Colombiano

In mining, mercury is commonly used to separate ore from rocky substrate. Reports have documented many instances of miners throughout the Amazon using the substance without any protection. Exposure to mercury can result in neurological impairment, as well as the loss of hair, teeth, nails and kidney function. Photo by Manuel Saldarriaga / El Colombiano


Australia’s 2017 solar PV installation tally already eclipsed – in July | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – The amount of solar PV installed in Australia so far in 2018 has already surpassed the combined total of all installations for the whole of 2017, and it has done so just over half way through the year.


America’s first big offshore wind farm sets record low price of 6.5c/kWh | RenewEconomy
USA – America’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm is expected to save electricity consumers in the state of Massachusetts around $1.4 billion over 20 years, by supplying power about 18 per cent cheaper than any alternative sources.

Only 1% of MPs see the light on energy prices | Climate Action Programme
UK – British Members of Parliament have again shown a worrying level of ignorance on basic energy facts. A YouGov survey of 100 MPs found that only 1 percent knew that energy bills and energy demand are both falling. The majority, 64 percent, felt that the opposite was true, highlighting the disconnect between reporting and reality on the issue.

Built Environment

We need to talk about mangroves, offsets and Walker Corp | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – The Walker Corporation has come under the spotlight for its masterplan at Toondah Harbour redevelopment on Brisbane’s Moreton Bay that encroaches on mangroves protected under the Moreton Bay Ramsar Wetland. So how important are mangroves? According to the experts they provide a vital role in protecting the coast from severe weather and erosion. They provide breeding habitat for marine species and sequester massive amounts of carbon emissions. Yet despite their value, and that it’s technically illegal to clear them, we are still losing large areas of this incredibly important vegetation.

The toxic face of PVC manufacturing exposed | The Fifth Estate
The building design sector should be careful when selecting building and furnishing materials containing PVC, with a new report finding mercury, asbestos, PFAS chemicals and other hazardous substances in the footprint of some chlorine-based materials. The Healthy Building Network undertook research into manufacturing facilities in the Americas, Europe and Africa, examining the supply chain of products including plastic pipes, roofing, flooring, adhesives, building membranes and claddings.

Food Systems

Has the Netherlands figured out how to mainstream seaweed? | Ensia
Under his pseudonym The Green Chef, Van Luijk is at the market to promote seaweed as the food of the future. He says along with the vitamins and minerals, seaweed is also full of protein, and cultivation requires no arable land, no fertilizer and no freshwater. And by growing it locally, he says, the Netherlands could wield a sustainable food source that has the added benefit of cleansing the seawater along the Dutch coast.

Clip: Vitamania | SMH (Film clip 0:57)
A clip from a documentary about vitamins in food and the vitamin industry.