Sustainable Development News
Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
If you like what you see, you are welcome to sign up (on the right) for free sustainable development news delivered direct to your inbox each weekday morning.
Today’s top story is an opinion piece that elegantly explains why we need to consider the value of a healthy society and environment in the economy. The Economist also featured a ‘Leaders’ opinion that concludes a short term financial cost is necessary in taking action, specifically on climate emissions, but is applicable to all sectors of the economy, and calls out politicians as essential in driving action. The World Bank talks about the importance of investing money in human capital, while question marks are put on the supply chains for renewables, including exploitation of labour for mining cobalt. And if you want to invest in your little human, an academic recommends five books on parenting grounded in science.
Nicola Patrick: Counting on things Kiwis really value | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – An upward trend in GDP has been shorthand for economic success for many years when, in reality, GDP is just a measure of turnover, driven by bad activities as effectively as good ones. The costs of responding to a car accident increase GDP, while a business improving its energy efficiency and spending less reduces it. That just doesn’t make sense. The Indicators Aotearoa project is being run by Stats NZ and is seeking input from Kiwis who want their views to count. It’s about creating a new tool based on our values to determine whether we’re heading in the right direction as a country.
Pollution is slowing the melting of Arctic sea ice, for now | The Guardian
The Arctic is one of the “canaries in the coal mine” for climate change. Long ago, scientists predicted it would warm quicker than other parts of the planet, and they were right. Currently, the Arctic is among the fastest-warming places on the planet. Part of the reason is that as the Arctic warms, ice melts and ocean water is uncovered. The ocean is darker than ice so it in turn absorbs more sunlight and increases its warming. This is a feedback loop.
Wildfire as a major driver of recent permafrost thaw in boreal peatlands | Nature Communications
Permafrost vulnerability to climate change may be underestimated unless effects of wildfire are considered. Here we assess impacts of wildfire on soil thermal regime and rate of thermokarst bog expansion resulting from complete permafrost thaw in western Canadian permafrost peatlands.
Environment and Biodiversity
Antarctic seas host a surprising mix of lifeforms – and now we can map them | The Conversation
What sort of life do you associate with Antarctica? Penguins? Seals? Whales? Actually, life in Antarctic waters is much broader than this, and surprisingly diverse. Hidden under the cover of sea-ice for most of the year, and living in cold water near the seafloor, are thousands of unique and colourful species.
Oceans’ last chance: ‘It’s taken years of negotiations to set this up’ | The Guardian
Wildlife in most of the lawless high seas faces an existential threat from fishing, shipping and the military. Next month, a landmark UN conference could finally bring hope.
Welsh river study reveals ‘troubling’ decline of wildlife | The Guardian
UK – One of the longest-running studies of streams in the world – the minute study of 14 brooks that tumble through a remote Welsh mountain landscape – has exposed a troubling loss of riverine wildlife. Ecologists working on the Llyn Brianne Observatory project in mid Wales, which has been in operation for almost 40 years, have flagged up the disappearance and decline of invertebrates from the streams.
Trump administration lifts ban on pesticides linked to declining bee numbers | The Guardian
USA – The Trump administration has rescinded an Obama-era ban on the use of pesticides linked to declining bee populations and the cultivation of genetically modified crops in dozens of national wildlife refuges where farming is permitted.
Economy and Business
The world is losing the war against climate change – In the line of fire | The Economist
EARTH is smouldering. From Seattle to Siberia this summer, flames have consumed swathes of the northern hemisphere. One of 18 wildfires sweeping through California, among the worst in the state’s history, is generating such heat that it created its own weather. Fires that raged through a coastal area near Athens last week killed 91 (see article). Elsewhere people are suffocating in the heat. Roughly 125 have died in Japan as the result of a heatwave that pushed temperatures in Tokyo above 40°C for the first time. Such calamities, once considered freakish, are now commonplace.
Investing in People to Build Human Capital | World Bank
Scientific and technological advances are transforming lives: they are even helping poorer countries close the gap with rich countries in life expectancy… There is a moral case to be made, of course, for investing in the health and education of all people. But there is an economic one as well: to be ready to compete and thrive in a rapidly changing environment. “Human capital” – the potential of individuals – is going to be the most important long-term investment any country can make for its people’s future prosperity and quality of life.
Fairtrade renewable energy: shedding light on clean energy’s dirty secrets | The Conversation
The world is coming together on renewable energy. Trust in technology such as solar and wind power generation is increasingly reflected in the investment it receives from governments around the globe. In the UK, fairness to the consumer and affordability are at centre stage as the country look to eradicate fuel poverty on the road to a zero-carbon future… But there’s a reality we’re all overlooking when it comes to the future of our energy supply. That is, we’re only applying a sense of fairness to our own society. We must take a global view of fair trade in energy, which is conscious of the true cost of our low to zero-carbon technologies.
Waste and the Circular Economy
Plastic food pots and trays are often unrecyclable, say councils | BBC News
UK – Most of the plastic food containers that householders wash out after use and put in the recycling bin cannot actually be recycled, it has emerged. The mixture of plastics used in many yoghurt pots, ready meal trays and other containers limits the ability of councils to recycle them. The Local Government Association says that only a third can be recycled. The rest get sent to landfill. Up to 80% of packaging could be made more recyclable, the industry said.
Crunch time for Walkers over non-recyclable crisp packets | The Guardian
The UK’s biggest crisp brand, Walkers, will come under pressure this week to explain why it is helping to fuel the plastic waste littering the streets and seas by producing more than 7,000 non-recyclable crisp packets every minute. A new analysis carried out by campaign organisation 38 Degrees has found that Walkers is set to produce an additional 28bn plastic crisp packets by 2025 – the date by which the company has pledged to make its crisp packets 100% recyclable, compostable or biodegradable.
DIY recycling machine brings backyard waste management one step closer | ABC News
Backyard plastic recycling plants could be step closer to reality, with a group of Monash University engineering students creating a portable unit that can fit on the back of a ute. Bottles, containers, trays and plastic bags can be broken down by the machine and transformed into anything that can be made in a mould, including phone cases, bowls and even structural beams.
Politics and Society
Denialism: what drives people to reject the truth | The Guardian (Book talk)
We are all in denial, some of the time at least. Part of being human, and living in a society with other humans, is finding clever ways to express – and conceal – our feelings. From the most sophisticated diplomatic language to the baldest lie, humans find ways to deceive. Deceptions are not necessarily malign; at some level they are vital if humans are to live together with civility. As Richard Sennett has argued: “In practising social civility, you keep silent about things you know clearly but which you should not and do not say.”
The ‘golden age of citizen science’ and how it is reshaping the world | The Guardian
Citizen science is currently booming in Australia and around the world. As research funding dries up, and technology makes cataloguing and tracking everything easier, citizens are increasingly filling the data collection void. Amateur stargazers create crowdsourced star maps. Gamers with spare CPU capacity link up in mass computing events that model the way protein strands work and CSIRO is calling on householders to track their energy use. But across disciplines, it is environmental science that attracts the most projects and the most dedicated people.
The five best parenting books grounded in science: an expert’s choice | The Conversation
New parenting books seem to pop up all the time. How to do it the French way, the Tiger Mom way, the New Kid by Friday way, or how to just muddle through – the choice can be a little overwhelming. How can we know which guide will give us the answers to the questions that are most relevant to our needs, with an approach that we feel comfortable with?
Queensland mining rehabilitation laws allow loopholes for existing mines, advocates say | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Hundreds of mines will have the green light to leave behind environmentally hazardous no-go zones without public scrutiny, despite the Queensland Government touting landmark rehabilitation reforms, environmental advocates say. Under the Government’s new bill, expected to be passed later this year, existing mines will not have to justify plans to leave “non-use management areas”, which may include pit voids, waste rock and water dumps.
Nanogirl Dr Michelle Dickinson: Race against battery burnout | NZ Herald
Batteries are everywhere, quietly powering our smartphones, laptops and cars… Lithium-ion batteries seem to be saving the day when it comes to powering sustainable transport and smarter devices, but questions are starting to arise as to how green these batteries actually are for our increasingly sustainable lives.
Snowy Hydro 2.0 plans raise environmental concerns for scientists | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Before work on the Snowy 2.0 energy project has even begun, scientists are voicing concerns about proposed exploration works — including “contentious” plans to dump spoil in a reservoir. Details are contained in an environmental impact statement (EIS) currently on public exhibition and being assessed by the NSW State Government. In it, Snowy Hydro Limited outlines its intention to blast and drill a 3.1 kilometre tunnel to test rock conditions in preparation for designing a subterranean power station.
NEG promises death of wind and solar, and even battery storage | Renew Economy
AUSTRALIA – State government cabinets around the country will meet today to finalise positions on the National Energy Guarantee before Friday’s CoAG meeting. The ministers have been given little opportunity to understand this complex beast. The “Final detailed design” paper — which is neither final nor detailed — was released just five days ago. A worksheet with many of the numbers behind the modelling was published late on Friday. The devil is still very much in the yet-to-be-developed detail.
- Could the NEG bring down power prices? It’s hard to be confident that it will | The Conversation
- Where’s Waldo? The wobbly assumptions underpinning the NEG | Renew Economy
Buried UK government report finds fracking increases air pollution | The Guardian
A UK government report concluding that shale gas extraction increases air pollution was left unpublished for three years and only released four days after ministers approved fracking in Lancashire, it has emerged. The report, written by the government’s Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG), was given to ministers in 2015, but was published quietly on 27 July. Fracking firm Cuadrilla was given the first permit under a new regulatory regime on 24 July, the final day of the parliamentary year.
Air pollution linked to changes in heart structure | The Guardian
Air pollution is linked to changes in the structure of the heart of the sort seen in early stages of heart failure, say researchers. The finding could help explain the increased number of deaths seen in areas with high levels of dirty air. Such premature deaths can be linked to a number of causes including respiratory problems, stroke and coronary artery disease.
New Zealanders still want meat, just less | RNZ News
NEW ZEALAND – Red meat consumption in New Zealand has fallen 57 percent in the last decade and companies like Air New Zealand have started offering meat free burger patties. But Plant and Food Research scientist Dr Jocelyn Eason told RNZ’s Sunday Morning that did not mean New Zealanders wanted to replace meat with lab-grown meat. She said consumers were increasingly becoming “flexitarian” – choosing to be vegetarian sometimes and eat meat other times.