Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Antony Gormley: Humans are building ‘a vast termites’ nest’ of greed
Antony Gormley says his first White Cube exhibition in four years, which opens in September, is driven by “more of a sense of urgency” than any other show he has done. From the warming of our climate and the acidification of our seas to cities dominated by skyscrapers – “nothing more than expressions of virile corporate power,” says Gormley – the artist’s despair at society’s failure to take action has filtered unavoidably into his latest work.

“We are living in a really strange time,” Gormley said. “Yet we are all sleepwalking through it. And it is urgent we wake up. We are sort of aware the centre cannot hold, that 250 years of industrial activity has undermined and fundamentally disturbed our world – yet we feel somehow not responsible.”

People or cityscape ... Sleeping Field (2016) by Antony Gormley. Photograph: Stephen White, London/White Cube

People or cityscape … Sleeping Field (2016) by Antony Gormley. Photograph: Stephen White, London/White Cube

Energy and Climate Change

ESCO wins planning consent for 135MW solar farm in north Queensland
Australian solar farm developer ESCO Pacific says it has received planning consent for the development of a 135MW solar farm at Ross River near Townsville.  The project, to be sited on a disused mango plantation, was approved by the Townsville City Council recently, but still needs finance to go ahead.

Victorian government commits to new wind farms
AUSTRLALIA – The Victorian government has signed contracts with ACCIONA Energy and Windlab for two new wind farms to be built in Mt Gellibrand and Kiata. Minister for energy, environment and climate change Lily D’Ambrosio said the government would buy renewable energy certificates for its electricity use direct from new Victorian projects, which could save the state up to $67 million in energy costs over 10 years.

Trustpower gets approval for 300MW wind farm in Victoria
New Zealand renewable energy developer Trustpower says it has won planning approval for a 300MW wind farm near Dundonnell, in south-west Victoria, and could begin construction next year.

Environment and Biodiversity

African wildlife officials appalled as EU opposes a total ban on ivory trade
Wildlife officials in nearly 30 African states say they are appalled by an EU decision to oppose a comprehensive global ban on the ivory trade. In a position paper released on 1 July, the European commission said that rather than an all-encompassing ban it would be better to encourage countries with growing elephant numbers to “sustainably manage” their populations.

Fulton Hogan sign $1m partnership with DOC takahe programme
NEW ZEALAND – Fulton Hogan has joined the fight to save endangered takahe, announcing a $1million partnership with the Department of Conservation.

Replanting oil palm plantations reduces frog diversity, but researchers say there are ways to fix that
It’s well known that when forests are converted to palm oil plantations, biodiversity suffers. But oil palm trees only last for about 25 to 30 years, at which point they are cut down and the plantation is re-planted with new trees, leading once again to dramatic changes in the local ecosystem. What happens to biodiversity then? The impacts of these abrupt periodic changes due to the life cycle of palm oil plantations are less well known, as it turns out. Can the re-planting process be improved to mitigate the detrimental effects on flora and fauna?

These Sick Animals Could Be Key to Understanding Cancer
Sea lions have the highest known cancer rate in wildlife, which came to light when Gulland and others started cataloguing a disturbing number of urogenital cancers in the animals off the California coast. Twenty years ago, they found a strikingly high 18 percent (66 out of 370 animals) of sea lions examined since 1979 had signs of aggressive urinary and genital cancers. In more recent years, they’ve reported the same high rate. Soon after, they detected a stubborn virus in the dead animals.

Economy and Business

Renewable jet fuel could be growing on Australia’s iconic gum trees
Australia’s economy may have ridden on the sheep’s back but the colonies’ first export was actually Eucalyptus oil. From a small batch of oil distilled from Sydney peppermint gum sent to England by First Fleet Surgeon-General John White, an industry grew around the use of the oil for medicinal and industrial purposes. As demand grew around the world, Australia dominated the global supply. But as the 20th century progressed, cheaper production from plantations in Spain, Portugal, South Africa and China drove Australia’s market share down to less than 5%… But a range of cutting-edge new uses for plant-based oils appear set to give this old dog some new tricks, potentially jolting the local eucalyptus oil industry out of its sleepy niche and into the high-tech limelight.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Ocean CleanUp deploys first prototype aimed at clearing Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 2020
As scientists look to find a way to rid the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch of thousands of tonnes of waste plastic, a prototype ocean cleaning system has been deployed in the North Sea off the coast of the Netherlands. Developed by the Dutch foundation, the 100-metre-long barrier prototype — known as the Ocean Cleanup system — is powered by the ocean’s currents and acts as an artificial coastline that can catch and concentrate debris in water.

NAIDOC 2016: Cape York artist brings ghost net sculptures to Canberra
AUSTRALIA – A senior Indigenous artist has travelled more than 2,300 kilometres from Cape York to Canberra to share the story of his people’s ghost net art — sculptures woven from abandoned, lost or discarded fishing nets.

Politics and Society

UN calls for post-Brexit UK to link with EU on environment policy
The UN’s new environment chief has called for a post-Brexit Britain to link up with the EU on environment policy, adopting key bloc climate laws and maintaining its nature directives. In his first interview since taking office, Erik Solheim told the Guardian it was vital that supranational decisions continued for problems such as pollution and wildlife crime which crossed borders, and could not be dealt with by states acting alone.

Threatened species face extinction owing to ‘God clause’, scientists say
Western Australia’s government could have the power to approve activities that could make a threatened species extinct, under biodiversity laws now before state parliament. The provision has been dubbed “the God clause” by scientists and conservationists, who say giving the environment minister discretion to effectively authorise the extinction of a species contradicts the very purpose of biodiversity legislation.

Built Environment

New Mayor of London unveils plan to tackle pollution
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan unveiled his plans on Tuesday to set a £10 pollution charge for old cars driving in central London. Another charge is already in application – the congestion charge of £11.50 – and both would then be applied to all cars that were first sold before 2005, starting next year, but the new charge would not concern taxis. Khan’s proposals to reduce air pollution in London involve an expansion of a planned Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) charging polluting cars and lorries from 2019, beyond central London to the North and South Circular roads, and replacing fuel-powered buses by cleaner ones quicker.

Victoria’s South East Councils to expand residential sustainability program
AUSTRALIA – The South East Councils Climate Change Alliance is set to expand a pilot sustainable homes program currently operated with Stockland at the developer’s Selandra Rise estate on Melbourne’s outskirts. SECCCA was awarded a $330,000 grant by the Victorian government through the $20 million New Energy Jobs Fund to expand the service – which assists new home buyers with information on engaging builders to achieve more sustainable dwellings – to other greenfield developments. Implementing the program’s suggestions could help homeowners achieve a home that uses up to 60 per cent less energy, Victorian minister for energy, environment and climate change Lily D’Ambrosio said.

Collaborative design for small footprint living in Clifton Hill
AUSTRALIA – A joint venture mixed-use multi-residential development by Assemble, Wulff Projects and Icon Co in Melbourne’s Clifton Hill is using a collaborative design approach to deliver sustainable, small-footprint living. The 122 Roseneath St development will comprise 49 apartments and 18 townhouses designed around flexible shared spaces, including a multi-purpose workshop and a communal room with an adjoining north-facing terrace that can be used for dining and entertaining.


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