Sustainable Development News
Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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The Louvre’s closure proves art cannot survive climate change
One of the oldest human illusions is that culture is a conquest of, or an escape from, nature. It is an illusion we need to abandon fast. We might nurture some desperate dream that, as the benign post-ice age climate that has made civilisation possible is destroyed by our own folly and greed, our own creations will survive. That in some no longer distant future the Mona Lisa and the Arnolfini portrait, the works of Shakespeare and the scores of Beethoven’s operas will still be safe in museums and archives and great libraries. In short, that civilisation’s treasures will survive the flood.
Some hope. As the river Seine has risen in Paris in recent days, no less a museum than the Louvre has had to close its doors (along with the Musee d’Orsay) so that staff can save its artistic masterpieces from floodwater. This is not just a bizarre consequence of a bit of bad weather. It is a stark warning that civilisation can only survive in harmony with nature. If we destroy our planet, we destroy not just our current way of life but the human heritage itself – the high points of civilisation will be forgotten, drowned, ruined, effaced.
Energy and Climate Change
The role of climate change in eastern Australia’s wild storms
Australia’s east coast is recovering from a weekend of wild winds, waves and flooding, caused by a weather pattern known as an East Coast Low. Tragically, several people have died in flooding… East Coast Lows are a type of low-pressure system or cyclone that occur on the Australian east coast. They are not uncommon, with about seven to eight lows a year causing widespread rainfall along the east coast, particularly during late autumn and winter. An East Coast Low in April last year caused similar damage. But whenever they happen they raise the question: did climate change play a role?
See also: Sydney storm: East coast lows to become fewer but more intense, scientists say
Election FactCheck Q&A: is global demand for coal still going through the roof?
“Global demand for coal is still going through the roof.” – Trade Minister Steven Ciobo, speaking on Q&A, May 30, 2016. Trade Minister Steve Ciobo told the Q&A audience that global demand for coal is still going through the roof. (Watch from 2:38 in the clip above.) Is that correct?
Dubai plans world’s biggest, and cheapest, solar tower + storage project
The largest Concentrated Solar Power (CPS) project to be built on a single site in the world will begin power generation in Dubai within the next five years, officials announced on Thursday. The long view is that the new CPS site will generate 1,000 megawatts (MW) of power by 2030 as part of the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy to generate 75 per cent of Dubai’s power from clean energy by 2050.
The will of government is key to energy access…
In what must surely be a first for the Conversation, I am writing this post from the village of Sakteng in remote eastern Bhutan. That I can do so is a remarkable testimony to the will of the Bhutanese government in the electrification of what has to be one of the most difficult countries in the World to electrify.
Environment and Biodiversity
How other primates self-medicate – and what they could teach us
Despite our advances in technology and medicine, we seem to be fighting a never-ending battle against a number of diseases and ailments. As viruses become more complex and bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, it seems that the lab-made drugs we have become so dependent on may no longer provide the cures we need. Perhaps this is why we are now turning to nature in the hope that there may be a remedy tucked away somewhere in a remote tropical rain forest. It could be that our closest living relatives, non-human primates, hold some of the answers we seek. Many species including chimpanzees make use of the natural resources in their habitats to self-medicate and improve their own health.
EcoCheck: Perth’s Banksia woodlands are in the path of the sprawling city
Western Australia’s iconic Banksia woodlands are the predominant ecosystem along the Swan Coastal Plain – part of the southwest Australian global biodiversity hotspot, a region internationally recognised for its huge diversity of flowers and other wildlife. With more than 2,100 plant species, 2,250 invertebrates and 256 vertebrates, these woodlands are truly unique. However, they share this coastal plain with Perth, one of the fastest-growing cities in the world.
Key koala habitat at risk by ‘secret’ government land sale
A koala habitat has been placed on sale in an online auction by the Baird government in a move community groups say is aimed at limiting public opposition. Seven lots totalling more than six hectares that abut the Port Stephens-Great Lake Marine Park Sanctuary Zone will be open for bids for four days from Monday. Koalas are known to head to the nearby sands for a salt lick every spring, a route locals say will be cut off if the forest is sold off for development.
Help is on the way for dwindling population of black-fronted terns
NEW ZEALAND – If kiwis were to become extinct the entire country would undoubtedly be devastated. But the same cannot be said for the black-fronted tern. With an estimated 10,000 or less left in the wild, black-fronted terns are more endangered than our beloved kiwi.
Penguin colony at mercy of tourists
Mainland New Zealand’s largest yellow-eyed penguin colony is in “dire” need of protection from crowds of tourists, and a tourism operation at Katiki Point could be the solution. Penguin Rescue manager Rosalie Goldsworthy said the birds at Katiki Point, near Moeraki, had a poor breeding season last year and were under increasing pressure from tourists. Controlling visitors was a key to their survival, she said.
Crowdfunding project to help plant around the country’s waterways
NEW ZEALAND – A crowdfunding campaign is trying to save the country’s waterways one metre at a time, including 1250m in Dannevirke. The Million Metres project is the country’s first conservation-focused crowdfunding platform. Project manager Georgina Hart said they had the “modest target” of covering one million metres of waterways with riparian planting. Riparian planting filters toxic runoff and prevents sediment washing into water. About 1250m of that will be at Dannevirke sheep and beef farmer John Poulton’s farm. Poulton said he recalled growing up when he could swim in streams and now wanted to make sure his daughters could grow up with that experience as well.
Economy and Business
Rising temperatures spark ‘race to Tasmania’ for winemakers escaping heat
They are one of the oldest families of wine in Australia, and after more than 120 years in Victoria, Brown Brothers’ decision to expand outside of its traditional growing area because of rising temperatures is paying off. Warm springs and hot summers can affect grape quality and produce lower-quality, more alcoholic wine. Wine companies big and small are scrambling to adapt, with vineyard managers changing things like the way they prune, how they sit the vines on the trellis, different grape varieties, and the location of vineyards.
UK outdoor clothing company rejects toxic PFCs
On 16 January, professional climbers David Bacci and Matteo Della Bordella set off to climb Mount Fitz Roy in Patagonia. They chose the mountain’s heavily exposed East Pillar, the hardest route of the lot. The pair endured brutal weather but eventually finished the climb. Bacci, who volunteers for Greenpeace, didn’t just want to use the climb to prove his alpinist credentials; he wanted to show that it’s possible to tackle the toughest mountain conditions in “PFC-free” clothing.
Eagle lager: the Ugandan beer that aims to help local farmers and communities
Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy in Uganda. Despite its favourable climate, however, the country’s population has yet to fully benefit from the potential the sector offers for fuelling economic growth. As a result, companies willing to invest in local farmers, support improvements and generate lasting markets are both welcome and necessary. More than a decade ago, the UK-based SABMiller started producing Eagle lager in the country, a cross between sorghum beer (using locally-produced crops) and conventional lager. The result was a local beer that the company could use to grow its market share in Uganda and also use to help promote sustainable development in the country.
Energy firms urge EU to back offshore wind
A group of offshore wind companies have pledged that the technology will generate electricity as cheaply as fossil fuels in Europe within a decade – but only if policymakers across the EU take the steps needed to ensure such growth as a matter of urgency. The pledge(pdf) and the challenge to ministers are designed to reposition offshore wind as having a strong future in the EU. The European commission has tended to emphasise gas as the priority source of energy security.
Natural hazards and insurance: How vulnerable is your home?
Australian homes are exposed to a wide range of natural hazards, including bushfire, cyclone, storm surge, flood and hail, among others. In terms of re-insurance, Australia accounts for two per cent of the global market, but six per cent of the losses. Whether you own a house or are looking to buy one, you should be aware of the potential natural hazards of an area so you can understand your property’s vulnerability, and how you can protect your family and your assets.
Waste and the Circular Economy
The smart tech startup helping restaurants cut food waste by 50%
Closing time approaches, waiting staff collect plates littered with leftovers and chefs sweep up spoiled ingredients. This routine, repeated in restaurants across the developed world, means $80bn (£56bn) of food is wasted annually. London-based startup Winnow is tackling the problem with its smart meter for food waste. Since opening in 2013, the business has saved its customers £2m and reduced carbon emissions from the hospitality sector by 3,400 tonnes.
Politics and Society
World Environment Day: drought drives global rise in hunger – in pictures
On World Environment Day, more than a quarter of a billion people, half of them children, are suffering the impact of severe drought across three continents. Aid agencies are working to deliver emergency food parcels to prevent people starving, and to help build livelihood resilience to extreme weather events.
‘Men are here so we don’t have to be’: tackling sexism in India
India’s attitude towards women – exemplified by its handling of rape cases and the deeply rooted stigma attached to the victims – has provoked international outrage. It’s a country in which women struggle to be heard. But Marcatus QED, a global agri-food solutions company, has come up with a way of giving women a stronger voice.
Eight ways we can improve Indigenous employment
AUSTRALIA – The latest ABS report on Indigenous people in the workforce confirms an ongoing trend of low participation. Our research shows that non-standard recruitment agencies, more education and ongoing mentoring and support are key to improving these disappointing statistics.
Ben Fogle: send bosses into the wild with a tent
When it comes to the great outdoors, Ben Fogle is easily excited. After asking him a question about the benefits of working-age people getting out into the wilderness, he quickly launches into a passionate response… For Fogle, exploring a natural environment – whether that is a mountain top in England or a national park in Tanzania – is not just about the stereotypical team-building exercises that many businesses organise. It also gives us a different perspective and, importantly, confidence to do things differently, he says.
Vietnam breaks up protests as anger seethes over fish deaths
Dozens of activists have been detained in Vietnam’s two biggest cities after trying to hold protests calling for greater government transparency over a recent spate of mass fish deaths. Tonnes of dead fish and other marine life began washing up on central Vietnamese shores two months ago and continued to appear for two to three weeks, sparking widespread anger.
Great Barrier Reef bleaching: ‘Fight for the Reef’ video campaign launches
WITH the Federal Election just around the corner, a new video advert is campaigning for Australians to ‘Vote for The Reef’ when they head to the polls on July 2. Fight for the Reef — a partnership between WWF-Australia and the Australian Marine Conservation Society — hopes to raise awareness to the threats impacting the 69,000 jobs and $6 billion tourism industry relying on the Great Barrier Reef. At the centre of the advert is Airlie Beach local and Sundowner Cruises business owner Nicole Graham, her husband and two of her children.
News from the front desk: Issue No 294 – On Ken Henry, Andrew Petersen, a boring election campaign & why that’s so good
According to Sustainable Business Australia chief executive Andrew Petersen it was hard to get the audience to leave the room after the annual Fiona Wain Oration on Friday in Sydney. But then, up on stage was former Treasury chief Dr Ken Henry and now chair of NAB, with a galvanising speech on natural capital. Interviewing him was high profile political journalist and author George Megalogenis, so the deep interest was probably a given.
Kiwi eco-warrior set to travel on trash down the Mississippi
Two young Kiwis are taking a stand against waste, turning trash into a boat to sail down one of the world’s longest and most polluted rivers. Dan Cullum, 24, and Martin Hill, 21, have been building a catamaran made from plastic bottles and bamboo for the past two months which will be used to travel the 3743 kilometres down the Mississippi river.
Green Party targets 10 waterways in ‘swimmable rivers’ campaign
The Green Party is returning to a familiar theme for its 2017 election campaign – cleaning up New Zealand’s rivers and streams, partly by putting an immediate end to new dairy farm conversions. Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei launched the environmental campaign “Swimmable Rivers” today at the party’s AGM in Lincoln, Christchurch.
See also: Environment minister backs water quality
Climate change ‘deniers’ should be dropped from panel, group says
NEW ZEALAND – The Christchurch City Council is under fire for appointing two climate change “deniers” to a panel reviewing a controversial report on erosion and flooding risk. Five experts were approved by the council last week to conduct a second peer review of the Tonkin and Taylor Coastal Hazard Assessment Report, which identified 6000 properties that could be susceptible to erosion and nearly 18,000 at risk of coastal inundation over the next 50 to 100 years.
Recall of Monsanto’s Roundup likely as EU refuses limited use of glyphosate
EU nations have refused to back a limited extension of the pesticide glyphosate’s use, threatening withdrawal of Monsanto’s Roundup and other weedkillers from shelves if no decision is reached by the end of the month. Contradictory findings on the carcinogenic risks of the chemical have thrust it into the centre of a dispute among EU and US politicians, regulators and researchers.