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Wednesday 07 November 2018

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 tells of the delayed negative societal and environmental impacts from hydropower as Asia and Africa look to build many more. In other news, another article on how we should perhaps we should tax red meat based on its health costs; New Zealand launches an initiative based on the Maori concept of tiaki or care; and 69 chemicals from drugs are found in invertebrates living in Melbourne waterways. In society, two extremes to think about how Chinese immigrants increase their consumption so much, they exceed that of Australian-born citizens, and how a woman and her partner live in the wilderness, hunting and gathering what they find.

Top Story

Large hydropower dams ‘not sustainable’ in the developing world | BBC News
A new study says that many large-scale hydropower projects in Europe and the US have been disastrous for the environment. Dozens of these dams are being removed every year, with many considered dangerous and uneconomic. But the authors fear that the unsustainable nature of these projects has not been recognised in the developing world. Thousands of new dams are now being planned for rivers in Africa and Asia… The problem, say the authors of this new paper, is that governments were blindsided by the prospect of cheap electricity without taking into account the full environmental and social costs of these installations.

Environment and Biodiversity

Government’s ‘deeply worrying’ post-Brexit environment plans fail to replace one-third of EU laws, MPs warn | The Independent
UK – Britain could be left with gaping holes in environmental laws allowing polluters to go unpunished and depriving wildlife of vital protection after Brexit, MPs warn in a new report. The government has still not committed to replacing around a third of all environmental rules governing air, water, chemicals and waste disposal that cannot be copied over into UK law from the EU. With five months to go until exit day, MPs from the Environmental Audit Committee said the lack of clarity about a sizeable chunk of regulations was “deeply worrying”.

Wind Farms Can Act Like Apex Predators in Ecosystems, Study Finds | Yale E360
The impact of wind farms on flying species has been well documented, with turbines reducing the number of birds and bats in an area and disrupting migration routes. But a new study finds that the impacts of turbines are more far-reaching than previously thought, acting almost like a new apex predator in an ecosystem. Ecologists from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore looked at how wind farms in India’s Western Ghats, which have been operating for 16 to 20 years, impacted species throughout the food chain.

Economy and Business

Meat tax: why taxing sausages and bacon could save hundreds of thousands of lives every year | The Conversation
Given the negative health impacts, there have been calls for certain types of meat to be regulated similar to other carcinogens – such as tobacco or asbestos – or like other foods of public health concern – such as sugary drinks. Like taxes on other products that can harm health, a health tax on red and processed meat could encourage consumers to make healthier choices. And our new research, which looks at the benefits of a health tax on red and processed meat has found that such as tax could prevent more than 220,000 deaths and save over US$40 billion globally in healthcare costs every year.

‘It is our role and responsibility to lead the way’ | RNZ News
NEW ZEALAND – Travellers are being encouraged to act as guardians of New Zealand as part of a cross-sector initiative. Tiaki – Care for New Zealand encourages New Zealanders and visitors to experience the country in a way that keeps everyone safe, protects the environment and respects culture. Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis announced the initiative in Wellington this afternoon, calling for the Tiaki Promise to care and protect to be upheld.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Drugs in bugs: 69 pharmaceuticals found in invertebrates living in Melbourne’s streams | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Pharmaceuticals from wastewater are making their way into aquatic invertebrates and spiders living in and next to Melbourne’s creeks, according to our study published today in Nature Communications. We found pharmaceuticals in every bug we sampled – over 190 invertebrates – from six different streams. These included caddisfly larvae, midge larvae, snails and dragonfly larvae. We also found pharmaceuticals in spiders living in stream-side vegetation.

Thanks to their consumption of invertebrates, Melbourne platypus likely receive half the recommended human dose of anti-depressants every day. Denise Illing

Thanks to their consumption of invertebrates, Melbourne platypus likely receive half the recommended human dose of anti-depressants every day. Denise Illing

Rising levels of ‘black carbon’ in Queen St heighten health risk for Aucklanders | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – Pedestrians and workers in Auckland’s Queen St are being exposed to high levels of “black carbon”, or ultra-fine carbon particles associated with a number of health problems… Black carbon emissions are more than three times higher than Canadian cities and twice as high for concentrations in major European, UK and American cities, according to an article published by Auckland Council’s research and evaluation unit.

Politics and Society

Chinese migrants follow and add to Australian city dwellers’ giant ecological footprints | The Conversation
Our research focused on the much-neglected dimension of the environmental impact on cities of population and immigration. Australian cities are world-leading – in the worst sense – in terms of the size of their ecological footprints, a measure of their resource use and greenhouse gas emissions. And we found China-born residents more than triple their average levels of consumption compared to when they lived in China, even surpassing Australia-born residents’ consumption.

‘This is so real’: Why Miriam Lancewood lives in the wild, hunting her own food | ABC News
NEW ZEALAND – When Miriam Lancewood and her partner Peter set off to live alone deep in the New Zealand wilderness, they told their families they’d be back in a year. But the couple came to enjoy their nomadic, off-grid lifestyle — foraging for edible plants and killing their own animals — so much that they’re still living it, nearly a decade later. “It’s perceived as being scary but I see the wilderness as my home, so I feel very comfortable there,” says Miriam, who has written about her life in her memoir, Woman of the Wilderness.

Photo: Miriam perfected her aim with a bow and arrow, but finding animals to hunt proved tricky. (Supplied)

Photo: Miriam perfected her aim with a bow and arrow, but finding animals to hunt proved tricky. (Supplied)


Energy cost of ‘mining’ bitcoin more than twice that of copper or gold | The Guardian
The amount of energy required to “mine” one dollar’s worth of bitcoin is more than twice that required to mine the same value of copper, gold or platinum, according to a new paper, suggesting that the virtual work that underpins bitcoin, ethereum and similar projects is more similar to real mining than anyone intended.

Adani water project bypasses full environmental impact assessment against advice | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – The Federal Environment Department ruled against the advice of the Government’s own water experts when deciding Adani’s North Galilee Water Scheme, in Central Queensland, did not require a full environmental assessment. Documents obtained under Freedom of Information (FOI) and provided to the ABC by activist group Lock the Gate Alliance showed the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources wrote to the Environment Department suggesting the project could activate what is known as the “water trigger”.