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 little off topic on true sustainable development news.  It’s about the long term battle to protect the Mountain Gorilla’s of Virunga National Park.  There’s hope with the population rising to more than 1,000 after the war in the 1990’s cut the population to 300, thanks to the protection provided by 700 rangers supported by charitable organisations, with tourism also a great boost.  It is one of the great conservation stories of our time, a symbol of what can be done by a few local people with a lot of passion and the support of caring people around the world, most of whom will never step foot in the Congo.

Top Story

‘We know we may be killed’: the rangers risking their lives for Virunga’s gorillas | The Guardian
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO – It is dawn on the shores of Lake Edward and the sun is rising over the volcanoes on the eastern skyline. Mist lies over the still water. In the forest there are elephant, hippopotamus and buffalo. Guarding them are 26 rangers in a single fortified post. Then the silence is rudely broken. There are shouts, scattered shots, volleys from automatic weapons. Waves of attackers rush through the brush and trees. Some are close enough to hurl spears and fire arrows.

Virunga rangers are recruited from villages surrounding the park. Photograph: James Oatway for the Guardian

Virunga rangers are recruited from villages surrounding the park. Photograph: James Oatway for the Guardian

Climate Change and Energy

How Elon Musk’s big Tesla battery is changing Australia’s power landscape | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – The world’s biggest lithium-ion battery — built by tech billionaire Elon Musk’s company Tesla last year — has survived its first summer in South Australia’s mid-north. And according to a new report by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), it’s outperforming coal and gas generators on some key measures. Here’s a look at how it’s performed and its potential impact on the future of power in Australia.

Shell foresaw climate dangers in 1988 and understood Big Oil’s big role | The Washington Post
A Dutch journalist has uncovered Royal Dutch Shell documents as old as 1988 that showed the oil company understood the gravity of climate change, the company’s large contribution to it and how hard it would be to stop it. The 1988 report titled “The Greenhouse Effect” calculated that the Shell group alone was contributing 4 percent of global carbon-dioxide emissions through its oil, natural gas and coal products. “By the time global warming becomes detectable it could be too late to take effective countermeasures to reduce the effects or even to stabilize the situation,” the report warned.

Deadly oil spill devastates Borneo port city – in pictures | The Guardian
INDONESIA – The Indonesian port city of Balikpapan, on the island of Borneo, has declared a state of emergency after an oil spill spread along the coast, killing several people when it ignited. The leak, caused by a burst undersea pipe belonging to the state oil company Pertamina, has spread at least 16 miles (26km) and coated large swaths of the coast in thick black sludge.

The admission by Pertamina that a burst pipe was responsible for the spill follows four days of denials by the company. Photograph: Anggi Praditha/Kaltim Post/Greenpeace

The admission by Pertamina that a burst pipe was responsible for the spill follows four days of denials by the company. Photograph: Anggi Praditha/Kaltim Post/Greenpeace

Environment and Biodiversity

‘Sneaky move’: Government signals further weakening of native vegetation protection | SMH
AUSTRALIA – The NSW government has shifted some of regulatory oversight for native forestry on private land away from the Environment Protection Authority, a move that could weaken protections for forests. The government has gazetted the transfer from April 30 of authority for private native forestry to Local Land Services (LLS), an agency under the Department of Primary Industries.

Status Green: Native seed mats restoring red zoned Port Hills properties |
NEW ZEALAND – Where a house once sat above the port town of Lyttelton, a green revolution is under way. Traditional revegetation is making way for a new scheme developed by Christchurch company Red Tree Environmental Solutions. The company has been trialling a pneumatically sprayed compost and seed mix at a residential red zone site on Brenchley Rd, in Lyttelton, since May 2017.


One of Queensland’s largest irrigators expected to be charged with fraud | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Fraud charges are expected to be laid against one of Queensland’s biggest cotton irrigators, John Norman, within a matter of weeks. If the trial of the owner-operator of Norman Farming, and former “cotton farmer of the year goes ahead, it is likely to draw attention to the links between the irrigator’s family and that of the federal minister for agriculture and water resources, David Littleproud. If the charges are laid, they will also throw the spotlight on the Queensland government’s failure in administering a key plank of the $13bn Murray-Darling basin plan, how it withheld critical information about the alleged crimes, and how it raises queries as to whether it lied about its own investigation.

Economy and Business

Mark Carney warns of climate change threat to financial system | The Guardian
UK – The governor of the Bank of England has warned of the “catastrophic impact” climate change could have for the financial system unless firms do more to disclose their vulnerabilities.  Telling banks and insurers they would need to provide more information about the risks they might face from climate change, Mark Carney said failure to do so would have damaging effects for financial stability. He said the finance industry could be forced into making rapid adjustments if they did not gradually expose where their climate change risks might lie, which he said could trigger steep losses.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Quiz: What do you know about waste and recycling? Test your knowledge | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – It turns out many Australians are still confused about what can and can’t be recycled. From what you should recycle to our biggest waste contributors, test your general knowledge with this quick quiz.

Giant soft drink bottle tours Victoria to push for container deposit scheme | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – A 3-metre soft drink bottle is being towed across Victoria as pressure mounts on the State Government to adopt a container deposit scheme. The Boomerang Alliance represents 47 community groups and local governments, and is exchanging money for bottles and cans to simulate what a deposit scheme would like if it came to Victoria. The group is handing out money to people who bring in their own containers. “We are using money from fundraising, so it’s coming from our own pockets. We are calling it a mock refund container,” Boomerang Alliance member Annett Finger said.

Pyrolysed charcoal not for barbecues, boss says in response to critics |
NEW ZEALAND – A pyrolysis plant boss has assured critics that arsenic-laden charcoal will not be ending up in anyone’s barbecue. The charcoal would be produced by a pyrolysis plant proposed for Blenheim, intended to reduce timber going to landfill by turning it into charcoal in a low-temperature oxygen-free industrial furnace. The plant was proposed as a way to get rid of thousands of stockpiled vineyard posts across Marlborough, which were treated with copper chrome arsenic and potentially leaching chemicals into the soil. The charcoal, which would retain most of the arsenic from treated timber, would then be sold commercially, the plant’s resource consent application said.

Politics and Society

UK Conservatives are embracing a future without coal-fired power stations | ABC News
As Tony Abbott and other prominent Coalition MPs make the case that Australia should be building new coal-fired power stations, Conservatives in Britain are pushing a very different agenda. The Tory Government wants to end the use of unabated coal in the UK within seven years, and the policy is being driven by Claire Perry — the cabinet minister responsible for energy policy, who believes environmentalism is not a philosophy exclusively owned by the green-left. “Conservatism to me is about protecting what you inherit and improving it,” Ms Perry told the ABC.

Hands-on experience prompts new actions for reef citizen scientists | CEED
University of Queensland researchers, working with organisations in the Reef Citizen Science Alliance, found that more than half the people attending a citizen science event were likely to adopt new actions to help reefs.  Dr Angela Dean from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) said the findings were encouraging for citizen science projects and would be relevant to other programs…“What did work was allowing people to see what the problems were, and showing them how to do something about it, so it’s important we make reef issues and solutions real for people, rather than just throwing facts at them.”

New data tool scores Australia and other countries on their human rights performance | The Conversation
This year, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will mark its 70th anniversary, but despite progress in some areas, it remains difficult to measure or compare governments’ performance. We have yet to develop comprehensive human rights measures that are accepted by researchers, policymakers and advocates alike.  With this in mind, my colleagues and I have started the Human Rights Measurement Initiative (HRMI), the first global project to develop a comprehensive suite of metrics covering international human rights.  We have now released our beta dataset and data visualisation tools, publishing 12 metrics that cover five economic and social rights and seven civil and political rights.

Climate talks for shipping ‘on a knife-edge’ as deadline looms | Climate Home News
Talks on a climate target for international shipping looked fragile on Friday, with countries deeply divided a week before the deadline. Campaigners warned the draft level of ambition at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) meeting was out of line with the Paris Agreement goal to hold global warming “well below 2C” and aim for 1.5C.

Food Systems

Why Australia imports so many veggie seeds (and do we really need to treat them with fungicides?) | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Organic farmers have reacted with alarm to a draft review released last week that recommends mandatory fungicide treatment for certain plant seeds imported into Australia, including broccoli, cauliflower, radish and spinach. Australia’s vegetable growers do rely heavily on imported seed. But why?


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