Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Top Story

How do we weigh the moral value of human lives against animal ones?
Imagine a unique set of scales that measures the value of life. If a single human were on one side, how many chimpanzees (our closest genetic relatives) would need to be on the other side before the scales tipped in their direction? This may seem like an abstract, irrelevant or even offensive question to some people. But it was made horrifically real by the death last week of Harambe, the Cincinnati Zoo gorilla who was shot after a young boy fell into his enclosure… Does a human life hold more value than that of a member of a critically endangered animal species? Harambe’s death suggests that the instinctive answer is yes, but is there a point at which some people’s moral scales might tip the other way? Our research suggests there might be.

Energy and Climate Change

WA copper mine goes green as it powers with solar and storage
Australia’s largest integrated off-grid solar and battery storage facility is now running at full capacity, generating around 7MW of solar power for the DeGrussa copper and gold mine in remote Western Australia – capping off a groundbreaking solar plus storage project that could transform the way Australia’s remote mining industry sources power. The $40 million project – which is also one of the largest of its kind in the world – installed 34,080 single-axis tracking PV panels and a 6MW lithium-ion battery storage facility alongside the mine’s existing 19MW diesel-fired power station. The plan is to supply the majority of DeGrussa’s daytime electricity requirements with solar and storage, and offset about 5 million litres of diesel fuel a year.

Australia has re-carbonised – not de-carbonised – its energy system
Energy combustion emissions covered by CEDEX, accounting for 83% of Australia’s total energy combustion emissions (and 58% of Australia’s total emissions), just keep going up. According to the most recent National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, released in early May, total Australian energy combustion emissions in 2013‐14 were at their lowest level since 2005‐06. The emissions reported by CEDEX were also at a minimum in 2013‐14. In the 21 months between June 2014 and March 2016, however, energy emissions have gone up by 12.8 Mt CO2‐e, equivalent to 4.4% (and 2.4% of total national emissions in 2013‐14).

Norway brings forward carbon neutral target to 2030
Norway has agreed on a 2030 target to cut net greenhouse gas emissions to zero, 20 years earlier than the previous deadline, a national assembly official said on Tuesday. Norway will pay for emission cuts abroad that correspond to its own emissions to reach the target.

Arctic sea ice fell to record low for May
Arctic sea ice fell to its lowest ever May extent, prompting fears that this year could beat 2012 for the record of worst ever summer sea ice melt. Data published by the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) this week showed average sea ice extent for last month was more than 500,000 sq km (193,000 sq miles) smaller than May 2012.

Dams threaten future of Amazonian biodiversity major new study warns
Amazonia’s surge in hydropower development threatens numerous species with extinction, and puts unique habitats at risk, warns a recent study. River dolphins, giant otters, turtles, fish, birds and monkeys will all have their habitats altered by hydroelectric dams,with some species likely to be completely wiped out, says an international team of biologists that looked at all impacts associated with 191 existing Amazon dams, as well as the 246 dams being planned or under construction.

Environment and Biodiversity

The map’s compilers discovered that a single hectare of seagrass grown in southern Australia adds an additional 30,000 fish into a given bay or estuary every year. This adds about $24,000 in revenue to local commercial fisheries. So by growing additional areas of seagrass, fishermen will help the environment and enhance their livelihoods.
The map’s compilers discovered that a single hectare of seagrass grown in southern Australia adds an additional 30,000 fish into a given bay or estuary every year. This adds about $24,000 in revenue to local commercial fisheries. So by growing additional areas of seagrass, fishermen will help the environment and enhance their livelihoods.
Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo


New ocean map reveals health of seas and value of protecting them – in pictures
The Atlas of Ocean Wealth, published ahead of World Oceans Day, brings together data from thousands of sources – from governments to Flickr photos – to provide insight into the economic and social value of our marine life. It is being used to pinpoint areas where even small-scale interventions can make a big difference to benefit local people and improve sustainability.

How fish and clean water can protect coral reefs from warming oceans
By looking at the microbial communities that live on corals, our research uncovered a crucial role that fishes play in protecting coral reefs. We also discovered that these fishes together with clean water may be a vital buffer against the coral disease and decline caused by climate change-induced warming ocean waters.

Overfishing and Pollution Kill Corals in a Warming World
In the wild worlds of coral reefs, seaweeds and corals are locked in mortal battles and scientists have revealed how overfishing, sewage and farm pollution can tip the balance in favor of the weeds. Newly published findings from three years of field experiments in the ailing reefs of the Florida Keys have profound implications at a time when climate change is killing corals and threatening the very future of reefs worldwide.

Down to 60: scientists mull risky captive breeding for panda porpoise

Today, there are approximately 7.3 billion people on the planet – and only 60 vaquitas. The vaquita has seen its population drop by 92 percent in less than 20 years in Mexico’s Gulf of California as the tiny porpoises suffocate to death one-by-one in gillnets. Now, scientists with the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA) are cautiously moving forward on a once unthinkable option: captive breeding.

Economy and Business

Chinese villagers turn from logging to forest patrols, bees, and fish
Guanba valley isn’t exactly wilderness, but its secondary-growth forest is verdant and well protected. The valley is located in Pingwu County in northwestern Sichuan, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) from the city of Chengdu. The valley, like most mountainous areas in China, suffered from severe logging, poaching, and over-fishing from the 1980s until the late 1990s. Despite China’s widespread logging ban, enacted in 1998, and the government’s confiscation of hunting rifles to put an end to illegal hunting around the same period, threats to conservation remained…

Why sustainability should be America’s ‘grand strategy’ (Book Talk)
This story begins in the Pentagon. In July 2009, two United States military officers, a Marine colonel and a Navy captain, were sequestered in Room 2E928, on the second floor of the building’s E-ring, the outermost of five concentric corridors, where the highest-profile work is done. There, just a few months into Barack Obama’s first term, Col. Mark “Puck” Mykleby and Capt. Wayne Porter were given an assignment by Adm. Mike Mullen: to create a grand strategy for America. Not a military strategy. We already had one of those — several, in fact. Mullen was seeking a strategy for the next chapter of America’s future.

PanEco resigns from RSPO over ‘sheer level of inaction’
One of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’s disgruntled NGO members officially called it quits on the organization last week, resigning over what it deemed the RSPO’s failure to reign in an industry tainted by environmental destruction and human rights abuses… PanEco was one of 33 nonprofits to have joined the RSPO, the world’s largest association for ethical palm oil production. The rest of its 2,819 members consist of planters, refiners, consumer goods manufacturers and banks. Producer members can earn the right to market their palm oil as certified sustainable, or as CSPO, under the roundtable’s green label.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Reverse logistics: a key strategy for the circular economy transition
Reverse logistics is the process of moving goods from their point of consumption to a consolidation point for the purpose of capturing value or proper disposal. It encompasses the collection of goods, transportation to a central location, and sorting according to ultimate destination, e.g., remanufacturing, refurbishing, reusing or recycling. By closing the loop of product lifecycles, reverse logistics plays an important role to transitioning to a circular economy, an opinion shared by 87% of respondents in a recent survey conducted by UPS and GreenBiz.

UQ researchers find new potential in poo power
A University of Queensland researcher is developing new technology extracts large amounts of methane gases from sewerage and converts it into electricity to power wastewater facilities, potentially making them energy neutral.

Politics and Society

Crowd-lending campaign for hungry kids (Article + Audio 9:08)
NEW ZEALAND – An Auckland-based business will launch New Zealand’s first crowd-lending campaign next week, hoping to raise $1 million to help provide lunches for hungry children. Eat My Lunch, which celebrated its first birthday in June, delivers lunches to schools and workplaces around Auckland and Hamilton. It operates a “buy-one, give-one” model: for every lunch bought by a customer, the company will give a lunch to a needy child who might otherwise go without.

Democracy goes missing in action as politicians obfuscate, avoid and patronise
AUSTRALIA – As we pass the halfway mark of the 2016 federal election campaign (how long is it since you heard so many grown adults effectively asking “are we there yet?”), key message scripts and political performances are daily in evidence. Media reporting is following form, making news out of slips of the tongue and the inability of serial offenders to stay on message. The election narrative is being written and rewritten by a mix of commentary and dog-whistling. The pollsters are in full swing counting voter intentions. But for those clinging to the view that Australia is a democracy, there are rather more pressing questions: how are citizens receiving what is being pushed at them? And what sense they are making of it all?

Comment: The environment is not merely a matter for state governments
In regional, Australia coal mining and coal seam gas have altered landscapes forever, polluted water supplies and divided communities. This came into sharp focus on Monday night’s Q&A program – shot in front of a live audience in Tamworth, NSW – where national environment laws came bursting right into the election frame. From the get-go Barnaby Joyce was pegged down by a ropable community in Tamworth, frustrated at government failure to protect their farms and water supplies from invasive mining projects.

Bay Area Voters Approve Tax to Fix Marshes As Seas Rise

USA – Voters in the San Francisco Bay Area approved an unprecedented tax Tuesday to help fund an ambitious vision for restoring lost marshlands, handing electoral victory to shorebirds, crabs and advocates of a muddy strategy for adapting to rising seas. Measure AA is projected to raise an estimated $25 million a year for 20 years. As of Wednesday morning, 69 percent of voters in the nine Bay Area counties supported it, with only a small number of votes left to be counted. The $12 annual tax proposed for each parcel of property owned in the Bay Area needed two thirds of votes to pass.

Built Environment

Rio 2016 Aquatics Stadium unveiled as sustainability flagship
The Olympic Aquatics Stadium for the Rio 2016 Games has been officially unveiled as a sustainable green building flagship of the Olympics. A venue has been built to high sustainability specifications with natural ventilation system and ‘nomadic architecture’ ensure its green credentials.


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