Sustainable Development News

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Top Story

World governments failing Earth’s ecosystems, says top conservationist
Governments are lagging behind on international commitments to safeguard the planet’s ecosystems, with politicians failing to grasp that economic growth depends upon environmental protection, the head of the world’s leading conservation organisation has warned. Julia Marton-Lefèvre, director general of the IUCN, the body that advises the United Nations on environmental matters, told Guardian Australia that conservation needed to be properly embraced by political leaders. “I think world leaders have many other issues to deal with and sometimes they don’t see how protecting nature is essential for our wellbeing,” she said. [Ed: That is, it has value: Natural Capital] “On a planet with 7bn people, moving to 9bn, this isn’t just about protecting our beautiful places, it’s protecting the places that provide us with water and food and protect us from extreme weather.” [Ed: And these benefits are called ecosystem services]

Energy and Climate Change

Poland rejects IPCC target of zero emissions by 2100
Poland and other eastern Europe countries have categorically rejected the target put forward by the world’s top climate scientists to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2100 to avoid dangerous global warming, leaked documents show.

Environment and Biodiversity

Scientists seek evolution solution to save native animals from feral killers
The animal inside the fenced enclosure is frantic. It darts from one side to another, slamming into the fence or scampering into a man-made burrow. Its grunts echo in the still night air. The manic movements continue for another five minutes as three scientists outside the small enclosure watch, taking notes and filming under the dim red lights. Its fighting spirit is admirable but it’ll likely be dead in the coming months, sacrificed for a greater cause. The small, wallaby-like creature, a bettong, is a subject in a radical new experiment to save endangered mammals from extinction. Yet, not everyone can survive the study. A radical experiment under way in the South Australian desert is a last-ditch attempt to save native mammals from the paws of feral cats.

Tasmanian farmers and recreational hunters are locking horns over legalising the sale of wild deer meat.
Tasmanian farmers want to be allowed to commercially harvest feral deer on their properties. Thousands of deer are killed each year by recreational hunters, but it is illegal to sell their meat. The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA) said empowering farmers to commercially harvest feral deer is a no-brainer. Hunters do not support the proposal and want to see the resource protected for recreational use. TFGA chief executive Jan Davis said feral deer are damaging crops and property. “Feral deer are a browsing pest,” she said. “They cause considerable damage to crops in Tasmania, but most importantly they cause a lot of damage to fencing.”

Bats sabotage rivals’ senses with sound in food race
A species of bat can interfere with the sound signals of competitors to “steal” their food. Bats were “jammed” the moment they were about to home in on their insect prey, making them miss their target. The rival that emitted the call was then able to capture and eat the insect for itself.  This is the first time scientists have witnessed this behaviour in one species – the Mexican free-tailed bat – a team reports in Science journal.

Climate change is disrupting flower pollination, research shows
Sexual deceit, pressed flowers and Victorian bee collectors are combined in new scientific research which demonstrates for the first time that climate change threatens flower pollination, which underpins much of the world’s food production. The work used museum records stretching back to 1848 to show that the early spider orchid and the miner bee on which it depends for reproduction have become increasingly out of sync as spring temperatures rise due to global warming.

Twitchers twig authorities over disappearing birds (Transcript)
Queensland’s birdwatchers have alerted authorities to an impending environmental problem. The state’s small woodland birds are dying and there’s not much time to save them.  Eric Tlozek reports from Brisbane.

[Ed: I thought I was imagining the loss of birds in my backyard.  Maybe not, maybe they really are disappearing?)

Economy and Business

How to scale up the circular economy in the business world (Video)
We’re at a crossroads when it comes to circular economy thinking. While there is much evidence of enormous business (in addition to environmental) benefits, a lack of awareness, lack of collaboration and complex supply chains are holding businesses back. Jo Confino speaks to Liz Goodwin, CEO of WRAP, Estelle Brachlianoff, senior executive vice president of Veolia UK and Ireland, and Rob Boogaard, acting president and CEO of Interface, about what can be done to change this.

Six simple steps for businesses to manage water risks and opportunities
The World Economic Forum has identified ‘water crises’ as one of the risks of highest concern in its 2014 Global Risks report. If climate change and food security are key sustainability concerns in the coming decades, then it is water that sits at the core of both.  What does all this mean for business? The phrase “all politics is local” is equally applicable to water risk. Businesses need to understand their operational and market contexts to manage risk and leverage opportunity when it comes to water resources.  A prime example of this in practice is provided by Nestlé, which last month announced a zero water dairy factory expansion in a water-stressed region in Mexico. Nestlé installed new processes and equipment that enable the effective use of recycled water from its operations, thereby minimising the need for water extraction.  Businesses testing the waters when it comes to managing the risk of this key resource, can follow a simple six step process:

Microsoft to Build First Zero-Carbon Data Centers
Microsoft, Siemens and FuelCell Energy have come together to build what they claim is the first zero-carbon, waste-to-energy data center in the U.S. Microsoft’s data center in Cheyenne, Wyoming uses biogas produced at the nearby Dry Creek facility, which is a byproduct of municipal wastewater treatment. Anaerobic bacteria produce the biogas while stabilizing solids removed from wastewater. The fuel cell electrochemically converts the biogas into electricity to power the Microsoft IT server container. Virtually no air pollutants are released because of the absence of combustion.

Politics and Society

Suzy Amis Cameron aims to bring sustainable fashion to the red carpet
Suzy Amis Cameron, the environmental activist and former model and actor, uses the unlikely metaphor of jet fighters to explain how we are running out of time to reverse our unsustainable lifestyles. Fighter pilots refer to ‘bingo fuel’ when they’re out over the ocean and realise that unless they turn around, they will not make it back to base. “We’re going Mach 10 over the ocean and we’re already at bingo fuel,” says Amis Cameron, who campaigns alongside her husband, Avatar director James Cameron. “If we don’t start making the world a better place right now at bingo fuel, our children will turn around one day when we’re long gone and wonder why we didn’t do something.” This recognition has spurred Amis Cameron to dedicate her time to promoting her three passions; sustainable fashion, holistic education and meat and dairy-free diets.

Construction, Property Managers Urge Climate Change Action
Construction and property management executives from 18 firms have signed a UK Green Building Council open letter urging the British government to step up its action to slow climate change. The letter, published in the Daily Telegraph, says climate change policy will “open up opportunities for businesses both at home and abroad.” It warns again “undermining” the Climate Change Act, which commits the UK to reducing its carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels.

Food Systems

Humans’ Amazing Evolution From Hunter-Gatherer to Safeway Shopper
Ruth DeFries, chair of the department of ecology, evolution, and environmental biology at Columbia University, in New York, and author of The Big Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis, has spent much of her life looking down at Earth from a great height, using satellite images to track human development. But to understand how we went from being hunter-gatherers to a species that so completely dominates the planet, she had to go much further back in time. Speaking from her home in New York, she guides us from the rain forest of Brazil to the latest developments in foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). On the way she explains why food is at the heart of human civilization, what we need to do to feed the world in the coming decades, and why it’s not just the quantity of the food we produce that matters, but also the quality.


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