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 sea otters help save the planet
New research into the complex links of the food chain suggest that the lovable mammals play a key role in managing carbon dioxide levels.

Sea otters floating in kelp. They help kelp forests to flourish by keeping sea urchin numbers under control. Photograph: Frans Lanting/Getty Images

Sea otters floating in kelp. They help kelp forests to flourish by keeping sea urchin numbers under control. Photograph: Frans Lanting/Getty Images

Energy and Climate Change

US Navy successful in alternative fuel tests
The US Navy’s Self Defence Test Ship (SDTS) has finished the final-phase testing of two different types of alternative fuels. After getting to San Diego using regular fuel, the SDTS took on about 30,000 gallons of two types of alternative fuels and continued a normal cruise.

Leaders and laggards in the race to clean power
Last week Ceres released a new report highlighting the leaders driving the clean energy revolution in the US energy sector. The benchmarking report looked at the 30 largest electric utility companies, accounting for about 60% of the total U.S. electricity sales.

Energy incumbents fight changes that could accelerate battery storage
Most of Australia’s incumbent electricity generators have decided to fight a proposed rule change that could help reduce wholesale electricity costs and pave the way for more battery storage, but may also force out some gas-fired peaking plant from the energy system.

Abandoned CSG wells go untested by NSW regulators, fanning community concern
AUSTRALIA – NSW regulators do not routinely test coal seam gas wells after they have been plugged and abandoned, relying instead on “technical reports” by the companies that the wells pose no threat to communities and the environment.

Environment and Biodiversity

Fires begin to appear en masse as Indonesia’s burning season gets going
Satellites on Wednesday recorded 145 fire-linked hotspots over Indonesia’s main western island of Sumatra, down from 245 on Sunday, according to the country’s disaster management agency. It’s a far cry from last year’s crisis, when thousands of forest and peatland fires raged across the archipelagic country during the extended dry season brought on by El Nino, sending toxic haze pollution billowing across the region. But the uptick in hotspots signaled this year’s burning season may already be getting underway.

Great Barrier Reef: government must choose which parts to save, says expert
Governments must decide which parts of the Great Barrier Reef they most want to save and confront the prospect that some of it may be doomed, an expert on conservation modelling has warned. University of Queensland professor Hugh Possingham said agencies, including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, needed to make tough decisions about which parts of the natural wonder are most worth preserving “rather than trying to save everything”.

Gulf mangroves: Remote ecosystem suffers 7000 hectare dieback
A 700 kilometre stretch of mangrove shoreline in the southern reaches of the Gulf of Carpentaria has died, sparking fears of deeper implications for the ecosystem. The dieback encompasses about 7000 hectares of land and was the result of the El Nino conditions that affected the region during the warmer months.

A heavily affected section of the southern Gulf. Photo: James Cook University

A heavily affected section of the southern Gulf. Photo: James Cook University

See also: ‘Shocking images’ reveal death of 10,000 hectares of mangroves across Northern Australia

Whale rescued from shark net off the Gold Coast
AUSTRALIA – A whale has been cut free from shark nets on the Gold Coast on Saturday afternoon. The Seaworld rescue team was called out after boating and fisheries officers failed in their attempt to free the large sea mammal.

Iwi celebrates beach’s handover to the public
NEW ZEALAND – A Nelson-based iwi incorporation has welcomed a new era for Awaroa Beach, after the final step in the crowdfunding campaign to return it to the public. About 300 people made a pilgrimage to the site yesterday to celebrate it becoming part of the Abel Tasman National Park, after the public raised more than $2 million towards its purchase.

Scientists alarmed about NZ Government lack of action over Maui’s dolphins
Renewed international pressure is building on the Government to act immediately over critically endangered Maui’s dolphins… Some estimates put their number below 50, and scientists warn they are on the brink of extinction. In a newly released report from the International Whaling Commission,  the world’s leading whale and dolphin scientists warn urgent action – rather than research – is needed. The report also criticises the Government for not doing enough.

Bornean orangutan, whale shark, winghead shark risking extinction from human pressure, IUCN says
The Bornean orangutan is on the verge of extinction, while the world’s biggest fish, the whale shark, and a hammerhead shark species, the winghead shark, are endangered, a top conservationist body have said. In an update to its Red List of Threatened Species, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said growing human pressure was driving the three species ever closer to destruction.

Bolivian expedition discovers 1,000th bird species
An ongoing expedition in Bolivia’s Madidi National Park has recorded its 1,000th bird species, highlighting the park as a hotspot of avian biodiversity. The park is thought to contain more than 10 percent of all the world’s bird species. Spanning 19,000 square kilometers from Amazon lowlands to Andean peaks, Madidi National Park’s many ecosystems bring with them a huge array of wildlife, making it one of the world’s most biodiverse protected areas. However, it had never been systematically surveyed before now.

Economy and Business

Are we headed for a green revolution in food and water? (Book Excerpt)
I don’t believe in business-as­usual projections. While they are helpful in calling attention to an issue to catalyze change, we seldom follow the projections; resource stress and scarcity drives innovation. Innovation kills business-as-usual projections, and innovations can also solve the energy–water–food nexus challenge. Old ways of innovating are giving way to new thinking and tools to accelerate innovation.

Electric Highway to expand in UK
Ecotricity will start charging electric car drivers for using its British Electric Highway – Europe’s most comprehensive car charging network… The highway had a significant success last year and Ecotricity now has to start charging for the service to be able to maintain and grow the network.

What other industries can learn from the failures of greyhound racing
AUSTRALIA – Those in the greyhound racing industry were surprised by the Premier of NSW’s announcement on the banning of the industry in NSW from 1 July 2017, closely followed in the ACT. But the writing has been on the wall since the NSW Special Commission of Enquiry found systematic malpractice and animal cruelty, described by the Premier as “chilling, confronting, horrific”. The industry ignored the warning signs of the public turning against the sport and now the question is what can other industries learn from the greyhound racing industry losing its social licence.

Part owner of big Queensland coal generator put into receivership
AUSTRALIA – The part owner of a relatively new Queensland coal generator has been put into administration after being unable to refinance its debt facilities. InterGen Callide, an offshoot of the major US generation company InterGen that owns a half share of the 810MW Callide C generators in central Queensland, has been placed into the hands of receivers Ferrier Hodgson.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Portfolio of Cradle to Cradle Certified Materials Launched for the Fashion Industry
Fashion designers have long asked for a place to find materials they know are healthier for people and the planet — and now they have one. The new Fashion Positive Materials Collection, which debuted this week, includes 39 materials for fashion applications that are Cradle to Cradle Certified or have received a Material Health Certificate, which at higher levels of certification ensures safe materials suitable for circular design.

Three years plastic-free ‘is my way of life now’
NEW ZEALAND – Baking soda toothpaste, a bamboo toothbrush and socks for panty liners is what it takes for Merren Tait to live a plastic-free life. Plastic will outweigh the fish in the ocean by 2050, according to Plastic Free July, an initiative with 40,000 people and organisations taking part worldwide.  But this month marks 38-year-old Tait’s third year of avoiding single- or limited-use plastic.

Politics and Society

Election 2016: what will a re-elected Coalition government mean for key policy areas?
Labor leader Bill Shorten on Sunday conceded the 2016 election to Malcolm Turnbull, though it remains uncertain whether the Coalition will form a majority or minority government. So what’s ahead now for health, infrastructure, the economy, welfare, education and more? The Conversation’s experts respond to what the Coalition’s agenda will mean for key policy areas.
See also: Remind me again, what did the Coalition promise during the election campaign?

More parents are choosing to home school their children – why?
More parents in New South Wales (NSW) are choosing to home school their child. There are now around 10,000 registered children who are home schooled each year in Australia. In NSW, the number has increased by 10% in the last year – this follows the trend of the last few years.

Nerf guns, beds and beanbag areas: what makes a productive office?
“One of the first things we did when we moved into the office was issue everyone with toy Nerf guns,” Paul Harris gleefully admits. The co-founder of BrightHR explains that he wanted the Manchester office to be an environment where if people were feeling overwhelmed, pressured or tired they could easily step away from the desk and have fun or simply relax.

Keep It Green: Care for the natural environment
PHUKET: I was once sitting in an open-air Chalong eatery when six uniformed girls arrived for lunch. Obviously part of a team, they ordered a communal dish, which duly arrived: a large steaming bowl of “tom yam kung” and six smaller bowls. One girl took it upon herself assiduously to clean each bowl by rubbing it with three pink tissues. The bowls were soon positively gleaming, but the crumpled tissues – all eighteen of them – were casually discarded on the floor where the wind immediately began to blow them in all directions.  One small anecdote, it neatly illustrates a fact of life here. There is, laudably, a massive preoccupation with personal hygiene…But there is no corresponding concern for the natural environment.

Built Environment

Palm Beach reef on track to protect multi-million dollar properties on Gold Coast
EROSION-PRONE beachfront homeowners will have to weather at least two more years of storms and swells before work begins to bring sand back on to heavily eroded Palm Beach.  In the next 12 months ratepayers will fork out $13 million to save the Gold Coast’s beaches from being swallowed by the ocean, with $4 million going towards an artificial reef 300m off Palm Beach.

Food Systems

The eco guide to home baking
For a non-baker (like me), a zero-energy cake used to mean one someone else made. But I’ve forced myself to recognise the footprint of shop-bought croissants and cream puffs. It’s no joke. First, there are obviously the giant ovens devouring energy, then there’s industrial baking’s reliance on palm oil, too. A new report highlights the devastating impact of the continued march of palm oil monocultures. A further ingredient is bread miles: in the UK an estimated 130m extra road miles are caused by getting “fresh” bread into stores.


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