Monday 13 October 2014
Sustainable Development News
Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change
Satellite data shows surprising methane hotspot in US southwest
A surprising hotspot of the potent global warming gas methane hovers over part of the southwestern US, according to satellite data and is likely to be leakage from pumping methane out of coal mines. The result hints that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other agencies considerably underestimate leaks of methane, which is also called natural gas. The higher level of methane is not a local safety or a health issue for residents, but is a factor in overall global warming. While methane isn’t the most plentiful heat-trapping gas, scientists worry about its increasing amounts and have had difficulties tracking emissions.
Environment and Biodiversity
Endangered Orangutans Gain From Eco-Friendly Shifts in Palm Oil Market
Orangutans are endangered. Now, they’re also at the epicenter of a quiet revolution, a transformation taking place on our grocery store shelves, as one company after another promises to switch to palm oil from “deforestation-free” sources. Orangutans face many obstacles, from commercial logging and mining to deforestation for pulp and paper. But Michelle Desilets, executive director of the Orangutan Land Trust, says that the “the conversion of forest for oil palm is the single greatest threat to [their] survival in the wild” in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea.
Review of New South Wales land clearing laws favours paying farmers to look after native vegetation
Paying farmers to look after native vegetation is firming as a likely outcome of the New South Wales Government’s review of land-clearing laws. The idea, long supported by landholders, has the backing of environmentalists and the panel charged with overhauling the complex and divisive legislation. The ecologist leading the review, Dr Neil Byron, favours the concept. “We’re certainly looking at that,” he told the ABC, saying he believes in compensating farmers who go the extra yard. “Up to a certain level this is just good farming practice… but if someone is required to go well above that threshold to provide benefits for the public, then maybe they should be paid for that.”
Feral cats tear through last wild bilby population in Queensland’s Astrebla Downs National Park
As few as 200 native bilbies remain in the wild in Astrebla Downs National Park, after a recent plague of feral cats devastated Queensland’s former stronghold for the endangered marsupial. The dwindling numbers have been confirmed by Queensland Environment and Heritage Minister Andrew Powell in an interview with Radio National’s Background Briefing. Astrebla Downs previously was home to an estimated 700 bilbies. More than 3,000 feral cats have been shot by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service within the park over the last two years, costing the department $350,000.
Economy and Business
‘The right ratings system could make worldwide markets more sustainable’
Studies draw a clear link between sustainability and financial performance, but credit ratings don’t recognize this. A better ratings system could be a powerful tool to reward and reprimand. Companies that aspire to “sustainable brand” status need and deserve rigorous, credible and transparent ratings that financial and consumer markets recognize and trust. That is the challenge that lies at the heart of the Global Initiative for Sustainability Ratings, or GISR.
A New Approach to Profits: Creating Shared Value for Business and Society
Global production networks, or value chains, fundamentally change the way companies make products and deliver services. These networks source inputs, labour and technology from distant locations to produce goods and services in the most cost-effective manner possible. This renders borders porous while raising new concerns about the welfare of local communities and the use of shared natural resources. The transnational corporations (TNCs) that shape these global value chains command a great deal of power. They can be hailed for promoting efficiencies and delivering attractively priced goods to consumers; at the same time, they can be vilified as behemoths that advance their own interests at the expense of citizens, workers and the environment. At the heart of the matter is how these large corporations account for social and environmental impact of their activities.
Heinberg: Localize Economy or Face the Consequences
As climate change continues to threaten California in myriad ways, policymakers face a tough dilemma: promote economic growth or protect the planet. At first, these priorities seem incompatible, but some experts on the topic say the environment and the economy are intimately linked, and are calling for a radical restructuring of communities to make them more local and self-sufficient. Richard Heinberg, an author and environmental activist, says that reimagining communities to function on a smaller scale might be the best way to limit fossil fuel use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
310- To 373-Mile Electric Cars By 2020, Says VW Exec
Dr Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Volkswagen’s head of powertrain development, thinks that electric cars with over 300 miles of range aren’t too far off. The foundation of his argument is that the energy density of electric car batteries has been improving rapidly and will continue to do so. “I expect the next generation in 2015-17 will increase to around 300 km [186 miles] and the following step will be around 500-600 km [310-372 miles],” Dr Neusser said when discussing the VW e-Golf. Dr Neusser thinks we could have 500- to 600-kilometer (310- to 373-mile) electric cars by 2020.
Waste and the Circular Economy
Cambridge University to Install Underground Recycling Bin at Largest Development 800yrs
One of the largest underground recycling bin systems in the UK is to be installed at the North West Cambridge, with around 450 underground bins, supplied by Portuguese manufacturer, Sotkon. According to Cambridge University, the North West Cambridge Development is the largest single capital project that it has undertaken in its 800-year history. The university added that the bins will be located across the 150 hectare development site, which may have required as many as 9000 traditional wheelie bins. The use of underground bins is relatively low in the UK, but is said to assist directly in reducing carbon by taking away the stop-start collection of traditional above ground wheelie bins.
Politics and Society
Challenging the old narrative that possessions equal prosperity
Prosperity. Every segment of society seeks it, but ask what it means or how to get it and the answers are not always clear. Do possessions equal prosperity? The mavens of Madison Avenue tell us: “He who dies with the most toys wins.” So we measure self-worth by what we buy, going deeper in debt to project the perception of plenitude. To play this game, you need money. The siren song is work harder, and you too, can join the moneyed class. It’s seductive: we all know someone who did win: the entrepreneur who struck it rich, hard-working immigrants who scrimped to put the kids through college, clawing their way to the middle class. But Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the 21st Century shows the system is rigged. Working harder won’t ensure prosperity. Without transformation of the financial system, the neoliberal ideology that has imposed austerity around the planet is punishing everyone who is not an owner of capital.
How family planning could be part of the answer to climate change
You’ve changed your lightbulbs, you recycle, you’ve retrofitted your house, cycle when you can, and drive an electric car when you can’t. You’re doing your bit to reduce your carbon emissions and prevent dangerous climate change. But if you have two children, your legacy of carbon emissions could be 40-times higher than those you saved through lifestyle changes. In fact, under dangerous climate change scenarios in 2050, nearly a third of carbon emissions can be avoided by slowing population growth.
Predicting the last brand standing in the supermarket price wars
On January 26, 2011, grocery retailer Coles fired the first salvo in what would soon be dubbed the “supermarket price wars” by reducing the price of its own-brand milk to A$1 per litre. Woolworths immediately responded. In the three years since, grocery prices have been tumbling, with 85 cent bread being the latest “sacrificial lamb”. This period of intense competition has brought about not just lower grocery prices, but a senate enquiry, and increasing media and analyst interest. Price wars represent one of the most severe forms of competitive interplay in the market place, often leading to great losses. Retailers suffer losses in terms of margins, consumer loyalty and an inability to pull out of the downward cycle.
China’s water dilemma between farming and growing population
Despite rapid urbanisation, and an economy now driven by industry rather than farming, the country is still able to feed over 20% of the world’s population. Maintaining self-sufficiency in wheat and rice remains ideologically important, even if imports of feed grains for meat production have soared over recent years. But agriculture – and particularly the irrigated agriculture that supports food production in the drier north of the country – needs water. And as other parts of the economy have boomed, water scarcity is biting hard. This has created something of a dilemma for China’s ruling Community Party (CCP): how can it safeguard food production, and the incomes of China’s farmers, while releasing water to increasingly thirsty urban and industrial users?
5 reasons why you should take cold showers
Turning off the heat may not sound appealing, but there are some actual health benefits to be had by taking a cold plunge on a regular basis. Have you ever taken a cold shower – a really cold shower? Then you’ll know that bracing sensation as the icy cold water comes pouring out of the showerhead onto your just-warm, now-frozen skin. You gasp, and perhaps scream, as you become number by the second. Although the shock dissipates, the pain never really goes away until you step out and grab the nearest towel. In the following moments, however, you suddenly realize it was totally worth it. By now you’re feeling the greatest adrenaline rush. Your skin is tingling, you’re wide awake, and you’re realizing, I just did it!
New burial options being considered at Adelaide’s Centennial Park Cemetery
Population growth and suburban sprawl have put increasing pressure on suburban cemeteries as to how they use an ever-diminishing reserve. Operators of one of Adelaide’s largest cemeteries, Centennial Park, acknowledged in 2003 that it would need to start reusing grave plots. Acting CEO Matthew Morgan told 891 ABC Adelaide’s Afternoons program the cemetery also carried out focus group research in 2011 to ensure they could meet customers’ needs.
Social enterprise is an emerging force in Pakistan
The term social enterprise may be relatively new in Pakistan but it is gaining popularity in its areas of development. While it may be an unfamiliar concept for many engaged in local grassroots businesses they can nevertheless see the potential of engaging in ventures which have a social impact. According to the Opportunity Pakistan Report – produced by i-genius, an initiative supporting social entrepreneurs worldwide – despite the country’s social and political unrest, it offers opportunities for investment and innovation.