Sustainable Development News

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

The secret agents protecting our crops and gardens | The Conversation
Insect pests cause a huge amount of damage to crops globally. In Australia alone, pests are responsible for around A$360 million of crop losses a year. Controlling pest outbreaks is crucial for food security and human health. Since the 1940s, our primary defence against crop pests has been synthetic pesticides… One of the biggest environmental problems with pesticides is that they can affect these beneficial species as well as the pests they’re targeting. Predatory insects and spiders control pests with none of the health and environmental risks of chemicals. So when we kill these species with insecticides, we are shooting ourselves in the foot. Losing insects also has flow-on effects for larger animals that rely on them for food. Because invertebrates have such important roles to play in our environment, losing them to insecticides can completely change how ecosystems function.

Climate Change and Energy

Hunter Valley’s Bylong River could ‘dry up’ as department ignores advice of NSW Water Office | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – A large foreign-owned mine planned for prime agricultural land in the NSW Hunter Valley could cause the Bylong River and local creeks to “dry up”, according to an assessment by the NSW Water Office obtained under freedom of information laws… South Korean company Kepco is planning to build a series of open-cut and underground mines, to produce up to 6.5 million tonnes of coal each year for export to Korea for electricity generation.

Kinder Morgan pipeline: Al Gore joins fight to block ‘destructive’ project | The Guardian
Al Gore has thrown his support behind opponents of a contentious Canadian pipeline project and condemned the planned expansion as federal officials in Canada scramble to ensure it goes ahead. “The Kinder Morgan pipeline carrying dirty tar sands oil would be a step backward in our efforts to solve the climate crisis,” Gore tweeted on Thursday.

Environment and Biodiversity

Dozens of animals and plants join Australia’s threatened species list | SMH
What do tingle pygmy trapdoor spiders from Western Australia, silver-headed antechinus from central Queensland and Duramana fingers orchids from NSW have in common? If you’re waiting for a funny punchline, sorry – the answer is that they’re among the 41 new species of Australian plants and animals that are now officially at risk of extinction.

Two species of antechinus – the silver-headed and black-tailed antechinus – were added to the threatened species list last week. The small, carnivorous marsupials are best known for their reproductive habits – males die after their once-in-a-lifetime mating frenzy. Photo: Gary Cranitch, Qld Museum

Two species of antechinus – the silver-headed and black-tailed antechinus – were added to the threatened species list last week. The small, carnivorous marsupials are best known for their reproductive habits – males die after their once-in-a-lifetime mating frenzy. Photo: Gary Cranitch, Qld Museum

Federal Court injunction extends logging ban in Central Highlands until February | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Environmentalists are celebrating after the Federal Court extended a logging ban in the Central Highlands in Victoria until next year.  The Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum group is challenging VicForests’ compliance with the regional forest agreement (RFA) for the Central Highlands. The Federal Court on Thursday granted an injunction to stop any logging by VicForests until February when a three-week trial is due to start.  Logging was expected to start last month.

Warning Cape York land-clearing approval puts Great Barrier Reef at risk | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – The Turnbull government faces a test of its $500m budget commitment to protect the Great Barrier Reef, after federal environment officials ruled that a farmer could clear almost 2,000 hectares of Queensland forest. A draft report from the Department of Environment recommends that the clearing at Kingvale station on Cape York, which was authorised under the former Newman state government 2014, should be permitted to go ahead with conditions.  This is despite the report finding that there were endangered species on the land to be cleared, and the government’s own consulting scientist warning that it would likely increase sediment runoff.

Princess Charlotte Bay, Queensland, on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef, where runoff from Kingvale station flows. Photograph: Getty Images/Stocktrek Images

Princess Charlotte Bay, Queensland, on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef, where runoff from Kingvale station flows. Photograph: Getty Images/Stocktrek Images

War on pests: $81.3m for predator eradication in pre-Budget announcement |
NEW ZEALAND – Pests are the big losers in this year’s Budget as the Government declares war on possums, rats and stoats. An extra $81.3 million will be spent on predator control across the country over the next four years, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage announced in Wellington on Saturday morning. The extra funding would let the Department of Conservation [DOC] cover 1.8m hectares, nearly double the current area and the size of Northland and Auckland combined. The investment was needed to protect wildlife like the endangered kiwi, Sage said.

NZ First and Labour seeking Kermadec sanctuary compromise which allows fishing | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – A marine sanctuary in the Kermadec Islands could be back on the table – but not in its original form. Labour and NZ First are working on an alternative proposal for an ocean sanctuary in the region which allows some fishing to take place. The compromise solution would appease NZ First, which was concerned about the impacts of a no-take zone on the fishing industry and iwi. It remains to be seen, however, whether the Green Party would support a watered-down proposal.

A boon for birds: Once overlooked, China’s mudflats gain protections | Mongabay
CHINA – The shoreline of the Yellow Sea has been transformed dramatically over the last half-century as mudflats have been filled in with rock and soil, replacing dynamic, natural tidal zones with solid ground for ports, chemical plants and farmland. Losing the intertidal flats has proved devastating for the millions of shorebirds that funnel through the Yellow Sea during migration. In January, the Chinese government announced a sweeping package of reforms aimed at ending much of the land reclamation taking place on the mudflats. “Stunned joy” is how one bird conservationist described her reaction to news of the reforms, which she said could avert one of the biggest extinction crises facing migratory birds — if they work.

‘Paradise and hell’: the battle to save the forest elephant | The Guardian
GABON – Deep in the steamy rainforest of Gabon, a poaching gang’s night-time fire is smouldering and two long elephant tusks lie among the tangled roots. The axe that hacked them off lies nearby. Just after dawn, the insect buzz and bird chatter is suddenly pierced by a whistle blast and camouflaged park guards burst out from their forest cover, swiftly pinning the poachers to the ground. It is an exercise, part of training being given by the British army to Gabonese park guards. But the ongoing slaughter in Gabon is all too real: a dozen elephants are shot every day by heavily armed ivory poachers.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Balloons harmful to the environment, say conservationists |
The party should be over for balloons, say conservationists. As New Zealanders crack down on plastic bags and take away coffee cups, balloons are still happily bought, blown up and let loose without much thought of where they end up. But the party favourites are now in the sights of conservationists who say they add to the country’s waste problems, and pose a danger to fish and birds.

‘Plogging’ eco craze arrives in Australia from Scandinavia and a Byron Bay run club is ‘loving it’ | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – If you haven’t yet heard of plogging, it won’t take you long to wrap your head around it. The fitness craze involves picking up litter while jogging. Yes, that’s the extent of it. If that sounds like a sped-up Clean Up Australia Day, well it kind of is, except plogging is a worldwide phenomenon. It began in Sweden, where the name originated. Now, the craze has reached Australian shores. Well, it’s reached Byron Bay.

Politics and Society

Rewilding’s next generation will mean no more reserves full of starving animals | The Conversation
NETHERLANDS – In the late 1960s a patch of land to the east of Amsterdam was reclaimed from the sea for industry. Following the 1973 oil crisis this plan was abandoned and flocks of geese moved in. As the geese grazed the land they created changing mosaics of vegetation and a rich and unique environment spontaneously developed. Dutch ecologists saw this and were inspired by the potential for animal grazing to restore a thriving “self-willed” ecosystem. They proposed a unique experiment to recreate the mix of large herbivores that inhabited the region after the last ice age, around 8,000 years ago, and to let natural forces, rather than human management, decide what environment they would create.

‘Young people are angry’: the teenage activists shaping our future | The Guardian
More and more teenagers are noisily questioning the world they’re inheriting and demanding things work differently. Here, we meet some of the young activists whose voices are increasingly impossible to dismiss.

Pentagon revised Obama-era report to remove risks from climate change | The Washington Post
USA – Internal changes to a draft Defense Department report de-emphasized the threats climate change poses to military bases and installations, muting or removing references to climate-driven changes in the Arctic and potential risks from rising seas, an unpublished draft obtained by The Washington Post reveals. The earlier version of the document, dated December 2016, contains numerous references to “climate change” that were omitted or altered to “extreme weather” or simply “climate” in the final report, which was submitted to Congress in January 2018. While the phrase “climate change” appears 23 separate times in the draft report, the final version used it just once.

Peers to rebel over ‘toothless’ post-Brexit green watchdog | The Guardian
UK – A former Tory cabinet minister is backing efforts to force through tough green laws after Brexit, amid anger over plans that would weaken environmental protections once Britain leaves the European Union. Four former environment and climate change secretaries from three parties told the Observer they had concerns about “toothless” plans announced by the government last week, which suggested the new post-Brexit green watchdog would lack the power to take the government to court.

NT Labor Party divisions revealed as majority vote to ban fracking | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Delegates at Territory Labor’s annual conference have voted in favour of a ban on fracking, highlighting the deep divisions within the party just a month after the Gunner Government lifted its moratorium.

Nicola Patrick: High time to make a fashion statement | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – I don’t have a lot of New Zealand designer clothing, although happy to admit I have unfulfilled shopping spree dreams on occasion. But I do own two jackets by big Kiwi brands, both more than 10 years old – a World denim jacket and a Trelise Cooper wool coat. In the news this week were claims that World founder Denise L’Estrange-Corbet had been selling T-shirts made in Bangladesh with a tag saying “Fabrique en Nouvelle-Zelande”.

Hawke’s Bay eco-business churns organic waste to energy |
NEW ZEALAND – Mike Guilford’s self-contained waste remediation system could be a game-changer for commercial waste producers. His invention, which came about after he drew the idea on a whiteboard about 11 years ago, can convert any organic material into methane gas by process of anaerobic digestion. The gas is harvested and used to run a generator plant, which in turn powers the system – meaning no energy bills.


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