Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Our top story today indicates drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight is on the cards again.  Apparently, Australia is running low on oil.  A perverse situation considering we could be moving, with the right incentives, to use less oil.  The reaction is typical, produce more oil, rather than addressing the root of the problem. Meanwhile, the Cook Islands are moving away from oil, making all their islands solar powered, and Christina Figueres says drilling for oil in the Arctic isn’t viable.  In other news, a report on how health will be affected in the future as a result of climate change; Timor Leste has an amazingly unspoiled reef and oceanic ecosystem, now it needs to protect it; and Volvo confirms it won’t be making any more diesel cars.

Top Story

‘Alarmingly low’ oil supplies may prompt more drilling in Great Australian Bight, minister warns | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Concerns about national security and energy supply could prompt further bids to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight, the Federal Resources Minister has warned. In his address to the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association’s (APPEA) annual conference in Adelaide on Tuesday, Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan said the Bight could play a vital role in bolstering Australia’s domestic oil supply. Mr Canavan said Australia’s oil production had dropped to alarmingly low levels.

Read also: More of the Great Australian Bight opened to oil and gas | The Guardian 

Climate Change and Energy

One down, five to go: Cook Islands begins shift to 100% solar and storage | One Step Off The Grid
COOK ISLANDS – The South Pacific Ocean’s Cook Islands archipelago has taken a big step towards meeting its 2020 100 per cent renewables target, with half of its 12 inhabited islands in the process of being converted from mostly diesel power to solar and battery storage only.

Arctic oil “undrillable” amid global warming – UN’s ex-climate chief | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Christiana Figueres, formerly head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat when the Paris accord was reached by almost 200 nations in 2015, told Reuters by telephone “the Arctic has been rendered undrillable.” The former Costa Rican diplomat who campaigns for a peak in global emissions by 2020 said it made no economic sense to explore in the Arctic, partly because it was likely to take years to develop any finds. Capital investment would be better used developing renewable energies such as solar and wind to cut emissions, she said.

Environment and Biodiversity

Timor-Leste’s incredible marine life – in pictures | The Guardian
TIMOR LESTE – Situated in the heart of the ‘coral triangle’, this young nation boasts some of the most biodiverse waters in the world. As it emerges from years of unrest, it now faces the challenge of protecting its coasts, and the communities that rely on them, in the face of growing development.


Stunning coral reefs follow the coast of Timor-Leste. In 2016, a study revealed that its coral reefs were some of the healthiest and most diverse in the world. The survey results had found an average of 253 reef fish species at each site, surpassing a previous record in Raja Ampat, the marine epicentre of biodiversity.  Photograph: Paul Hilton/Conservation International

Stunning coral reefs follow the coast of Timor-Leste. In 2016, a study revealed that its coral reefs were some of the healthiest and most diverse in the world. The survey results had found an average of 253 reef fish species at each site, surpassing a previous record in Raja Ampat, the marine epicentre of biodiversity. Photograph: Paul Hilton/Conservation International

Lucrative, easy and on the rise: Animal smuggler warns of growing black market in native animals | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – A prolific, convicted animal smuggler, says Australians would be horrified if they knew how many animals are dying in black market trade while being smuggled to cashed-up collectors in Europe and Asia.

Audio: Sylvia Earle on why we must act now to save the oceans | Mongabay (Podcast 51:55)
Legendary oceanographer, marine biologist, and environmentalist Sylvia Earle, sometimes known as “Her Deepness” or “The Sturgeon General,” is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and former chief scientist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A documentary film about her work called Mission Blue won a 2015 News & Documentary Emmy. She joins us today to discuss how effective marine protected areas are at conserving the oceans and their inhabitants, her Hope Spots program that is identifying some of the most valuable marine environments on the planet, and the latest advances in marine conservation that she is most hopeful about.

Economy and Business

U.S. YouTube star unveils trainers with a modern slavery twist | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Known for unveiling the latest sneakers from Adidas and Nike on his YouTube channel, American vlogger Jacques Slade has unboxed a pair of trainers with a twist – they highlight modern slavery. The campaign by the Thomson Reuters Foundation – “Unboxing the real price of sneakers” – aims to raise awareness of the hidden human cost of clothing among millennials as the issue of ethical fashion increasingly influences how young people shop. The advent of fast fashion, with consumers constantly buying and discarding clothing, has fuelled the risk of worker abuses such as forced labour in global supply chains, campaigners say.

Volvo to stop making new diesel cars | Climate Action Programme
Swedish car company Volvo is phasing out the making of new diesel cars, according to its chief executive. Hakan Samuelsson reportedly told the Financial Times that the company’s new S60 saloon will be the first model in decades to be built without a diesel engine. Last year, Volvo announced its intention to switch to electric or hybrid cars from all its cars from 2019. However, this still left open the possibility for cars to be built where diesel engines are used in tandem with battery technologies.

Waste and the Circular Economy

King Salmon seeks taxpayer funds to help solve its dead fish problem |
NEW ZEALAND – The country’s largest salmon-farming company says potential tax-payer funding to explore better use of its waste products is small fry compared to the environmental outcomes being floated. In a draft submission to the Ministry for the Environment, New Zealand King Salmon is asking for $116,000 from the Waste Minimisation Fund to help figure out how to deal with thousands of tonnes of dead fish and fish faeces. The company will put in around $175,000 of its own money over the next two years. The total cost of the trial would be close to $300,000.

Politics and Society

To get conservative climate contrarians to really listen, try speaking their language | The Conversation
It’s a well-studied fact that facts don’t speak for themselves. This is especially apparent with climate change. Some brilliant studies in the past ten years have shown that people respond to narratives about climate change, not raw facts.  We also know that politics, not scientific knowledge, shapes people’s view of climate change. Hence deniers are generally politically conservative, regardless of scientific literacy. That means a climate change narrative that appeals to conservative values is a high priority.

[Ed: If you’re interested in understanding why people deny human-caused climate change, there is a very good MOOC by the University of Queensland, Denial 1.01x

Three ways climate change might affect your health | newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – A report just out from a Government-owned science company details the health risks to New Zealanders from climate change, helping to illustrate why it has been called the biggest contemporary health issue. The Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) report is dated September but was released only yesterday by Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter. It gathers peer-reviewed research to sum up the likely impacts on respiratory illness, skin cancer, infectious disease and other things.

Climate change is a security threat – so where is the UN Security Council? | The Conversation
Climate change is one of the great security challenges of the 21st century. As the world warms, conflicts over water, food or energy will become more common and many people will be forced from their homes. Scientists, think-tanks, NGOs, militaries and even the White House (albeit under President Obama) all agree that climate change threatens human safety and well-being. Yet the organisation charged with global security has remained relatively silent.

Typo derails landmark ruling against Indonesian palm oil firm guilty of burning peatland | Mongabay
INDONESIA – A district court in Indonesia has shielded an oil palm company from a Supreme Court ruling ordering it to pay $26.5 million in fines for burning peatlands in a high-biodiversity area, citing a typo in the original prosecution. The verdict has stunned activists, who had hoped that the original guilty verdict would set a strong precedent for the judicial fight against environmental crimes. The government is appealing the latest ruling, which, ironically, is fraught with typos that — under the same legal logic — would render it just as invalid as the original guilty verdict.

Attack of the turtles: ruralists assault environmental laws, Amazon | Mongabay
BRAZIL – With the Brazilian public focused on the October elections, and many members of congress gone home to organize runs for office, the bancada ruralista, rural lobby, has launched a raft of amendments, attached to unrelated bills, that would undo many of Brazil’s environmental and indigenous protections. There is a strong chance of passage. These stealth measures are known as “jabutis” or “turtles.”

Food Systems

App helps Kiwi kids find their green thumbs | newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – South Auckland school children are learning how to grow vegetables with the help of an augmented reality app. “The technology is new; the information is age-old. It’s bringing that back to people,” said Paul Dickson, founder of gardening charity, Oke. The app leads children through a week-by-week guide, with an animated character, teaching them what vegetables to sow, tend and harvest.


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