Sustainable Development News

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

‘We have to stop the bulldozers’: swaths of koala habitat lost, say activists
AUSTRALIA – A relaxation in Queensland’s tree clearing laws led to the destruction of 84,000 hectares of critical koala habitat in the two years after the national icon was listed as vulnerable, according to new mapping by conservationists. That koala habitat made up about 14% of all land cleared between mid-2013 and mid-2015 was an alarming revelation, WWF and the Australian Koala Foundation said.

Energy and Climate Change

These dazzling blue lakes are the latest sign that Antarctica is in trouble
In a new study, scientists who study the largest ice mass on Earth — East Antarctica — have found that it is showing a surprising feature reminiscent of the fastest melting one: Greenland. More specifically, the satellite-based study found that atop the coastal Langhovde Glacier in East Antarctica’s Dronning Maud Land, large numbers of “supraglacial” or meltwater lakes have been forming — nearly 8,000 of them in summer between the year 2000 and 2013. Moreover, in some cases, just as in Greenland, these lakes appear to have then been draining down into the floating parts of the glacier, potentially weakening it and making it more likely to fracture and break apart.


HANDOUT PHOTO: Satellite image shows a group of lakes atop Langhovde Glacier, East Antarctica. (Satellite image courtesy of DigitalGlobe, Inc.)

HANDOUT PHOTO: Satellite image shows a group of lakes atop Langhovde Glacier, East Antarctica. (Satellite image courtesy of DigitalGlobe, Inc.)

Tesla vs LG vs Sony vs … storage goes head to head at new ACT test centre
AUSTRALIA – An ARENA funded residential battery storage trial that will test eight of the  sector’s leading lithium-ion technologies, including the 6.4kWh Tesla Powerwall, is underway in Canberra. The three-year trial, which is being conducted by ITP Renewables, was officially launched by the ACT government, ARENA and ITP on Wednesday, on-site at the Canberra Institute of Technology’s Bruce Campus. Over the course of the trial, lithium-ion battery chemistries and products will be tested and compared against claims made by manufacturers, under Australian conditions. Ongoing results of these tests will be displayed in real-time on a dedicated new website.

Solar and storage in apartment blocks: innovations and road blocks
AUSTRALIA – Solar installations on apartment blocks, for example, are virtually unheard of – and yet these make up the largest and most rapidly growing sector in our cities. The Solar + Storage project at Sydney’s Stucco Co-operative is beginning to change this. With the support of an Environmental Performance Innovation Grant from the City of Sydney the housing co-op is reinventing itself (or at least it’s electric identity).

Environment and Biodiversity

Neonicotinoids linked to wild bee and butterfly declines in Europe and US
Two separate studies from the United States and England, both published today, show evidence that populations of butterflies and wild bees have declined in association with increased neonicotinoid use. Neonicotinoids, or neonics, are pesticides applied to crops as seed treatments or sprays. Neonics have high selective toxicity for insects, meaning they are more toxic to insects than mammals. When insects eat the treated plants, the pesticides affect the insects’ health, behaviour and reproductive success.

Researchers say addressing the second D in REDD can benefit the climate while ensuring timber harvests
Significant reductions in carbon emissions could be achieved by sustainable forestry practices in the tropics, researchers say — but so far, the world is not taking full advantage of this opportunity to mitigate global warming. An international team of researchers analyzed the potential for timber production and carbon emission reductions under two logging techniques over a 40-year period of selective logging. They published their results this month in the journal Frontiers in Environmental Science…

Smoke from Indonesia’s fires begins to drift into Malaysia
Air quality in Indonesia and peninsular Malaysia declined this week as prevailing southwesterly winds continued to blow smog over the water that separates the two countries. “Smoke from forest fires and peat in Riau has already crossed the Malacca Strait,” Indonesia’s disaster management agency chief Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Wednesday.

Effects of rising ocean acidification on fisheries in spotlight
A reef fish that can’t find its way home and whose erratic behaviour constantly puts it in danger might make a nice premise for a children’s movie, but oceans filled with Dory’s could spell disaster for their survival. Higher atmospheric carbon dioxide levels means more is being absorbed in seawater, with some young fish’s nervous systems being affected. Notwithstanding the wonderful diversity of marine wildlife around our shores, with 130 species commercially fished in New Zealand and worth $1.2 billion annually, finding out what’s in store for them in a warming world is important.

Extending sanctuary zones in Ningaloo Marine Park will help defend it from climate change: study
AUSTRALIA – Murdoch University led the study that mapped the most resilient habitats of the more than 263,000-hectare World Heritage-listed park using remote sensing. The resilience of each area was measured by its depth, structural complexity, amount of water mixing, seaweed cover, live coral cover and proximity to human activity.  The study suggests existing sanctuary zones could be expanded to cover the deeper, offshore areas to keep the most resilient areas of the reef healthy and protected.

‘All they need is a head start’: reforesting India’s Western Ghats
India is home to iconic wildlife like tigers, dholes and even lions, as well as many species found nowhere else in the world. But they share the subcontinent with the world’s second-largest human population – and as India’s 1.3 billion people vie for space with wilderness, wilderness has often lost out. Such is the case in the Nilgiris District of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Once covered in a mosaic of montane forest and grassland, the Nilgiris was transformed into a land of plantations over the past two centuries. But now efforts are underway to restore the landscape to its native state.

Scotland’s rare mountain plants disappearing as climate warms, botanists find
There is clear evidence that some of Britain’s rarest mountain plants are disappearing due to a steadily warming climate, botanists working in the Scottish Highlands have found.

High-tech tool could boost bid to make New Zealand predator-free
Joint research between the [Auckland] University’s Department of Statistics and School of Biological Sciences has led to a new online tool that can quickly confirm whether pests have been successfully eradicated from an area. Users enter basic parameters about pest populations, such as how far individuals can move and how likely they are to be detected and what level of effort will be put in to monitoring. The software then calculates how likely it is pests have been eradicated from the area if none are detected.

Drones in science: Rising beyond pretty pictures
Drones are revolutionising environmental science. Four scientists explain how they are using drones, what challenges they face and how the technology is changing our understanding of the world around us.

Savannas and grasslands are more biodiverse than you might think — and we’re not doing enough to conserve them
A new study finds that, contrary to popular belief, grassy biomes such as grasslands and savannas are species-rich ecosystems every bit as biodiverse as rainforests — yet little attention is being paid to the fact that they’re being destroyed at an even quicker pace.

Economy and Business

Clean 200: The world’s top green companies
[On Monday], non-profit organisation As You Sow and market research firm Corporate Knights published the Clean 200 report which lists large global companies by their total clean energy revenues. Rated by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, companies require at least $1bn of market capitalisation and 10 per cent of revenues generated from clean sources to be included in the list.

How the fossil fuel industry’s new pitch is more like an epitaph than a life lesson
Yep. It’s a new advert for fossil fuels and it tugs on our hopes and aspiration with all the subtlety of a dog tearing at your trouser leg. This slick effort comes from a just-launched “non-profit” group called Fueling US Forward, reportedly financially backed by the oil billionaire Koch brothers.

Introducing the Systems View of Life Into Organizations
I recently took part in a Sustainable Brands webinar with Fritjof Capra, in which we discussed how to introduce systems thinking and the systems view of life into organizations. After interviewing Fritjof in January, I invited him to take part in this webinar to explore the issues in more depth, an opportunity which would also allow participants to ask questions and contribute their thoughts and ideas as well.

Waste and the Circular Economy

WA container deposit scheme: Consumers to get 10c for bottles, cans in recycling push
West Australians will receive a 10 cent refund on recyclable cans and bottles under a scheme to be introduced by the State Government in 2018. After years of resisting calls for a container deposit scheme, the Barnett Government said it planned to use recycling depots and reverse vending machines to deliver the refunds, with 10 cents added to the initial cost of the drinks.

Politics and Society

Millennials want solar, storage, shared energy – and an app for all that 
Who am I? I was born somewhere between the early 1980s and mid 2000s. According to research, I’m well educated, highly tech-savvy, skeptical by nature and street smart; well informed, value-driven and well paid – but also motivated by more than just the hip pocket. Yes, I’m a Millennial. And as part of Australia’s second-largest cohort (20.5 per cent of the total population) after Generation X, I’m the next great engine of the consumer economy. So what do I want from my energy company?

Australia’s rich give little – and a culture of secrecy surrounds their philanthropy
Wealth in Australia is becoming heavily concentrated among a tiny, super-wealthy elite. Manifestations of this inequality include signs of obscene wealth and extreme poverty. Governments are struggling to tackle this problem. But could philanthropy be part of the solution? The altruistic behaviour of some of Australia’s wealthy is being promoted as a feasible way to solve national and international problems. There is a view that philanthropy from super-wealthy individuals, rather than government policy, will be the force that changes the world for the better. But, in Australia, this seems unlikely.

The coral die-off crisis is a climate crime and Exxon fired the gun | Bill McKibben
The amazingly rapid die-off of a huge percentage of the world’s coral reefs is not a sad but normal tragedy; it’s a crime. Perhaps the fastest, most widespread crime of the global warming era.

The Nauru files: why don’t we believe victims of sexual abuse?
AUSTRALIA – The release of the “Nauru files” last week revealed more than 2,000 incidents of sexual assault, child abuse and self-harm of asylum seekers, and documented the appalling living conditions for those held in offshore detention on Nauru. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton dismissed many of the files, including those documenting sexual assault, as “false allegations in an attempt to get to Australia”. Dutton’s comments reinforce historically ingrained ideas about sexual assault victims as being “unreliable” or “untrustworthy”. His claims contribute towards a broader discourse that enables the dismissal, denial, and distrust of women and children who have experienced sexual violence.

Manus Island: Children in detention ‘unacceptable’, WA Premier Colin Barnett says
West Australian Premier Colin Barnett says his Government would be prepared to accommodate asylum seekers from Nauru, ahead of the closure of the Manus Island Detention Centre in Papua New Guinea.

Govt seeks other parties’ help on climate
In a significant development, the National Party has reached out to Labour, Greens and New Zealand First to seek a cross-party approach to climate change for the first time. The bid for a bipartisan agreement on the issue comes after the Government committed today to ratifying the landmark Paris Agreement before the end of the year, locking in New Zealand’s long-term emissions reduction target.
Read also: NZ to ratify Paris Agreement by end of year

Wellingtonians have 18 months to microchip their cats after council signs off bylaw
NEW ZEALAND – Wellington city councillors have voted unanimously to adopt revised animal bylaws that include the compulsory microchipping of cats. Owners will have 18 months before the policy comes into effect requiring all domestic cats over the age of 12 weeks to be microchipped and registered with New Zealand Companion Animal Register, or other council-approved microchip register.

Built Environment

China plans to fast-charge electric vehicle production
China is said to be considering the introduction of compulsory quotas for carmakers that would require them to produce more electric vehicles or purchase carbon credits from their peers, in a bid to tighten emissions and support companies in developing what the government considers a strategic industry.

Can zero-energy buildings become the norm?
We face domestic and international energy challenges that must be addressed in order to successfully mitigate climate change impacts as well as to ensure economic and national security. The industry has responded with innovative solutions intended to equip the public and private sectors with the tools necessary to decrease energy consumption and increase the resiliency of communities by incorporating the use of energy efficient technology and strategies. As it turns out, buildings are a great place to start.

Four ways technology will change how we commute in the future
From self driving cars to streetlight sensors, we highlight some of the grand ideas for urban transportation from cities across the US.

Sadiq Khan names deputy mayor for environment and energy
Having marked his first 100 days as London mayor, Sadiq Khan has chosen his 101st to announce the appointment of a deputy mayor for environment and energy. Shirley Rodrigues… has previously worked at City Hall on implementing London’s Low Emission Zone and programmes for retrofitting buildings… She will immediately take the lead on finalising Khan’s proposals for tackling London’s poor air quality, for which a consultation has already been conducted.

Yet another huge wildfire is consuming southern California
SUMMIT VALLEY, Calif. — A monster wildfire raged through an ever-bigger expanse of southern California on Wednesday, fed by a dangerous combination of hot weather, bone-dry conditions and breezy winds. Dark, thick smoke blocked the sky in communities turned ghost towns, with schools closed and more than 82,000 people ordered to evacuate from their homes.

Food Systems

Green beans: why pulses are the eco-friendly option for feeding – and saving – the world
We all know the score: current trends predict there will be 9.7 billion mouths to feed by 2050. Producing enough food without using more land, exacerbating climate change or putting more pressure on water, soil and energy reserves will be challenging… Enter the pulses: beans, peas and lentils. Although generally cheaper than meat, these are rich sources of protein and also come with essential micronutrients including iron, zinc, magnesium and folate. As low GI (glycaemic index) foods, they release their energy slowly over time, preventing surges in blood glucose. Naturally gluten-free, they are also ideal for the rising numbers of those with coeliac disease.


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