Sustainable Development News

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

As floods rise in Bangladesh, crab farming helps families tread water | Thomson Reuters Foundation
BANGLADESH – Kishore Mondol, a farmer in the low-lying deltas of southern Bangladesh, points at the four-foot-high platform of grey clay he and his wife have just struggled to build. The mound is intended to keep their next home above ever-rising floodwaters. But even it won’t last long, he fears. “Within the next 10 years, monsoon high tides will be flowing over this level,” he predicts. With tidal floods fast worsening as a result of more intense rainfall and sea level rise, “this is the third time within 20 years we are moving our home higher,” complained Mondol, whose village lies in Khulna district, at the head of southwestern Bangladesh’s Sundarbans tidal forests.

Kishore and Tripti Mondol and their son stand near the 4-foot-high clay platform the family recently built to try to keep their home above rising floodwaters in Joymoni, in Bangladesh's southwest Khulna district, February 24, 2018. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Manipadma Jena

Kishore and Tripti Mondol and their son stand near the 4-foot-high clay platform the family recently built to try to keep their home above rising floodwaters in Joymoni, in Bangladesh’s southwest Khulna district, February 24, 2018. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Manipadma Jena

Climate Change and Energy

AusNet takes suburban Melbourne street off-grid for almost 24 hours | One Step Off The Grid
AUSTRALIA – A ground-breaking mini-grid trial by Victorian network operator AusNet Services has, for the third time, taken part of a Melbourne street completely off grid – this time for a period of almost 22 hours. In a project update posted last week, AusNet said the mini-grid, comprising 17 households on a suburban street in Mooroolbark, was “seamlessly” disconnected from the grid and, for 21 hours, powered only by the collective solar and battery storage systems installed on 14 of the homes.

Is Fukushima doomed to become a dumping ground for toxic waste? | The Guardian
JAPAN – This month, seven years after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi reactor meltdowns and explosions that blanketed hundreds of square kilometres of northeastern Japan with radioactive debris, government officials and politicians spoke in hopeful terms about Fukushima’s prosperous future. Nevertheless, perhaps the single most important element of Fukushima’s future remains unspoken: the exclusion zone seems destined to host a repository for Japan’s most hazardous nuclear waste.

Environment and Biodiversity

What is ‘blue carbon’ and how does it help protect our coastal ecosystems? | GreenBiz
Over 3 billion people depend on healthy and safe coastal ecosystems for their economic livelihoods, for food and for protection from storms. The economic value of coastal ecosystems is estimated at the scale of billions to trillions. Coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass meadows and tidal marshes supply numerous critical ecosystem services, purifying water, protecting coasts and providing nursery areas for fish. On top of this, they store large amounts of carbon — commonly referred to as “blue carbon”: the carbon stored by oceans and coastal ecosystems.
See also: Coromandel mangrove row hits Parliament | NZ Herald 

Queensland’s new land clearing bill will help turn the tide, despite its flaws | The Conversation
Queensland’s Labor government this month tabled a bill to tighten the regulation of land clearing. Queensland is by far the worst offender in this area, following a litany of reversals of vegetation protection.  After a period of tightened laws between 2004 and 2013, the Newman government set about unwinding key reforms during its 2012-15 term.  Following these changes, land-clearing rates quadrupled to almost 400,000 hectares per year, to the dismay of conservationists, with rising concern about the impacts on wild animal welfare and wider ecological impacts.

Economy and Business

Redefining Business with Environmental Restoration | World Resources Institute
For environmentalists, the word “business” often raises the specter of pollution. High-profile incidents such as the Volkswagen emissions scandal and the BP oil spill remind us how businesses often profit from pollution, causing a total of $4.7 trillion in environmental damages per year. Despite the rapid growth of renewable energy, the world economy remains reliant on fossil fuels. And when projecting global emissions, the IPCC has shown how business-as-usual scenarios are likely to seriously disrupt our entire ecosystem. Simply put, business in its current form is a disaster for the environment. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Trubridge designers: Sustainability good for both the planet and business | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – It would be disingenuous for those at David Trubridge Design to say the company’s sustainable practices were solely about helping the planet – they make business sense too. David Trubridge Design general manager Josh Lynch said sustainability was an integral part of the Hawke’s Bay company’s story. Mr Lynch said while the company couldn’t attain a zero-waste status it was working to minimise it, with factory production making just one domestic wheelie bin’s worth of landfill waste per fortnight.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Big Australia’s rubbish future does not have to go to waste – Big Australia | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Would the concept of waste become obsolete if our garbage had value? Imagine if you could get paid for the things you put in your rubbish, and countries competed to import waste. Waste is an environmental issue as well as a resource issue, and as Australia approaches 2050 and a population of 40 million, resources will be more valuable than ever.

Status Green: The problem of dumping car bumpers |
NEW ZEALAND – More than 200,000 broken car bumpers are dumped into landfills across New Zealand every year. A Christchurch company is trialling methods to make a dent in the issue, with plans to turn the trash into useful everyday items, including new bumpers.  Resource recovery company 3R Group began granulating bumpers at its Hornby depot in March, hoping to catch up with parts of the world where recycling car parts is common.

Australians will have to get used to drinking recycled water | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Drinking treated sewage has always been on the nose in Australia. The “ick” factor has led successive state governments across the country to rule it out as an option and was a key reason desalination plants were built in many capital cities. But you’re going to have to get over it because once population booms and climate change bites, most Australians will be drinking recycled water, according to urban water experts.

Politics and Society

Does hope lead to better futures? | Brookings
Does hope matter? More specifically, does it matter to future outcomes? Individuals and families typically make key decisions based on a desire to achieve something. While at the heart of economics and other behavioral sciences, we know little about the role of hope and optimism in determining future behavior or about the links between beliefs and behavior, more generally

Offsets for emissions breaches prove Australia has a carbon market, Labor says | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Sixteen Australian industrial sites have breached government-imposed greenhouse gas emissions limits and had to buy millions of dollars in carbon credits. The breaches came despite big emitters being granted generous carbon limits, in many cases above their highest previous pollution levels. They were revealed in the first batch of emissions data released under the Coalition’s “safeguard mechanism”, part of the Direct Action climate policy introduced by carbon pricing opponent Tony Abbott.

Stephen Hawking’s warnings: What he predicted for the future | BBC News
Stephen Hawking’s fame was founded on the research he did on general relativity and black holes. But he often stepped outside his own field of research, using his recognition to highlight what he saw as the great challenges and existential threats for humanity in coming decades. His pronouncements drove headlines in the media, which sometimes proved controversial.

Food Systems

Greater observations and cameras on fishing vessels is needed, report finds |
NEW ZEALAND – Greater observation of inshore commercial fishing vessels is needed to fill knowledge gaps and protect rare species, a Government review says. But any progress on the planned rollout of on-board camera seems to have stalled since Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash put the brakes on an electronic monitoring programme soon after he took the job. The camera rollout had been planned for this year under the previous National Government.


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