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Sustainable Development News, Tuesday 20 May 2014

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change

Killer coal falling out of fashion
‘These things happen. This is what happens in coal mining. There is no such thing as accident-free work.”  Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s reaction to his country’s worst industrial disaster, which has killed some 300 miners in Soma, north of Izmir, seems the height of heartlessness. And it’s consistent: he shrugged off a – smaller – fatal accident four years ago with the comment that mining “has dying in its destiny”.\

Researchers concerned CSG could threaten food and water security
A group of researchers has raised concerns that coal seam gas operations present potential threats to food and water security.  In a letter to the Medical Journal of Australia, Monash University’s Adjunct Professor Marion Carey referred to an incident where groundwater near a coal seam gas operation was found to have elevated levels of heavy metals and uranium.

British fracking support falls below 50%, poll shows
Public support for fracking for shale gas in the UK has fallen below 50% for the first time, new polling suggests.  Just 49.7% of people now say they think the controversial process should be allowed in the UK, marking the third fall in support since high-profile protests last summer in West Sussex which saw dozens of arrests including that of Green MP, Caroline Lucas and ongoing protests at a site in Salford.

A precipitation shift from snow towards rain leads to a decrease in streamflow
NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE Increased surface temperatures are expected to cause less precipitation in the form of snow. The impact of decreased snowfall has previously been assumed to not influence streamflow significantly. This work applies a water-balance framework to catchments in the United States and finds a greater percentage of precipitation as snowfall is associated with greater mean streamflow.

Anxiety on ski fields as white slopes give way to green
The country’s alpine resorts face a nervous couple of weeks as unusually warm weather leaves their ski runs a verdant green with just a few patches of the white stuff.  The same warm spell that is setting heat records from Adelaide to Melbourne and Sydney is also keeping temperatures stubbornly above zero at the ski fields, rendering snowmaking all but useless.

Environment

How wildlife tourism and zoos can protect animals in the wild
Big Ritchie looks up from his pile of bananas, unperturbed by the flock of tourists taking his photo. Sprawled around him, mother orangutans* and their fluffy orange babies groom affectionately, chase each other, hang upside down, or wander off and vanish into the nearby forest canopy. Fewer than 2,000 orangutans are left living in the wild in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, with nearly all truly wild ones confined to a remote site on the Indonesian border. It’s why thousands of tourists and local Sarawak people come to places like this – the popular Semenggoh Nature Reserve – to see orangutans semi-wild in a reserve or captive in a rehabilitation centre.

Tourism industry group launches legal fight over dredge spoil dumping
A tourism industry group is mounting a legal challenge against the decision to allow the dumping of dredge spoil in hte Barrier Reef marine park area off far north Qld.  The Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO) is taking the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation (NQBPC) to the Federal Court next month.

Amateur scientists on NSW far south coast take part in Pambula ‘bioblitz’
Amateur scientists have descended on a New South Wales far south coast wetland to spot as many plants and animals as possible in 48 hours.  “We now know the number of birds.  We also know the number of plants that are now there.  It really just represents a really healthy ecosystem.  And shows what people who put time and effort into conservation and reclaiming land can do.”

Politics and Society

Bhutan ‘at risk from mindless growth and western consumerism’
Bhutan risks making the same mistakes as other Asian countries by destroying its environment and social cohesion if it fails to engage young people in its gross national happiness (GNH) strategy.  This is the warning from Tho Ha Vinh, the programme director of the GNH Centre, an NGO which is dedicated to protecting and supporting the movement to maintain deep contentment as the mainstay of the Himalayan kingdom’s way of life.

Bathurst Burr: Is climate our modern day dictator?
As I walk around Chippendale, where I live in inner Sydney, I’m thinking about how it was to live in Hitler’s Germany before World War II.  The streets here are narrow, some only wide enough for one car to get down. Since 2008 we’ve planted our streets with fruit trees, lemon grass, herbs, bay trees, paw paw trees and flowers, and bright yellow metal planter boxes are here and there on the footpath. The idea’s caught on and road gardens are being planted in streets across Australia’s cities.

Living alongside leopards in Mumbai
A curious night-time incident between a dog and a leopard was captured on CCTV in the Mumbai suburb of Goregaon earlier this year. Footage was released on Youtube and Indian newspapers printed grainy snapshots of a dog chasing a leopard out of a housing complex.  The dog, a stray, soon became a hero among the building’s residents.

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