Sustainable Development News

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Top Story

This graphic novelist tells the true story of climate change
If Philippe Squarzoni knows one thing, it’s that a book can’t change the world. When the French graphic novelist — whose work tackles such hard-hitting topics as the Zapatista movement in Mexico and homicide rates in Baltimore — decided to put together a 500-page tome on climate change, he did so, he says, not out of any kind of activist agenda, but because “je ne pouvais pas ne pas le faire” — “I couldn’t not do it.” He never thought it would alter the trajectory of things, change anyone’s mind, or make people care. Nope: He claims it was simply because the problem was so vast and so all-encompassing. The more he learned about it, the bigger and scarier it got, and he just couldn’t to put it down.

Energy and Climate Change

Why climate ‘uncertainty’ is no excuse for doing nothing
Former environment minister Owen Paterson has called for the UK to scrap its climate change targets. In a speech to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, he cited “considerable uncertainty” over the impact of carbon emissions on global warming, a line that was displayed prominently in coverage by the Telegraph and the Daily Mail. At first glance, avoiding interference with the global economy may seem advisable when there is uncertainty about the future rate of warming or the severity of its consequences. But delaying action because the facts are presumed to be unreliable reflects a misunderstanding of the science of uncertainty.

Sunday Explainer: from plants to the Pentagon, a week in climate change
The science and politics of climate change remain as divisive as ever. The most discussed, least acted upon problem facing the planet made headlines this week that variously suggested it was not actually a problem, not as big a problem as previously thought, a problem within reach of a solution or a problem being used by universities to unfairly target downtrodden fossil fuel companies. What’s really going on? Adam Morton takes the temperature.

Environment and Biodiversity

Glimpses of extinction: the pictures that capture the stories
This year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition will again document the planet’s rarest animals and focus on the twists of fate that decide survival. Toshiji Fukuda went to extraordinary lengths to photograph an Amur tiger, one of the world’s rarest mammals, in 2011. He built a tiny wooden hut overlooking a beach in Russia’s remote Lazovsky nature reserve, on the Sea of Japan, and spent the winter there. Fukuda was 63 at the time. “Older people have one advantage: time passes more quickly for us than the young,” he said later.

Kaka feasting on Botanic Garden trees
As the kaka population in Wellington continues to thrive, the native parrot’s propensity for stripping tree bark is causing havoc in the Botanic Gardens.  Gardens manager David Sole said he had found a worthy adversary in the feathered foe, which strips the bark to get at the sap below.  “It’s quite systematic,” he said.  “There is a possible treatment to apply to the tree, but no real solution – they are such intelligent and inquisitive birds. It will just continue to get worse. They’re having a bit of a feast at our expense.”

Initiatives Launched to Save Bee Population
Cascadian Farm and the Almond Board of California have both launched initiatives to help reverse declining bee populations. Cascadian Farm, in partnership with The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and the University of Minnesota Bee Lab, announced its “Bee Friendlier” program to increase awareness of bee loss issues and encourage actions to help bees thrive.

Economy and Business

Divestment backlash shows companies need to improve sustainability reporting
Tony Abbott’s criticisms of the ANU’s divestment decision will come back to bite him. The tide of change is such that Vice-Chancellor Ian Young and the ANU Council will be seen as leaders. Others will follow. Abbott has added his voice to a growing chorus condemning the decision by ANU to divest from seven resource companies, including treasurer Joe Hockey, education minister Christopher Pyne, and blacklisted companies Santos, Iluka Resources and Sandfire Resources. But if these companies are unhappy with the analysis of their environmental and social performance, they should take responsibility for better valuing and reporting their environmental and social impacts.

More Australian universities come under pressure to divest from fossil fuels
Pressure for the nation’s leading universities to join the Australian National University and dump investments in fossil fuels will continue to mount despite the condemnation of such moves by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey. Faculty members and students at three other Group of Eight universities are preparing open letters to present to their institutions in coming weeks, demanding that the universities sell endowment investments in companies involved in fossil fuel extraction or processing.

‘Ethical’ funds still pouring money into coal, oil and gas, new report finds
Should ethical investment funds be putting millions of pounds of people’s money into oil, gas and coal companies? A new report says too many UK ethical funds are still invested in fossil fuels and heavily polluting industries, at a time when growing numbers of people are looking to reduce their exposure to these sectors. Launched to coincide with Good Money Week (the new name for National Ethical Investment Week), which kicks off on Sunday 19 October, the report from ethical independent financial adviser firm Barchester Green names the “sinners” and “winners” of the multibillion-pound ethical and environmental funds industry.

Scottish shops start charging for bags
Scotland is joining Wales and Northern Ireland in charging shoppers for carrier bags , in a bid to encourage sustainable behaviour among shoppers. Last year, shoppers at Scotland’s main supermarket chains alone used 800m single-use bags, the majority of which end up as litter, landfill or polluting the country’s marine and natural environments. The charge, which comes into force on Monday, introduces a minimum cost of 5p for every single-use carrier bag dispensed to shoppers. The charge applies to all bags, whether plastic, paper or biodegradable, and covers all retailers. Evidence from Wales and Northern Ireland, where charging for bags has already been introduced, suggests that usage is likely to be cut by about 70%.

1,000 cars and no garage – why car-sharing works
Owning a car can be a hassle, especially if you live somewhere where driving is an occasional, rather than daily, necessity. This might help to explain why car-sharing schemes are going from strength to strength in cities around the world. Car-sharing has the potential to reduce private car use and ownership, and over the past two decades has been adopted by more than a million users worldwide. Car-sharing schemes now operate in some 1,100 cities in 26 countries. In Sydney, one in ten households is predicted to be a member of a car-sharing organisation by 2016.

Report: Collaborative Economy Gaining Momentum in Australia
A new report, The Emerging Collaborative Economy in Australia, produced by Vision Critical in partnership with Collaborative Lab and Nine! Rewards, reveals promising momentum and enthusiasm for collaborative economy platforms that use technology to enable people to share and exchange a variety of goods and services. There is already high penetration of brands in the space, with 61 percent of those surveyed aware of services such as Airbnb, Kickstarter, Uber and GoGet Car Share.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Disney World’s biogas facility: a model for converting food waste into energy
Millions of people a year visit Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, the world’s most popular theme park. These days, some of the food that they don’t eat – as well as some of the food they do – ends up being used to make electricity for the resort’s theme parks and hotels. How? Food waste – including table scraps, used cooking oils and grease – is collected from selected restaurants in the Disney World complex, as well as area hotels and food processors, and sent to a system of giant tanks at a facility near the park. There, the food waste is mixed with biosolids – the nutrient-rich organic materials left over after sewage is treated – and fed to microorganisms that produce biogas, a mix of methane and carbon dioxide. The biogas is combusted in generators to make electricity, and the remaining solids can be processed into fertilizer.

Closed Loop Fund Offering Zero-Interest Loans to Help Cities Develop Recycling Infrastructures
The Closed Loop Fund plans to invest $100 million over the next five years to support the development of recycling infrastructure and services in cities across the [USA]. Municipalities across the country can now apply for zero-interest loans to build recycling infrastructure for their communities. The zero-interest loans are repaid from either landfill-diversion savings or revenue generated from the sale of recyclable material. Companies that service municipalities may also apply, and interest rates will be below market rates.

Politics and Society

IPCC lines up for a sixth climate audit as economic costs corrected
More than a quarter of a century old and the bane of global warming sceptics everywhere, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is not about to fade into the sunset. This past week, the UN body released its final report on climate impacts, adaptation and vulnerability – 1820 pages long – and will finalise the synthesis summary of its entire Fifth Assessment Report by month’s end. That will emerge in time for the G20 gathering of leaders in Brisbane in mid-November.

Movies and YouTube hits spurring action on supply chain issues
Supply chain issues have frequently featured on the silver screen. The best-known case to date is Blood Diamond, the 2006 Hollywood blockbuster starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Hard-hitting documentaries, such as The Price of Sugar and Blood in the Mobile, are similar examples. Yet much of the real action today is not in cinemas, but online. The Rainforest Alliance’s Follow the Frog video, has clocked up 4.8m YouTube hits over the last two years. The Story of Stuff project, meanwhile, which originated with a 20-minute online video back in 2007, now claims over 44m viewers worldwide. So will people act? That depends on two things, says Carrie Svingen, a manager for WWF International’s palm oil programme. First, they have to be persuaded to watch whatever it is that campaign groups want them to watch. And second, viewers have to be persuaded – or preferably, inspired – to act.

Trapped humpback whale sparks call for shark net rethink
The Queensland Government is being urged to rethink its shark netting program after the eighth whale of the migration season was trapped off Rainbow Beach on the Cooloola Coast yesterday. A five-metre juvenile humpback whale was set free yesterday afternoon after becoming entangled in the Rainbow Beach shark net. The Australian Marine Conservation Society’s Darren Kindleysides said it was time to rethink the shark netting program and at the very least remove them during the whale migration season, as occurs in New South Wales.

Food Systems

How to tackle food waste: the global consumption conundrum
Some 842 million people around the world go to bed hungry every night – about one person in eight. Meanwhile, about a third of the world’s adults are also overweight. There’s enough food for everyone, but around a third of all food produced is wasted, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. It’s no surprise that the sustainability of our food system is under greater scrutiny than ever. But where do we start? For most people, it’s a bewilderingly complex issue.

Reducing food waste requires a whole systems approach (video)
Tara Garnett, coordinator at the Food Climate Research Network at Oxford University, discusses how reducing food waste requires systemic thinking along the supply chain, as well as lifestyle changes.

5 things we can do to better ensure food security
[Thursday 16 October was] World Food Day, an important time to reflect on how well we tackle global hunger. For those working in international development, food security is a complex problem to solve and one that goes beyond hunger alone. With the global population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, people are asking how we can best address the nature and scale of the challenges that lie ahead. As a research and development-focused organization, the Association of International Research and Development Centers for Agriculture believes that science, technology and knowledge sharing can help provide answers. With this in mind, here are five things we can do better to ensure food security.

10 drivers for sustainability in global food production and consumption
At a recent roundtable hosted by the Guardian, experts from industry, research and academia discussed how to make the food system more sustainable. Here are 10 things we learned.

Humble spud poised to launch a world food revolution
In a small army field-hut Dr Arjen de Vos shows off his irrigation machine with pride. Pipes lead out to several acres of muddy field, where only a few stragglers from the autumn harvest of potatoes, salads, carrots and onions are left. The tubes are lined with copper to stop corrosion because – in a move that defies everything we think we know about farming – de Vos is watering his plants with diluted sea water. Last week the project beat 560 competitors from 90 countries to win the prestigious USAid grand challenge award for its salt-tolerant potato. “It’s a game changer,” said de Vos. “We don’t see salination as a problem, we see it as an opportunity.”

More cane growers plant peanuts to improve crops and make more money
More cane farmers in Queensland’s Wide Bay region are planting peanuts to improve crops and diversify income. And that’s fuelling hopes to significantly multiply the local crop. Queensland produces 95 per cent of Australia’s peanuts, a quarter of which is supplied by the 25 cane farmers in the Bundaberg and Childers region. But it’s a gamble for the half a dozen new growers expected to sign up, as they prepare land, organise equipment and brace for future irrigation bills. Peanuts offer great things to cane farmers as a rotational crop. They improve soil health by fixing nitrogen, and provide another income stream.


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