Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Humans could be among the victims of sixth ‘mass extinction’, scientists warn
The world is embarking on its sixth mass extinction with animals disappearing about 100 times faster than they used to, scientists warn, and humans could be among the first victims of the next extinction event. Not since the age of the dinosaurs ended 66 million years ago has the planet been losing species at this rapid a rate, a study led by experts at Stanford University, Princeton University and the University of California, Berkeley said.

Energy and Climate Change

Phones4Power: using mobile phones to run micro-grids in Africa
Kenya-based business SteamaCo is harnessing the power of mobile to bring affordable electricity access to rural, off-grid communities. SteamaCo’s smart technology allows solar micro-grid owners to monitor their performance remotely and capture consumer payments via mobile money platforms, thereby overcoming the traditional challenges of keeping grids working reliably and profitably.

Environment and Biodiversity

Amazing Pictures: Baby Chameleon Doesn’t Know It Hatched
Looks like someone needs a wake-up call: This newborn baby chameleon hadn’t yet realized it had hatched. Nick Henn, owner of Canvas Chameleons in Reading, Pennsylvania, recently captured photographs of the panther chameleon after he helped it break out of its shell. Using cuticle clippers, Henn delicately cut away the egg and expected the baby to jump to attention. Thinking it was still in its shell, the dime-size reptile stayed curled in a egg-shaped ball, its tail tucked over its shoulder—giving us a rare peek into a developing chameleon’s world.

It's unknown why the baby reptile didn't sense it was time to wake up, experts say.

It’s unknown why the baby reptile didn’t sense it was time to wake up, experts say.

Bossy mynas ruffle feathers in pecking order
NEW ZEALAND – They’re loud, aggressive and even pest-heavy Australia has dubbed them “flying rats”. And unfortunately for Aucklanders, myna birds are more likely to be fluttering around their back gardens than most other bird species. The introduced species, classified as one of the three most invasive birds in the world by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, ranked as Auckland’s third-most-abundant bird in just-released results of last year’s nationwide Garden Bird Survey, behind house sparrows and silvereyes.

Dairy continues to damage water quality
NEW ZEALAND – Dairy farming is continuing to damage water quality, with increases from conversions exceeding predictions, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, has said. However, moves to rectify the problem were “gathering momentum”, she said. Wright’s office has released two reports on water quality which show “we are not out of the woods yet. Some lakes and streams are below bottom lines and many others are not far above them. And in many places, water quality continues to decline,” she said.

Dairying swallowing NZ forests, gathering told
New Zealand’s wood industry offers a solution to the dairying’s carbon emission problem but is being hurt by dairying’s expansion, a Nelson function has heard. Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association board chairman Brian Stanley told about 40 industry and community representatives at Trailways Hotel on Wednesday night that the dairying boom was eating into forest blocks and threatening the security of the wood supply. “In the central North Island we’ve lost 100,000 hectares of forest land in the last few years to dairy farming. It’s not a wall of wood any more, it’s a hedge,” he said.

Economy and Business

How to Rewire Business: SustainAbility Releases Second ‘Model Behavior’ Report
Despite bold efforts to make companies’ processes and products more sustainable, many businesses that flourish today are inherently unsustainable. Companies must fundamentally change their modus operandi to survive in a future of resource scarcity and climate change — no amount of renewable energy sourcing or green product engineering, for example, can accommodate these conditions.

Green lobby wants tax on polluters
NEW ZEALAND – Environment researchers have made fresh calls for a tax on polluters on the back of an OECD report highlighting rising pressures on our green backyard…The tax would effectively put a price on environmental impacts of intensive land uses, such as biodiversity loss, greenhouse gas production, accelerated runoff and pollution from nutrients, with land area and intensity of use identified from high-resolution satellite imagery and land title information.

Five Human Aspirations That Hold the Future for Brands
We’ve identified Five Aspirations rooted in deep human needs and desires that define the identity, priorities and behaviors of this new generation of shoppers, workers, citizens and humans, and they point the way to the next frontier of marketing, design, innovation and the marketplace of the future.

Waste and the Circular Economy

This 20-Year-Old Inventor Said He Could Clean Up The Ocean–Now He’s Really Doing It
Boyan Slat first proposed his giant marine cleanup machine three years ago when he was just 17 years old. During a TED talk, he sketched a vision for a massive floating boom that would collect trash using the ocean’s own currents. The talk has now been viewed almost 2 million times, and Slat is a minor celebrity in his native Holland. But most remarkably, he’s actually followed through on the project. While some would be happy with all the attention, Slat, still only 20, is getting serious about delivery, doing the painstaking work of building a team, testing feasibility, and trialling the machine in the wild.

Three ways we will build the cities of the future from waste
As the global population grows, it is also becoming more city-based with 70% expected to live in urban areas by 2050. It is a trend that has not escaped sci-fi in Hollywood, which reimagines the city of the future again and again, but there are those trying to bring sustainable cities to life in reality.  Truly sustainable cities of the future will not differentiate between waste and resource. Rather, they will understand waste as the starting point for something new. Ideas and initatitves are taking shape that provide a glimpse of how we could build our urban environments more sustainably in the future.

Politics and Society

Don’t close your eyes: waking up to climate change
Word on the Curb is a collective of artists who use film and spoken word as a tool to engage young people in important issues that affect them. We spoke to co-founder Hayel Wartemberg, 22, about their new film, ‘Don’t close your eyes’. The film was created specifically for the Guardian’s #GroundUp campaign which is showcasing stories from young people who will feel the worst impacts of climate change.

African ‘blood ivory’ destroyed in New York to signal crackdown on illegal trade
The US government destroyed more than one US ton (907kg) of “blood ivory” before crowds in New York’s Times Square on Friday, in a move designed to signal a dramatic crackdown on the illegal trade.  The display was co-ordinated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the New York state department of environmental conservation, together with a coalition of wildlife conservation groups.

US Catholics ready to follow Pope’s ‘marching orders’ on climate change
Leaders of the Catholic church in America took their “marching orders” from the pope’s encyclical on Thursday, fanning out to Congress and the White House to push for action on climate change. The high-level meetings offered a first glimpse of a vast and highly organised effort by the leadership of America’s nearly 80 million Catholics to turn the pope’s moral call for action into reality.

Papal environment encyclical a win for the Greens, challenge for Abbott
AUSTRALIA – Politicians from across the political spectrum and Catholic Church leaders have welcomed Pope Francis’ major encyclical on the environment, saying they expect it to have a significant impact on the local and international climate change debate, with the potential to change voting intentions. Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, who is also president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, described the encyclical as a “clarion call” to all global leaders, including Australia’s, to take stronger leadership on climate change.

Government Catholics will give ‘great weight’ to Pope’s climate views: Malcolm Turnbull
AUSTRALIA – Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said “everyone will give great weight” to Pope Francis’ major encyclical on the environment, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Mr Turnbull was asked on Friday whether the Pope’s calls for urgent action on climate change would be heeded by Mr Abbott, a fellow Catholic. “I think everyone will give great weight to it,” Mr Turnbull told the ABC on Friday. “The Pope … it’s one of the great positions of moral leadership. [It’s] a position of global moral leadership in the world and drawing attention to these environmental issues – climate change reducing greenhouse gas emissions is one of them.”

Plans to appoint wind farm commissioner ‘very hurtful’, says former disability commissioner Graeme Innes
AUSTRALIA – Former disability commissioner Graeme Innes has blasted the Abbott government’s plans to appoint a national wind farm commissioner when there is no full-time disability commissioner as “very hurtful” and “very damaging”.  “It sends a very clear message about where people with disabilities fall in the pecking order,” he told Fairfax Media on Friday.  “Clearly, we fall below strong lobbyists.”

Built Environment

Council installs two coastal protection walls in Whitianga
NEW ZEALAND – The Thames-Coromandel District Council is installing new coastal protection walls at two Whitianga beaches.  Construction of a 115-metre rock seawall extension at Whitianga’s Buffalo Beach, in the Coromandel Peninsula, is likely to be completed by the end of June.  The $375,000 seawall will be used to protect Buffalo Beach Road, residential properties and the Buffalo Beach Road reserve, council said. Mercury Bay area manager Sam Marshall said the rock wall was needed to counteract “severe” beach conditions.

Food Systems

Government moves to tighten rules on sale of raw milk
NEW ZEALAND – Raw milk connoisseurs can continue to buy raw milk from the farm gate and via home deliveries, but the rules around manufacture and sales will be tightened up. Suppliers have backed the new move, saying it will help ensure a quality product that can be trusted. Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew said the Government would introduce legislation to come into force on March 1, 2016. Under the new policy, farmers must meet requirements such as registering with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), meeting hygiene requirements, testing milk for pathogens, keeping records of sales, and labelling appropriately so consumers are aware of the risks and can make informed decisions about consuming raw milk.

Kiwi wineries in organic experiment
NEW ZEALAND – The Organic Focus Vineyard Project followed the experiences of three prominent wineries – Mission Estate in Hawkes Bay, Wither Hills in Marlborough, and Gibbston Valley Wines in Central Otago – while each company transitioned one of their vineyards to BioGro-certified organic production. The vineyard managers agreed to participate the reality show by switching half of their land to organic methods while the industry watched their every move via the internet, scientific reports, and on the ground at public events.

Big coffee brands can support their farmers – here’s how
Global coffee consumption is projected to soar over the next five years with the growth of coffee markets in India and China. Yet declining terms of trade and price volatility make poverty reduction challenging, while climate change continues to undermine the commodity’s commercial viability. More than 100 million people produce approximately 70% of this labour-intensive crop. It is therefore vital to consider what coffee brands can do to support producers’ livelihoods and ensure the sustainability of the sector.


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