Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Today’s top story is something I haven’t thought about but is totally logical; microplastics in soil. It’s alarming how many sources of plastic there are for soils and we don’t know what happens to them once they’re there. Elsewhere, many stories are focussing on planetary scale thinking, particularly the new book out by an Israeli academic who says human unification is the way to ensure best results for global problems; a new assessment of life on the planet quantifies the insignificance if humans in the world biomass compared to the huge impact we have; and I find it interesting to note the disparity of political decision making in the articles from three countries today.

Top Story

We have no idea how much microplastic is in Australia’s soil (but it could be a lot) | The Conversation
Microplastics in the ocean, pieces of plastic less than 5mm in size, have shot to infamy in the last few years. Governments and businesses targeted microbeads in cosmetics, some were banned, and the world felt a little better… Microplastics in soil may be a far greater problem. Norwegian research estimates that in Europe and North America, between 110,000 and 730,000 tonnes of microplastic are transferred to agricultural soils each year. Here lies the issue: we know almost nothing about microplastics in global soils, and even less in Australian soils. In this article we take a look at what we do know, and some questions we need to answer.

Climate Change and Energy

The hidden carbon cost of everyday products | The Conversation
If richer nations are to be serious in their commitment to the Paris target, then they must begin to account for the carbon emissions contained within products they import. Heavy industry and the constant demand for consumer goods are key contributors to climate change. In fact, 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions are produced through the process of converting metal ores and fossil fuels into the cars, washing machines and electronic devices that help prop up the economy and make life a little more comfortable.

Environment and Biodiversity

NSW’s no-cull brumby bill will consign feral horses to an even crueller fate | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – New South Wales’ proposed brumby legislation – which abandons plans to cull feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park – is a dangerously reckless policy that will escalate environmental impacts, escalate costs, and put horses at risk of extreme suffering. The New South Wales’ Deputy Premier John Barilaro was reported as saying the cultural significance of the brumbies needed to be recognised. But the evidence regarding feral horse (brumby) impacts on the environment in the Australian alps makes it clear that large numbers of feral horses are incompatible with maintaining the ecological values of Kosciuszko National Park.

CSIRO drills deep off Tasmania’s east coast to find answers to toxic algal blooms | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Scientists are breaking new ground in their quest for answers about harmful algal blooms by extracting a 1,000-year-old sediment core that could help predict the future. The chief scientist on board the voyage, Professor Gustaaf Hallegraeff from the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies, said… “We are collecting these deep sediment cores to see if things like this happened before, and if they did, what were the environmental factors that made it disappear. That will help us to predict the future.”

Economy and Business

Steven Carden: Farm changes only way to go | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – There has been plenty of discussion on New Zealand farms after Environment Minister David Parker’s recent musings about the need to restrict on-farm activity in some regions to help clean up waterways. He pointed to Pāmu, the nation’s largest farming company, as an example of how it could be done.

Solar beer: A tour of Australia’s PV powered craft breweries | One Step Off The Grid
AUSTRALIA – Global heavyweights like Anheuser Bosch In-Bev have committed to purchase electricity renewable sources only by 2025, bringing with it some of Australia’s most iconic brewers, including Carlton & United (CUB), which in March signed a contract to buy the output of the 112MW Karadoc solar farm in Victoria. But the shift to solar powered beer has perhaps been even more definitive among the nation’s independent “craft” brewers. And as luck would have it – and to coincide with the 8th annual Good Beer Week (yes, that’s a thing) – the Clean Energy Council has released a shortlist of solar powered craft breweries.

Waste and the Circular Economy

The startling National Geographic cover that captures the plastic crisis | NZ Herald
A haunting cover image on the June issue of National Geographic is circulating online, suggesting the plastic pollution we see is just the tip of the iceberg. The Nat Geo cover image was shared by the magazine’s senior photo editor Vaughn Wallace on Twitter this morning who called it “one for the ages”. At the time of writing, the tweet has been shared more than 6000 times and been liked 13,000 times.

The National Geographic cover image was shared by the magazine's senior photo editor Vaughn Wallace on Twitter. Photo / Twitter

The National Geographic cover image was shared by the magazine’s senior photo editor Vaughn Wallace on Twitter. Photo / Twitter

Politics and Society

Human race just 0.01% of all life but has destroyed over 80% of wild mammals – study | The Guardian
Humankind is revealed as simultaneously insignificant and utterly dominant in the grand scheme of life on Earth by a groundbreaking new assessment of all life on the planet. The world’s 7.6 billion people represent just 0.01% of all living things, according to the study. Yet since the dawn of civilisation, humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants, while livestock kept by humans abounds.

Proportion of mammals on earth: 60% livestock, 36% humans, 4% wild animals

Yuval Noah Harari: Brexit will not halt drive to ‘human unification’ | The Guardian (Book Talk)
Brexit could prove to be a mere bump on the road toward “human unification”, according to a new book by bestselling historian Yuval Noah Harari, which warns politicians against becoming distracted by the rise of nationalism in the world. The Israeli academic, whose first book, Sapiens, became a surprise publishing sensation by charting the rise of the human species, turns his attention to current affairs for the first time with a swipe at what he argues is a short-sighted response to global challenges in countries such as the UK, US, Russia and Israel.

The live export trade is unethical. It puts money ahead of animals’ pain | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Last month millions of Australians saw footage of sheep dying slowly from heat and thirst while being shipped on the Awassi Express from Fremantle in Western Australia to Doha, Qatar. The voyage was last August, and what viewers saw was a very small portion of the suffering undergone by the 2,400 sheep who reportedly died on that one voyage. The suffering came to light only because a whistleblower working on the ship was so disturbed by what he saw that he took video and sent it to Animals Australia.
Related: NSW Liberal Jason Falinski adds voice to push to phase out live sheep trade | The Conversation

No tender process for $444m Great Barrier Reef grant, Senate hearing told | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – The government approached a non-profit group that will receive a record grant for reef protection only a few weeks before it announced the deal in the federal budget. And the government’s announcement of $444m for the Great Barrier Reef Foundation remains an “intention” – there is still no agreement between the foundation and the Department of Environment and Energy, a Senate estimates hearing has heard.

Budget 2018: More money for predator control, biodiversity and green projects | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – A $100 million investment fund for green projects has been established as part of the Budget. It is one of the Green Party’s big gains in the Budget, alongside increased funding for predator control and biodiversity protection. The Green Investment Fund, which will be established by the end of the year, is designed to stimulate private sector investment into low-carbon projects, technology and businesses.

Prime Minister pledges to halve new building energy use by 2030 | BusinessGreen
UK – Theresa May unveils target to halve energy usage of new buildings by 2030 as she talks up plans to place UK at forefront of global scientific research and technological development.