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 about healthy soil. Michael Jeffrey is a Governor General of Australia and is advocating sensible and controversial actions like not using synthetic fertilisers and chemical inputs, and regenerative agriculture. Hopefully, Australian politicians will listen. The next article is a stark warning on what happens when the Earth isn’t cared for, as told by residents of Nauru. Elsewhere, emissions set to rise again in 2018; the Australian government is trying to reverse a national park bill so they can introduce logging; it’s looking likely that independent MP Kerryn Phelps will win the seat of Wentworth, resulting in a hung parliament for Australia; and more reasons not to eat Tasmanian salmon.

Top Story

Look after the soil, save the Earth: farming in Australia’s unrelenting climate | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – From the red soil of his hometown in the Western Australian outback town of Wiluna, Michael Jeffery very nearly became a farmer. He opted for being a soldier instead, serving in Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam, where he was awarded the Military Cross and the South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. After a distinguished military career, he served as governor of his home state of Western Australia and governor general of Australia – who represents the Queen, Australia’s head of state. So he doesn’t enter public debate lightly. But he is highly exercised by his latest topic: restoring Australia’s ancient soils.

Climate Change

Climate change: Nauru’s life on the frontlines | The Conversation
NAURU – I visited Nauru earlier this month as part of my project Climates of Listening, which amplifies Pacific calls for climate and environmental justice. I spoke with public servants, community leaders, and representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) about their climate mitigation and adaptation strategies. I wanted to document the changes to the island’s reefs, lagoons and landscape, and also the community initiatives to cope with these changes.

Climate change is exacerbating world conflicts, says Red Cross president | The Guardian
Climate change is already exacerbating domestic and international conflicts, and governments must take steps to ensure it does not get worse, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross has said. Peter Maurer told Guardian Australia it was already making an impact and humanitarian organisations were having to factor it into their work far earlier than they were expecting.

‘Despair’ as global carbon emissions to hit new record in 2018 | Climate Home News
Global carbon emissions will rise to a new record level in 2018, making the chances of reaching a target to keep temperature increases to 1.5 or 2C “weaker and weaker every year, every month”, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) has said.

Fracking wells on the Jonah oil and gas field, Wyoming, US (Photo: Ecoflight)

Fracking wells on the Jonah oil and gas field, Wyoming, US (Photo: Ecoflight)

Environment and Biodiversity

Reversal of national park bill spurs fears of ‘open season’ on environment | SMH
AUSTRALIA – A state Nationals MP has lodged a private member’s bill to extinguish one of NSW’s largest national parks, a move that opponents say signals an “open season” on the state’s natural heritage. Austin Evans, the member for Murray, is demanding the 41,000-hectare Murray Valley National Park revert to a state forest to allow timber harvesters back in.

Dingo dinners: what’s on the menu for Australia’s top predator? | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – The dingo is Australia’s largest land-based predator, occurring across most of the mainland and on many nearshore islands. Our new research, published in the journal Mammal Review, reveals the breadth and diversity of dingo diets across the continent. We compiled and analysed 73 sets of data, containing details of more than 32,000 dingo droppings or stomach contents, to document the range of different species that dingoes eat, and how their diets vary between different environments.

A twitchy week for birdwatchers as they prepare to race for conservation in national Twitchathon | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Birdwatching can be a relaxing hobby, a quiet time spent in nature enjoying the sounds and sights of the avian world. But it’s a different story when a national Twitchathon is on. Teams of birdwatchers put in weeks of meticulous planning before hitting the ground running in a race to see or hear as many birds as possible in a set time. Birdlife Australia is running its annual national Twitchathon on October 27-28 at the end of National Bird Week.

Photo: The Twitchathon will raise money for threatened species including the critically endangered regent honeyeater, pictured. (Supplied: Dean Ingwersen)

Photo: The Twitchathon will raise money for threatened species including the critically endangered regent honeyeater, pictured. (Supplied: Dean Ingwersen)

Northland soaring wild pig population causing major conservation concerns |
NEW ZEALAND – The soaring population of wild pigs in Northland is causing major concern for conservationists and landowners with some already signalling the need for controlled culling to avoid further environmental damage. On Wednesday the Government closed a further 10 walking tracks to the 24 already closed across ‘kauri land’ in an attempt to prevent the spread of deadly tree disease kauri dieback. People and feral pigs are both major vectors of the disease since the pathogen spreads through soil particles and disturbance.

Waste and the Circular Economy

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton accused of failing to tackle waste crisis | SMH
AUSTRALIA – NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton has been accused of failing to address the state’s waste crisis by providing incentives to divert rubbish from landfill or crackdown on illegal dumping. Australia’s peak waste body has condemned the minister’s “disappointing” and “lacklustre” response to a NSW parliamentary inquiry into waste regulation, which handed down 36 recommendations in March.

Politics and Society

Explainer: what is a hung parliament and how would it affect the passage of legislation? | The Conversation
If, as predicted, the Morrison government loses the Wentworth byelection, it will have a minority on the floor of the lower house. Although the Coalition would have 75 members and the non-government parties and independents would have 75 members, the Coalition supplies the Speaker (who only votes when a vote is tied). This would leave the Coalition with 74 on the floor of the house, with the possibility of 75 votes opposing it.


NSW offers free rooftop solar for low-income households – in place of energy rebate | One Step Off The Grid
AUSTRALIA – New South Wales is seeking to boost the uptake of solar by the state’s low-income households, with the launch of a $15 million initiative that offers to install free rooftop PV in the place of a cost of living rebate. The trial scheme, announced late last month, targets families receiving the government’s Low Income Household Rebate – a modest $285 a year (78c a day) energy bill deduction. It will offer up to 3,400 eligible households the option to forgo that payment in exchange for 2.5kW of rooftop solar – a small system compared the average size being installed today, but which will nonetheless deliver much improved power savings over the rebate.

Built Environment

New Delhi half-marathon tries radio waves to beat city’s toxic smog | ABC News
INDIA – Organisers of New Delhi’s half-marathon race have used ultra high frequency (UHF) radio waves to clear the air for runners in the hope that it could improve the city’s air quality. The technique was among several measures event organisers took to reduce the threat of toxic smog to the race’s 35,000 participants on Sunday (local time). Medical experts last year urged the cancelling of the 2017 race as the capital and a large part of northern India were blanketed by smog, partly caused by the smoke from burning crop waste and thousands of firecrackers.

Photo: The race promoter said there were no pollution-related incidents among the 35,000 runners. (Reuters: Anushree Fadnavis)

Photo: The race promoter said there were no pollution-related incidents among the 35,000 runners. (Reuters: Anushree Fadnavis)

Heathrow offers incentive for first electric aircraft | Climate Action
Heathrow have offered to remove landing charges for a whole year for the first electric-hybrid aircraft. The London airport wants to leverage its role as one of the world’s leading airports to drive sustainable change in the aviation industry. The incentive of removing landing charges is valued at nearly £1 million and will be given to the first electric-hybrid aircraft if it is put into regular service at Heathrow.

NZ one step closer to autonomous, flying air taxis | The Driven
NEW ZEALAND – Autonomous, electric flying air taxis will soon be a thing in New Zealand, thanks to Kitty Hawk, the air taxi company started by Google’s co-founder and former CEO Larry Page, and the country’s premier airline, Air New Zealand.

Food Systems

Tasmanian salmon should be off the menu for now, says conservation group | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – It’s one of Australia’s – and the world’s – favourite fish but Tasmanian Atlantic salmon should be off the menu for now, according to the Australian Marine Conservation Society, publishers of Australia’s independent sustainable seafood guide. On Wednesday, the AMCS downgraded the farmed fish’s rating from an amber “Think Twice” to a red “Say No” due to ongoing environmental concerns. The previous review was in 2015.

Special breeding and special food: How chicken got super-sized |
Chicken has become a cut-price protein. We consume more of it than any other meat, and while the price of chicken has dropped, production has boomed and critics say it has a cost to animal welfare. This is behind New Zealand’s most popular meat.