Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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My apologies for the missing newsletter yesterday, I forgot to mention on Friday that I would be out in the bush at The Pinnacles only arriving back Monday afternoon.


Top Story

Cartoon Crash Course: A Visual Glossary of Ocean Terminology
Ocean conservation is essential but sometimes difficult to understand. Pew joined forces with cartoonist Jim Toomey, the artist behind “Sherman’s Lagoon,” on 10 animated videos that explain the complicated concepts that guide efforts to protect our oceans.

Energy and Climate Change

Winston strikes Fiji: your guide to cyclone science
Cyclone Winston struck Fiji on February 20, leaving a trail of destruction. At least ten people have been reported killed, although the extent of the damage is still being revealed as contact is made with more remote, northern islands… Winston was a Category 5 cyclone (the strongest rating) with reported wind speeds of almost 300 km per hour. This would make it among the strongest cyclones ever to make landfall globally, and the strongest recorded in the Southern Hemisphere.

Tasmanian bushfires: Senate calls for independent inquiry into World Heritage Area fires
AUSTRALIA – The Senate has formally called on the Federal Government to establish an independent inquiry into the recent fires in Tasmania’s World Heritage Area. A motion moved by Greens Senator Nick McKim and Labor Senator Lisa Singh passed the Senate on Monday afternoon. The Tasmania Fire Service estimates about 1.2 percent or 20,000 hectares of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) has been damaged by fire since they began in mid-January. An inquiry would examine the response by authorities to the fires, the availability of resources and the impact of global warming on fire frequency and size.

Mining, energy firms in trouble as oil price slides; fears of bankruptcies unless commodity recovers
The United States became the world’s biggest oil and gas producer last year thanks to the shale revolution. But as oil prices slid from above $US100 in 2014 to below $US30 this year, energy firms that borrowed heavily to expand are in trouble. According to Deloitte, 35 oil and gas explorers in the US filed for bankruptcy from July 2014 to December 2015.

Qld energy minister says rooftop solar will soon be biggest generator
AUSTRALIA – Queensland energy minister Mark Bailey says that rooftop solar on homes and business premises will soon grow to be the biggest power station, by capacity, in the state… Queensland currently has nearly 1.5GW of rooftop solar – 1,044MW on homes and businesses in the south-east corner and Brisbane operating in the Energex network, and 432MW on 115,000 premises in the Ergon network that covers the rest of the state. That means that within a year – at the current installations rate – the capacity of rooftop solar in Queensland could overtake the largest generator, the 1,650MW Gladstone coal-fired generator.

Contamination found in third bore as fuel plume spreads through underground water in Woolomin
AUSTRALIA – Evidence of a fuel plume that is spreading through underground water in Woolomin, near Tamworth in northern New South Wales, has been found in a third water bore… Director of planning and compliance Peter Thompson said the bore was 150 metres from the town’s general store, where at least 400 litres of fuel had leaked from an underground petrol tank.

Environment and Biodiversity

Queensland land clearing is undermining Australia’s environmental progress
AUSTRALIA – Land clearing has returned to Queensland in a big way. After we expressed concern that policy changes since 2012 would lead to a resurgence in clearing of native vegetation, this outcome was confirmed by government figures released late last year. It is now clear that land clearing is accelerating in Queensland. The new data confirm that 296,000 hectares of bushland was cleared in 2013-14 – three times as much as in 2008-09 – mainly for conversion to pastures. These losses do not include the well-publicised clearing permitted by the government of nearly 900 square kilometres at two properties, Olive Vale and Strathmore, which commenced in 2015.

Ocean acidification causes young corals to develop deformed skeletons
Coral reefs around the world are facing a whole spectrum of human-induced disturbances that are affecting their ability to grow, reproduce and survive. These range from local pressures such as overfishing and sedimentation, to global ones such as ocean acidification and warming. With the third global coral bleaching event underway, we now more than ever, need to understand how coral responds to these stressors.

Two rare Japanese stingrays killed by Queensland’s shark control program on the Gold Coast
Two rare Japanese Devilrays have been killed by Queensland’s shark control program at Miami on the Gold Coast. The rays, which can grow to a width of three metres, were found in the same net by members of the Sea Shepherd crew on Saturday. The International Union for Conservation for Nature (ICUN) lists the stingray species as near-threatened.

Innovative farmers ‘halving’ herbicide run-off in bid to improve Great Barrier Reef health
AUSTRALIA – Trials by innovative canegrowers in Queensland have halved the run-off of herbicides and fertiliser from their farms, according to results being released during a two-day grower forum that began in Cairns today.

Hamilton fish passes allow whitebait to flourish
NEW ZEALAND – A joint project building fish passes at Hamilton’s Parana Park aims to increase Waikato’s whitebait habitat… NIWA scientist Dr Cindy Baker said there were currently eels and giant and banded kokopu in the river, but that they wanted to encourage other whitebait species, such inanga and smelt to inhabit the stream.

Conservation boards say Department of Conservation is facing crisis
NEW ZEALAND – The Otago and Southland conservation boards believe the Department of Conservation is facing a crisis with ballooning operation costs and no signal from government about extra funding. The conservation boards held a joint meeting at Tahakopa in the Catlins on Thursday. Both boards expressed overwhelming concern that DOC was straining under the dual pressures of trying to manage growing tourist numbers while retaining biodiversity values.

Economy and Business

In a first, Chinese firm tops annual ranking of wind turbine makers
A Chinese firm in 2015 for the first time topped an annual ranking of onshore wind turbine manufacturers. Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology led Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s annual rankings with 7.8GW of capacity commissioned, buoyed by a surging Chinese market that installed a record 28.7GW last year. Virtually all Goldwind’s 2015 capacity was built in China, a market where, combined, foreign manufacturers accounted for less than 5% of market share.

Dairy farmers turn from cows to milking camels at $21 per litre
AUSTRALIA – They have continued in dairy but a farming couple at Kyabram in northern Victoria have traded in their traditional cows for camels in search of a niche market.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Zero waste Auckland household puts virtually nothing in its bin
NEW ZEALAND – Waveney Warth creates no rubbish. Well, almost. The Auckland resident says there is the odd thing she can’t find any way of recycling, such as pill packets and the seals off the top of milk bottles – “plastics composites are diabolical”, she says. But what her household throws away amounts to less than an Auckland Council rubbish bag a year.

Chris Packham photographs the impact of litter – in pictures
TV presenter Chris Packham has unveiled a series of images exploring the impact of litter on wildlife and the natural environment. The pictures were commissioned by the supermarket chain Lidl UK, which will be donating £500,000 from the proceeds of its single-use carrier bag charge to a new initiative with Keep Britain Tidy designed to inspire young people to reduce litter and waste and improve their local parks and green spaces.

Hedgehog - British Wildlife Centre, Surrey

Hedgehog – British Wildlife Centre, Surrey
Photograph: Chris Packham/Lidl UK

Politics and Society

Indoor and outdoor air pollution ‘claiming at least 40,000 UK lives a year’
Air pollution both inside and outside the home causes at least 40,000 deaths a year in the UK, according to new report, which estimates the cost of the damage at £20bn. The major health impact of outdoor air pollution is relatively well known but the report, from the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, also highlights the less understood impact of indoor pollution, as well as the growing evidence of harm to children’s health and intelligence.

Beijing raises ‘red alert’ threshold for air pollution warning
Beijing is to raise the thresholds for issuing its highest air pollution warnings, the state news agency Xinhua reported on Sunday, two months after acrid smog triggered the city’s first ever “red alert”.

295,000 US deaths may be prevented by 2030 with cuts to greenhouse gas
America’s international climate obligations carry a significant public health benefit, with new research finding that about 295,000 premature deaths could be prevented in the country by 2030 if deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions areachieved.

Age, gender, race? Climate scepticism is predominantly party political
It appears the adage that climate change sceptics are typically conservative white men is only partly true, with a new study finding the political party you support to be a much stronger marker of where you line-up on global warming than gender, age and race. But if you do accept the scientific evidence humans are causing climate change by burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests, the same research also suggests that does not mean you lead a greener private life. In an effort to tease out what shapes individual views and actions on climate change, Australian researchers analysed almost 200 studies and polls covering 56 countries.

CSIRO planning to pare back, shared climate job cuts
AUSTRALIA – As many as 30 climate science positions at CSIRO have been spared the axe in large part because of external pressure on management, Fairfax Media has learnt. Two key units within the Ocean and Atmosphere division had been told to expect to bear about 90 or more of the 100 full-time positions to be chopped as part of 350 jobs in total to go as part of a CSIRO reorganisation announced on February 4.

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres to step down
The UN’s top climate diplomat, Christiana Figueres, has said she will leave her post in July. Ms Figueres said she would not accept an extension of her appointment which finishes this summer.

Blue carbon schemes: conserving coastal areas or commodifying nature?
In the coastal town of Tanjung Balai in North Sumatra where Riza Damanik grew up, learning how to fish is a right of passage. But, he says, initiatives by the Indonesian government over the past couple of decades have left small-scale fishermen like him adrift.

Ethical fashion shoppers are scorned by others – and the headlines don’t help
The Journal of Consumer Psychology has been having a bit of a fashion moment, after publishing a study that prompted a slew of media coverage over the past few weeks. The headlines lashed many shoppers’ attitudes as “ugly” and “wilfully ignorant”… While this all makes for good headlines, it’s not particularly constructive because these stories tend to reinforce the divide between “ethical” and “non-ethical” consumers. If we want more people to shop ethically, it’s not very helpful to cast judgement on the “ordinary” shopping public whom ethical campaigners are trying to reach. What did the research actually say, and how can we move past the sensational headlines towards encouraging everyone to shop more ethically?

Food Systems

Calls for wonky fruit and veg to join the ‘perfect’ shapes in supermarkets
NEW ZEALAND – Budgeting services and food banks are keen to see an overhaul of the supermarket fresh fruit and vegetables aisles, with a call for “ugly” produce to be sold. Tonnes of vegetables – including carrots, potatoes, cucumbers and tomatoes – are thrown away or sold as “seconds” every week because they are not “perfect enough” for supermarket grading standards.  However, it’s all still fit for human consumption and the Federation of Family Budgeting’s Raewyn Fox says making it available would help clients living on tight budgets.


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