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 another confirmation of the economic benefits of taking action on climate change and emissions reductions now. Say US ‘thirty trillion dollars’ slowly.

We have a nice selection of ‘you can make a difference’ articles today. The first, don’t be fooled by vegan leather. It’s just plastic. In this article, the many pros and cons of lots of alternatives, even ‘alternative’ alternatives, are explained. The second, on plogging. The Swedish trend of picking up rubbish while out jogging, explained by a NZ materials scientist from the University of Waikato. Thirdly, why not start a ‘Buy Nothing’ group in your neighbourhood?

And finally, I had to comment on an interesting analysis of NZ’s predator control efforts shows that ‘deeply endemic’ species like kiwi benefit, while more recently arrived species like fantail (piwakawaka) may actually decline slightly, a great example of an ecosystem naturally adjusting itself back to an old order.

Top Story

Hitting toughest climate target will save world $30tn in damages, analysis shows | The Guardian
Achieving the toughest climate change target set in the global Paris agreement will save the world about $30tn in damages, far more than the costs of cutting carbon emissions, according to a new economic analysis. Most nations, representing 90% of global population, would benefit economically from keeping global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, the research indicates. This includes almost all the world’s poorest countries, as well as the three biggest economies – the US, China and Japan – contradicting the claim of US president, Donald Trump, that climate action is too costly.

Climate Change and Energy

Sungrow adds 4.8kWh PowCube battery to Australia market | One Step Off The Grid
Australia can add yet another contender to its booming residential battery storage market, with the latest offering from leading global inverter maker Sungrow Power now available to consumers. Sungrow, which already claims around 10 per cent of the Australian solar inverter market, said on Tuesday that its PowCube Residential Energy Storage System (ESS) was now shipping to Australia, alongside its Next Generation Crystal Inverter Series.

Environment and Biodiversity

Saving our native species comes with winners and losers | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – The battle to purge our wilderness of pest predators is helping our threatened species – but some more than others. Early results of a meta-analysis of conservation data gathered across the country found that while pest control brought big benefits for our native species, there appeared to be “winners and losers” among them.

Our kauri trees are not fine: please support the rahui |
NEW ZEALAND – Recently, Alistair Goodwin wrote an opinion piece for Stuff entitled The kauri dieback dilemma: Why our native trees will be fine. As researchers working on kauri dieback, we feel it is necessary to respond to the unsupported claims and accusations made in this piece. This kind of misinformation is dangerous because it encourages people to ignore the evidence and advice provided to the public to help protect kauri forests. Kauri are a keystone species, critical for the survival of their surrounding ecosystems, and are a taonga for all New Zealanders. The extinction of these giants of the forest would be a massive loss to New Zealand economically, ecologically and culturally. Despite claims to the contrary, this is the scenario we are facing.

What your poo says about your health | The Conversation
Opening your bowels is a basic function of life. But despite the fact we all do it, pooing is not often thought to be a topic suitable for polite conversation. However, recent popular interest in gut health and the composition of poo – as well as the bacterial populations that live within it – have helped to put bodily functions more on the map. And these days, more and more people are wondering how often you should go, what happens if you don’t go enough and how you can influence the composition of what is passed.


A 30-year drought may be coming: here’s how you can save water | The Guardian
UK – The sun is shining and we are due a hot bank holiday Monday, so it must be time for a drought story. And not just any old drought, but one stretching into the 2050s and beyond, according to the Environment Agency, which warns that our use of water is unsustainable. While the agency puts much of its focus on the need for companies to change their behaviour, especially by reducing leakage, there are practical steps we can all take.
See also: Risk of water shortages for England warns Environment Agency | BBC News

Economy and Business

The farmer wants a hive: inside the world of renting bees | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Almonds, blueberries, apples, melons – all of these fruits, and many more, rely on insect pollination. Some crops rely more on pollinators than others. Insect pollination isn’t just about the number of fruits produced – it can also improve the quality of the yield. For example, self-pollinated flowers may produce a fruit, but it might be very small or misshapen. To optimise yields, most growers rent European honeybee hives during crop flowering season.

Sea urchin harvest a win-win for seafood industry and seagrass habitat as fishers deal with spike | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Commercial fishermen will be allowed to harvest and sell sea urchins from Gippsland’s Corner Inlet in a bid to improve seagrass habitat at a crucial wetlands biodiversity site. The Nooramunga Marine and Coastal Park, a Ramsar-listed site, has become overwhelmed by the native purple-spined sea urchins. Last year, volunteers culled more than 57,000 of the creatures in Corner Inlet. But even that has not been enough to curb their enthusiasm for the seagrass. It has led to a unique partnership between conservation bodies and the fishing industry who both have a stake in the issue.

Photo: Purple-spined sea urchins have overwhelmed Corner Inlet, devouring its seagrass. (Supplied: Parks Victoria)

Photo: Purple-spined sea urchins have overwhelmed Corner Inlet, devouring its seagrass. (Supplied: Parks Victoria)

Five ways hospitals can reduce their environmental footprint | The Conversation
Picture the environmental life cycle of many disposable surgical instruments. Iron ore from Western Australia is shipped to China and smelted, fashioned into stainless steel surgical instruments in Pakistan and exported as single-use instruments. In Australia, clinicians use these instruments once, then discard them. So much that comes into patient contact is routinely used only once. This includes gowns, surgical drapes and covers for patients, anaesthetic breathing equipment, face masks and bed mats. Here are five ways Australian hospitals can reduce their environmental footprint and improve their financial bottom line.

NZ packaging firm’s war on plastic | newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – Some enterprises begin with an ‘aha’ moment but packaging firm Ecoware’s conception came after several gasps of horror. James Calver was a business student doing work experience at the Weet-Bix TRYathlon; his job was to organise the deployment of T-shirts, gold medals and a plastic cup of water to participating children. Watching the waste-management truck drive away crammed with plastic cups made his heart sink. He had a similar feeling when surfing in the Mentawai Islands, off the coast of West Sumatra.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Are ‘biodegradable’ plastic bags any better for the planet? | NZ Herald
While companies have moved to rid their stores of single-use plastic bags, researchers are now questioning whether their “biodegradable” replacements are any better. A European study published today in the journal Royal Society Open Science argues existing industry standards and testing methods weren’t good enough to predict the biodegradability of single-use plastic carrier bags within lakes, rivers and oceans.

Local Focus: ‘Ploggers’ get fit and clean up the environment | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – Rubbish littering the streets is all too familiar for keen runner Kim Pickering, so she’s doing something about it. “I’ve been getting a little bit tired of the build-up of litter in New Zealand,” she said. “Recently I have been noticing it is a little less tidy than it used to be.” Often out jogging in Hamilton, particularly along the Waikato River Trail, Pickering found herself compelled to pick up the litter and make it part of her fitness programme.

People are embracing a buy-nothing, fix-everything attitude to end throwaway culture | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – A number of initiatives in Perth are challenging our throwaway culture by encouraging community giving, repairing and more thoughtful buying. David Klein founded Perth’s first Buy Nothing group in early 2016 as a way to solve a few problems after moving house, but it has become so much more. “I had just moved, got rid of some things, needed some things, didn’t know any of my neighbours yet, and that was right around the time I heard about the international Buy Nothing project,” Mr Klein said.

Photo: David Klein with a ukulele, coffee makers and blanket he got through his Buy Nothing group. (Supplied: David Klein)

Photo: David Klein with a ukulele, coffee makers and blanket he got through his Buy Nothing group. (Supplied: David Klein)

Politics and Society

‘On the nose’: Australians’ views favour conservation, curbs on coal | SMH
AUSTRALIA – The overwhelming majority of Australians think climate change is real, about two-thirds view themselves to be environmentalists “at heart”, and just over half say the government should not allow new coal mines in the country, according data gathered by WWF and Roy Morgan. Combining attitudes towards nature collected over two decades with a wide-ranging survey of 1800 respondents at the end of last year, the groups found a strong – and lately, rising – interest in protecting habitats on land and sea.

89% of Australians see protection of the Great Barrier Reef as a highest priority

Our laws make slaves of nature. It’s not just humans who need rights | The Guardian
The Amazon rainforest is often called the earth’s lungs, and generates 20% of the world’s oxygen. Yet in the past half-century nearly a fifth of it has been cut down. The felling and burning of millions of trees is releasing massive amounts of carbon, in turn depleting the Amazon’s capacity to be one of the world’s largest carbon sinks – the natural systems that suck up and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Recently, 25 children brought a lawsuit to end the deforestation and its devastating impacts on the environment and their own wellbeing.

Is ‘vegan leather’ a sustainable alternative to animal leather? | ABC News
Many stores — particularly those that spruik their ethical standards — are now offering “vegan leather” products. Vegan products are produced without animal products, but the term vegan often appears in the same spaces as other socially conscious claims, including environmental friendliness. So when we see the term vegan leather, are those items just for those who want to avoid animal products? Or are they kinder on the environment as well?

Built Environment

Bring Your Office to Life – the ebook | The Fifth Estate
In the almost 10 years since we launched with The Fifth Estate we’ve learnt three important things about offices. One is that they are capable of huge sustainability gains; they can achieve massive cuts in energy and greenhouse gas emissions. Second, their design can influence, even shape, the productivity of our economy. Think how high-tech and creative people want stimulating, quirky offices. And third is that, since we spend most of our waking hours in our offices, how they look and feel will be something we take back to our private lives. Download PDF