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Monday 25 August 2014

Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change

Leonardo DiCaprio to lend his voice to climate change film
Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio has taken another step in campaigning for environmental causes by deciding to voice Green World Rising, a series of short films on climate change. DiCaprio, who has also produced the movies through the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, will narrate the four episodes named ‘Carbon’, Green World Rising’, ‘Restoration’ and ‘Last Hours’.

Environment

Study: wild bees can thrive in urban environments
New research has found almost a third of France’s 900 species of wild bees live in towns and cities, suggesting that urban settings can play a crucial role in helping pollinators thrive. Researchers analysed the effects that urbanisation has on wild bees in 24 sites around Lyon in France, recording 291 different bee species, with 60 of them found in very urbanised areas and most of them found in moderately urbanised places.

Efforts to curb invasive species spark battle in the countryside
It is an issue that has perplexed writer and composers from William Shakespeare to Oscar Wilde to Gilbert and Sullivan: just what does it take to be a native of these shores? Most have answered by stressing the spiritual qualities needed to be British or simply by making fun of the notion. But for wildlife experts today, the definition of what it takes to be a true native of Britain is posing major headaches. Indeed, many believe that government plans to introduce new controls on invasive species – from Japanese knotweed to escaped minks – in the forthcoming infrastructure bill could rebound – with devastating consequences for biodiversity. And they blame the government for failing to provide a proper definition of the term “native species”. As a result, birds such as barn owls and red kites could be treated as vermin, say scientists. In addition, new species arriving on our shores in a future affected by increasing global warming would also be badly affected.

How are farmers keeping rivers clean? (Opinion)
Too many environmental advocates are ignoring the impressive effort and big money being put into effluent management research and infrastructure in the wake of the Fish and Game New Zealand’s ”Dirty Dairying” campaign. The campaign made water quality the top priority environmental issue in New Zealand. So what have farmers, with strong support from regional councils and the wider industry, done to help clean up waterways? They have fenced off waterways, implemented sustainable nutrient management plans, upgraded their effluent systems, established wetlands, planted trees and supported research through the levy they pay. The Garrett family, who dairy farm 1200 cows on a 440ha block near Lake Ellesmere in Canterbury, provide a great example of the big money being pumped into environmental sustainability. They have seen production increase 40 per cent and nitrogen leaching drop from 16-18 kilograms loss to groundwater per hectare to 6-8 kilograms since constructing a free stall barn two years ago to house 900 cows during winter and applying effleuent over the farm, instead of bought-in fertiliser.

Watch: Grouper Slurps Down A Shark, Not A Typical Meal
The Atlantic goliath grouper (Epinephelus itajara) isn’t the meanest or fastest fish on the reef. It has neither venomous barbs nor impressive fangs. But as its name suggests, the goliath grouper does do at least one thing of note: It gets big. Darn big. And as the saying goes, big fish eat little fish. Recently, that little fish was a four-foot shark unfortunate enough to find itself caught on a fisherman’s hook.

Sticky beak is New Zealand’s tooled-up kea (Video)
Crafty kea have once again proven their status as New Zealand’s smartest birds, this time being caught on camera using sticks to set off stoat traps. The puzzle started in Fiordland, where rangers had noticed solid wooden stoat traps had been triggered, often with sticks left behind. Mat Goodman, 23, picked up the mystery while working with a documentary team in Fiordland and wound up investigating further as his final project for a University of Canterbury degree.  “It was obvious that it was kea really, but nobody had seen it happen,” he said. So he set out to catch the culprits in action using motion-activated cameras. But the alpine parrots did not take kindly to surveillance. “I had about four cameras that were ripped to bits by kea,” Goodman said. After some trial and error Goodman found a setup that enabled his camera to survive several weeks until he could return to rescue it.  It was that camera which caught the incriminating evidence.

Economy and Business

Understanding the origin of products is key to ending supply chain scandals
Information on the origin of products has been used to increase value for centuries. We only have to look at provenance in fine art objects, history of ownership in the second-hand car market or the plethora of food products from “protected origins”. As consumers demand to know more about the history of the items they buy, those that are unable to say, and verify their claims, will be left behind.

Seabed mining – from science fiction to reality
On an engineering works floor in Britain stands a 250 tonne machine that promises to change the way we think about the seabed. It’s built to mine the deep.  On the front of the track-mounted “bulk cutter” is a formidable toothed drum designed to chew through heavily mineralised volcanic vents, 1600 metres below the surface of the Bismarck Sea off Papua New Guinea. Attached will be a system to collect and pump a slurry of copper and gold-bearing ore to a mother ship, for transfer and onshore processing. Far from being science fiction, this newest frontier in mineral exploitation only needs adaptation. A quiet international rush is under way to stake out seabed claims, concentrating on the central Pacific.  Led by big businesses such as the US defence contractor, Lockheed Martin, it offers the dream of fortunes to poor island nations.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Staples to Begin Offering Businesses E-Waste Recycling Services
Staples Advantage, the business to business division of Staples, has partnered with Electronic Recyclers International (ERI) to launch a technology recycling service that makes it easier for for businesses to recycle old electronics. The new program allows businesses to recycle equipment –– from cell phones and keyboards to telecom equipment and multi-function devices. After ordering recycling boxes online, businesses fill the boxes with electronics and ship back to Staples. The companies receive a Certificate of Recycling from Staples that their electronics have been properly recycled and data safely removed. The certificate is accredited by the e-Stewards Initiative, a project of the Basel Action Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to the responsible recycling of e-waste.

Politics and Society

Just five days left to support sustainable democracy campaign
There are just five days to support Vote for Policies crowdfunding campaign to raise money and develop a service that aims to make democracy more sustainable and inclusive. So far the campaign has raised £14,542 of the £20,000 target. Vote for Policies argues that people are left confused and unengaged with politics because they are turned off by the spin and bias. Instead, the organisation advocates focusing on manifestos and the policies within them. However, many manifestos are difficult for the electorate to find and are often vague. This is where the Vote for Policies service aims to provide a solution. Users of the service are presented with the policies of different parties, allowing them to select the one they agree most with and see which political party has values and priorities that most closely align with their own

Tasmania prepares to tear up forestry peace deal
The Tasmanian government is on course to pass legislation that would tear up the state’s forestry peace deal, with environmentalists claiming the move will open up 1.5m hectares of largely pristine forest to logging. The state government’s forestry bill has already passed the lower house, which it controls, and is in the process of negotiating the legislative council, the upper house of parliament. Key independent Robert Armstrong has indicated support for the bill, meaning it is likely to pass. The bill will remove 400,000ha of native forest from reserves set up by the Tasmanian Forest Agreement. An additional 657,000ha in conservation areas and 454,000ha in regional reserves will also be opened up to “partial logging” for the speciality timber industry.

Native vegetation bill a seed of contention
Farmers have vowed to be “unyielding” in their lobbying on controversial native vegetation laws, with the Baird cabinet expected to discuss a bill that green groups fear will gut the  protection for endangered species on private land. Environment Minister Rob Stokes, a Liberal, has made several trips to the region and is understood to be keen for the independent Biodiversity Review Panel to complete its examination of  the Native Vegetation Act, the Threatened Species Conservation Act, and the flora and fauna protection sections of the National Parks and Wildlife Act. But the Nationals’ Kevin Humphries, who is Minister for Natural Resources, Lands and Water, said he would back the Shooters and Fishers’ upper house bill even though it contained “a whole lot of perverse outcomes” for landowners.

Food Systems

Grub’s up: maggots and crickets on menu at Britain’s first ‘pestaurant’
Lunchtime in the City, and a pop-up with a difference: Pestaurant, run by Britain’s best-known extermination brand, which aims to interpret the popularity of street food in its most literal sense. On the menu: salt & vinegar crickets, plain roasted locusts, crispy BBQ mealworms and something called an “early bird breakfast pie”, featuring six sausages, eight rashers of smoky bacon and “30g bamboo or buffalo worms”.

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