Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Writing the book on health, risk and climate change (Book Talk)
Daniel Callahan, cofounder and former president of biomedical research organization the Hastings Center, is the author of the recently published book “The Five Horsemen of the Modern World: Climate, Food, Water, Disease and Obesity,” published by Columbia University Press. In the following question-and-answer piece, Callahan explains why and how he connected the dots on climate change and other looming risks to business and society.

Energy and Climate Change

Cheap and clean: Australian company creates hydrogen with near-zero emissions
An Australian company is using “cheap as dirt” iron ore to convert methane in natural gas into hydrogen. Importantly, their process generates near-zero emissions, as the carbon content of the gas is captured in the form of high-quality graphite. As a clean-burning fuel, hydrogen could play a key role in future energy markets, but production methods are still too energy-intensive and costly.

How gas generators cashed in on South Australia’s “energy crisis”
The soaring price of gas was the main cause of the recent price surges in South Australia – a point repeatedly underlined in reports by the market operators and the South Australian government, and the clean energy industry. Sadly, that has fallen mostly on deaf ears in the media. An analysis from energy expert and consultant David Leitch sheds new light on how the gas generators profited from the soaring price of gas, and the lack of competition in the South Australian wholesale market, a situation made worse by the severe supply constraints on the main interconnector from Victoria.

Environment and Biodiversity

Wildlife Dying En Masse as South American River Runs Dry
Vultures rest in the tree’s upper branches, their black bodies in stark contrast to the blanched wood beneath their feet. Below them, caimans and capybaras crawl in sucking mud through the Agropil lagoon, seeking water that is unlikely to arrive for many months. The river has dried up, and there is nowhere for them to go.

Orangutan Green Team guides buying land to protect Borneo’s wildlife from palm oil threat
A small group of Indonesian tour guides are buying up forest lands in a bid to protect wildlife, including sun bears and orangutans, in the world’s top palm oil-producing country. With the help of money from tourists, the 28 local guides, known as the Orangutan Green Team, are buying land along the river opposite Kalimantan’s Tanjung Puting National Park, in the heart of Borneo.

Death row dingoes set to be the environmental saviour of Great Barrier Reef’s Pelorus Island
A Queensland council is releasing dingoes onto a Great Barrier Reef island to kill feral goats that are destroying its endangered ecosystem. The four wild dogs, two of which have already been released on Pelorus Island, will not have a chance to become pests themselves, as they have been implanted with a time-activated poison, Hinchinbrook Shire Council said.

Kermadec ocean sanctuary named – but no compensation
One of the world’s largest ocean sanctuaries will be named the Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary – but no compensation will be paid to Maori or commercial fishing companies. The project will cover an area around the Kermadec Islands that is twice the size of New Zealand’s land mass and 50 times the size of the country’s largest national park. Hailed by environmental groups, there has been controversy over the amount of consultation with Maori before the project was announced by Prime Minister John Key at the United Nations last September.
See also: Kermadec ocean sanctuary gets the go-ahead from committee

CuriousCity: How Wellington’s Otari-Wilton’s Bush is saving our native plants
NEW ZEALAND – Amost all of Wellington’s pre-colonial bush still exists in the Otari Native Botanic Gardens and Wilton’s Bush Reserve. The Otari-Wilton’s Bush – as it is more commonly known – is a much-loved destination for walkers, nature lovers, or people just looking to get some fresh air. But it is also where a team of people are working hard to save the country’s rarest species of flora and fauna, inside the country’s only facility dedicated to growing and propagating native plants.

Economy and Business

Outerknown Sets New Bar for Transparency by Disclosing Supply Chain, Sharing Suppliers’ Stories
Just one year after the brand’s launch, eleven-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater and menswear designer John Moore’s clothing company Outerknown has publicly released its supply chain. The young brand is taking the public ‘inside the factories’ for a closer look at their practices; the website details Outerknown’s suppliers’ locations, employment figures, which products they produce for Outerknown, and other information. Customers are also now able to ‘shop by factory’ which filters products by supplier.

The eco guide to cotton towels|
Every time you make a purchasing decision, you’re also making a production decision, so when you come to replace towels and bed linen, go for organic. Currently, just 1% of the world’s cotton is organic. Let’s get that higher. Growing organic cotton is a far more responsible use of farmable land and fresh water, than conventional. The Textile Exchange surveyed 82,000 hectares of land in 2014 and found reduced global-warming potential, lower soil erosion, less water use and less energy demand from organic, as opposed to conventional, cotton growers.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Young Kiwi businesswoman tackles beauty industry’s rubbish problem
A young Christchurch businesswoman is giving consumers a chance to eliminate the plastic waste that comes with their beauty products. Brianne West, of Ethique, said the idea for her business came to her in the shower while she was in her second year at university. “I dropped my shampoo bottle on the floor and, as usual, about half of it spilled everywhere and I thought ‘this is madness’,” she said. “Why put water in shampoo when there’s already water in your shower? Why contribute to the devastating effects of plastic bottles when you don’t have to?”

Recycling plan could see Queenslanders get 10c a container
AUSTRALIA – Queenslanders will be able to collect cash for returning bottles and cans for recycling from 2018. The State Government is looking at offering people 10 cents for each container returned to a collection depot or placed in a reverse vending machine. Environment Minister Steven Miles said Queensland had one of the lowest recycling rates in the country.

Politics and Society

In acceptance speech, Trump embraces role as hero of the forgotten
As a scholar of American political rhetoric, I have written about how presidential candidates will often use campaign speeches to depict a nation in crisis, with themselves as the saviors. True to tradition, Trump’s speech contained a narrative of crisis and heroism. He also fulfilled the expectations for a typical presidential nomination speech by arguing for a united party, explaining his political philosophy and appearing presidential.
See also: Trump promises America law and order, but he is a dire threat to both

Clinton’s VP pick gets decent reviews from both enviros and fossil fuel industry
Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s brand-new running mate, appears to have an uncanny ability to appeal to people across the spectrum. Kaine is no Elizabeth Warren, but he’s no Jim Webb either, getting good reviews from surprising quarters.

‘World can’t afford to silence us’: black church leaders address climate change
African American religious leaders have added their weight to calls for action on climate change, with one of the largest and oldest black churches in the US warning that black people are disproportionally harmed by global warming and fossil fuel pollution.

Asia’s ‘shoot-to-kill’ republic? The rising body count of the Philippines’ ‘war on drugs’
Official statistics support assertions of an alarming increase in police killings of drug-related criminal suspects. Philippines National Police data indicate that police killed at least 192 such criminal suspects between May 10 and July 10. That death toll in the two months following Duterte’s electoral victory dwarfs the 68 killings of suspects that police recorded during “anti-drug operations” between January 1 and June 15, 2016. Police have attributed the killings to suspects who “resisted arrest and shot at police officers”, but have not provided further evidence that they acted in self-defence.

Kenya jails ivory kingpin for 20 years
On Friday, a Mombasa law court sentenced Feisal Mohamed Ali to 20 years in jail after finding him guilty of illegal possession of ivory worth 44 million shillings (US $440,000). The court also imposed a fine of 20 million shillings.  This landmark ruling by the Kenyan court is the end of a long story that began with the seizure of 2 tonnes of ivory at Fuji Motors car yard in Mombasa in June 2014.

Vietnam is one of world’s biggest illegal ivory markets
Illegal ivory markets are booming in Vietnam. The sale of ivory products has increased by over six times from 2008 to 2015, according to a new report released Tuesday by Save the Elephants, a UK-registered charity based in Nairobi. In fact, Vietnam’s production of illegal ivory items has risen the most rapidly among all ivory industries in Asia, the report says.

Star Trek’s far-off vision of the future
As the latest feature film hits big screens, the Star Trek vision of a peaceful and inclusive society seems further off than ever, says Dan Slevin​. When the Star Trek TV series debuted back in 1966, an initially ambivalent America got a taste of the future that it could scarcely credit. No Cold War for a start. Limitless clean energy. All races and (almost) all species working together to further exploration, science and diplomacy rather than conquest.

Small Group Tours are Transforming the Travel Industry
Numerous studies indicate that international tourists are asking for more responsible traveling experiences… Still, the reality remains that the majority of this year’s 1 billion international travelers will join the herds of other tourists who overwhelm popular destinations during peak vacation seasons. Referred to as mass tourism, this dominant form of travel fails to engage healthily with communities, but instead strains local resources and withholds economic benefit from local economies.

Diving Enthusiasts Could Measure Ocean Temperatures
Millions of holidaying scuba divers are able to become citizen scientists and take vital measurements of ocean temperatures, which are being driven up by climate change. More than 90 percent of the heat trapped by global warming goes into oceans, where it drives hurricanes and disrupts fish stocks. Satellites can measure surface temperature when there are no clouds, but getting data from below the surface is much harder and more expensive.

Built Environment

Solar Impulse: Zero-fuel plane begins final flight
The zero-fuel aeroplane, Solar Impulse, has left the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on the last leg of its global tour. The aircraft should take about 48 hours to reach Abu Dhabi, UAE – the place it began the circumnavigation in March 2015.

Could vertical take-off electric planes replace cars in our cities?
The end of the jet age could be in sight. Innovative new electric aircraft are starting to find their way off the drawing board and onto runways, funded by startups, government agencies and the world’s biggest jet makers. They promise flights that are cleaner, quieter and safer than today’s jets, and with a fraction of their carbon footprint.

Food Systems

Banana Republic: the ugly story behind New Zealand’s most popular fruit
From the top of a rusting observation tower, the leaves stretch out in every direction: thick, glossy, utterly uniform, as far as the eye can see. It is silent at the centre of the plantation. No birds calling, no hum of insects, only the low whine of planes dumping their loads of pesticide in the distance. Banana bunches wrapped in blue plastic hang like alien egg sacs from the branches. The plantations cover around 10,000 hectares, encircling small villages, networks of roads, and the entire lives of the growers, who work, eat, sleep, live and die among the trees.


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