Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Our top story today confirms honey bees are adversely affected by glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, by damaging beneficial bacteria in their microbiome. As an extension, I wonder if any testing has been done on the effects of glyphosate on other microbiomes, for example, humans. In other news, the UN is meeting in New York and climate change is on the agenda; The World Economic Forum continues with coverage of sustainable development challenges; an award goes to a man who developed afforestation techniques while the Peruvian Airforce documents Amazon destruction for mining; and Opec predicts the rise in air travel will offset any reduction in demand for oil from electric cars.

Top Story

Monsanto’s global weedkiller harms honeybees, research finds | The Guardian
The world’s most used weedkiller damages the beneficial bacteria in the guts of honeybees and makes them more prone to deadly infections, new research has found. Previous studies have shown that pesticides such as neonicotinoids cause harm to bees, whose pollination is vital to about three-quarters of all food crops. Glyphosate, manufactured by Monsanto, targets an enzyme only found in plants and bacteria. However, the new study shows that glyphosate damages the microbiota that honeybees need to grow and to fight off pathogens.

Climate Change

New study reconciles a dispute about how fast global warming will happen | Dana Nuccitelli | The Guardian
We’re currently on pace to double the carbon dioxide-equivalent (including other greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere by around mid-century. Since the late 1800s scientists have been trying to answer the question, how much global warming will that cause?

Tackling climate change to be key talking point at UN summit | The Washington Post
With global temperatures rising, superstorms taking their deadly toll and a year-end deadline to firm up the Paris climate deal, leaders at this year’s U.N. General Assembly are feeling a sense of urgency to keep up the momentum on combating climate change. That’s why, in between discussing how to tackle wars, poverty and deadly diseases around the world, leaders will be devoting substantial time in New York this week to the question of global warming and how to rein it in.

Related: Shinzo Abe urges nations to put ‘promises into practice’ to avoid climate disaster | Business Green

Ardern announces $300m for climate aid work | Newsroom
The Government’s controversial decision to ban future offshore oil and gas exploration in New Zealand has won applause in a speech given by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a major climate change event in New York. Speaking at the opening of the 10th Climate Week, Ardern also announced plans to spend at least $300 million of New Zealand’s official development assistance on climate change projects, “the majority” in the Pacific.

Watchdog warns Scotland must slash transport and agriculture emissions | The Scotsman
Scotland must urgently strengthen its plans to cut greenhouse gases in order to meet its climate change ambitions, according to an independent climate watchdog.In its latest annual report on Scotland’s progress towards statutory emissions reduction goals, the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) warns that the Scottish Government needs to act decisively across every sector to ensure the country meets its existing commitments and prepares for higher future targets.The 2018 report shows Scotland continues to outperform the rest of the UK in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, but successful strategies for energy and waste mask a lack of progress in other parts of the Scottish economy.

Meet the ‘climate refugees’ who already had to leave their homes | The Guardian
USA – Five people from across the US explain how extreme weather forced them out of their homes – not always to safer ground.

Environment and Biodiversity

‘Blessed’: Tree regeneration pioneer Tony Rinaudo gets global gong | SMH
An Australian credited with launching a tree regeneration technique that has led to reforestation of millions of hectares of degraded land in dozens of nations has been recognised with a global gong dubbed the “Alternative Nobel Prize”. Tony Rinaudo, an agronomist with World Vision, will be one of four recipients this year of the Right Livelihood Award. Previous winners include US whistleblower Edward Snowden and Syria’s “White Helmets” rescue teams.

A satellite image of the Humbo region of Ethiopia, showing tree cover in 2005 (left) and in 2017 (right). Photo: World Vision

A satellite image of the Humbo region of Ethiopia, showing tree cover in 2005 (left) and in 2017 (right). Photo: World Vision

Chilling images of illegal mining operations in Peru | Mongabay
PERU – Illegal mining is destroying the Amazon. Most people know this, but it is chilling to see the destruction in aerial images that show details of the mining camps, trucks and backhoes operating 24 hours a day. The images also show dredges extracting material from riverbeds, as well as the continuous movement of dozens of people operating them without consequences. The Peruvian Air Force has given us a look into what is occurring right now at 327 different points in the provinces of Tambopata and Manú, which are in Peru’s Madre de Dios department. Using drones and airplanes, more than 20,000 high-resolution photos and videos of the devastation have been captured.

Economy and Business

Solar hybrid irrigation pump cuts NSW cotton grower’s fuel bill in half | One Step Off The Grid
AUSTRALIA – A cotton farm west of Dubbo in regional New South Wales has effectively halved its annual diesel fuel consumption, with the installation of what is being dubbed Australia’s largest solar hybrid irrigation pump.

Waste and the Circular Economy

What a Waste: An Updated Look into the Future of Solid Waste Management | World Bank
“Waste not, want not.” This old saying rings so true today, as global leaders and local communities alike increasingly call for a fix for the so-called “throwaway culture.” But beyond individuals and households, waste also represents a broader challenge that affects human health and livelihoods, the environment, and prosperity. Solid waste management is a universal issue that matters to every single person in the world. And with over 90% of waste openly dumped or burned in low-income countries, it is the poor and most vulnerable who are disproportionately affected.

Scavengers burning trash at the Tondo Garbage Dump in Manila, Philippines. © Adam Cohn/Flickr Creative Commons

Scavengers burning trash at the Tondo Garbage Dump in Manila, Philippines. © Adam Cohn/Flickr Creative Commons

Boat made from 100% recycled plastic sets sail in Kenya | Climate Action Programme
KENYA – A boat, named FlipFlopi, made entirely of recycled plastic waste has set sail in Kenya. The boat, two years in the making, symbolises the growing problem of ocean plastic pollution across the world. This comes a year after the Kenyan Government banned plastic with offenders facing imprisonment or four years of fines up to $40,000. The group of fishermen collected 30 tonnes of waste from their beaches. This plastic is then melted down to form plastic beams which is used in place of wood to build the ship. The boat, which set sail last week, is headed to Zanzibar and aims to spread their message along the way to the east African coast.

Litter by Little: Natone Park School pupils dig in to clean up waterway |
NEW ZEALAND – Porirua pupils have helped protect the future of whitebait spawning grounds at a polluted waterway… “The kids have helped plant trees, there’s beautiful freshwater creature art throughout the park and that’s due to their efforts. They found old shopping trolleys… [and] the stream flow was choked in some places due to plastic pollution. It’s home to many species that need to migrate through these waterways. Ultimately we’re hoping to get them adopting this part of the stream for regular clean-ups and community engagement and education. It’s a big challenge in the park.”

Natone Park School pupils with some of the mess they helped clean out of Bothamley Park on September 24. Photo: Supplied

Natone Park School pupils with some of the mess they helped clean out of Bothamley Park on September 24. Photo: Supplied

Politics and Society

Sustainable Development Impact Summit | World Economic Forum
Catch up on sessions at the Sustainable Development Impact Summit and see what’s coming up, including:

  • Environmental Stewardship in the Sprint to 2020: How can leaders propel action to secure the global commons now?
  • Beyond Bags, Bottles and Straws: New Partnership to Tackle Whole Supply Chain of Plastic: Business and governments announce a new partnership to stop growth in global plastic pollution before 2025
  • Mobilizing Finance for Impact: How can nations scale the financing needed to deliver their SDG and climate commitments?

‘Whitewash’: US oil and gas lobbyists try to discredit Australian seismic research | The Guardian
The American Petroleum Institute and the International Association of Geophysical Contractors have been writing to authorities in the United States claiming the work of Associate Prof Robert McCauley, of Curtin University in Western Australia, and his colleagues is “seriously flawed”.

Trans-Tasman Resources appeals High Court decision on seabed mining | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – Mining company Trans-Tasman Resources is appealing the High Court decision which removed its consent to mine iron sand from the South Taranaki seabed.


Opec predicts massive rise in oil production over next five years | Business Green
World oil production will soar to new records over the next five years, as a dramatic expansion in demand from airlines offsets the arrival of electric cars, according to a report from Opec. In a forecast that will dismay environmentalists – and which questions the theory that oil company reserves will become “stranded assets” – Opec’s annual report significantly revised production estimates upwards. Most of the production increase will come from countries outside Opec, led by explosive growth from frackers in the United States, with China and India leading the increase in demand.

Built Environment

Privatising WestConnex is the biggest waste of public funds for corporate gain in Australian history | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – The NSW government has confirmed it will sell 51% of WestConnex — the nation’s biggest road infrastructure project — to a consortium led by Transurban, the nation’s biggest toll road corporation. NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet described the A$9.3 billion sale to one of his party’s more generous donors as a “very strong result”. I would describe it differently: the biggest misuse of public funds for corporate gain in Australia’s history.

Worried about AI taking over the world? You may be making some rather unscientific assumptions | The Conversation
Should we be afraid of artificial intelligence? For me, this is a simple question with an even simpler, two letter answer: no. But not everyone agrees – many people, including the late physicist Stephen Hawking, have raised concerns that the rise of powerful AI systems could spell the end for humanity. Clearly, your view on whether AI will take over the world will depend on whether you think it can develop intelligent behaviour surpassing that of humans – something referred to as “super intelligence”. So let’s take a look at how likely this is, and why there is much concern about the future of AI.

Food Systems

Local Focus Special Report: Alternative fertiliser pitched as a solution to environmental problems | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – Darryl Oliver has been dairy farming in the Galatea Valley below the lush bush of the Urewera Ranges for the last 16 years. “We’ve got pure water just pouring out of these hills and we want it to continue down to the sea in it’s best state we can,” he says. “We have to try and farm so we’re not putting phosphate, and sediment and ‘N’ into our waterways.”

Dairy farmers tackle nitrogen loss |
NEW ZEALAND – Cutting cow numbers is just one of several options dairy farmers are using to meet looming nitrogen leaching reduction targets. Nitrogen is a key nutrient to grow grass on farms, but when there is more in the soil than plants can use it is at risk of leaching into groundwater, or runs off into rivers and streams, degrading water quality. Canterbury dairy farmers in more intensively farmed red zones, defined by Environment Canterbury as catchments where water quality outcomes were not being met, have been given clear targets to reduce the nitrate loss from their farms.

Adding the forage herb plantain to traditional ryegrass, white clover pastures can reduce nitrate leaching. Photo: Supplied

Adding the forage herb plantain to traditional ryegrass, white clover pastures can reduce nitrate leaching. Photo: Supplied