Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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I almost chose the new leadership of Australia as the top news story today, but I am so over it, and according to the polls, the Australian public are too, so you can read all about it in the Politics and Society section, if you can be bothered. Instead, the top story is an interesting insight into how we are nudged into buying things by default because it’s too hard to think about all the small details of every purchase. I try to get around this by researching products that align with my principles and then sticking with them (until something changes). But still I live a life of contradictions by not making correct decisions all the time, which is why the call for better regulation on ‘sludging’ could be a good thing.

Top Story

Sludge: how corporations ‘nudge’ us into spending more | The Conversation
Small changes in how choices are presented or designed can have a big impact on our behaviour. Governments are taking advantage of this to “nudge” us into making better choices without removing our right to choose. Instead of taxing sugar in drinks, for instance, simply changing how food is arranged in shops can make people eat healthier. But corporations now use the very same techniques. The goal here is different – instead of helping us make better choices, the aim is to unnecessarily increase consumer spending. This is called “sludge”.


Innovation will permeate the dialogue at Stockholm World Water Week | GreenBiz
In the water sector, business as usual is finally giving way to innovation — not just technology innovation but innovation in partnerships, financing and business models. This is evident in the planned program for the 2018 Stockholm World Water Week (SWWW), which runs Aug. 26-31… While not all sessions actually call out innovation, it is clear that many sessions are aligned with the belief that last-century solutions are no longer enough.

Kerala shows how floods are changing | Climate Home News
INDIA – The Indian state of Kerala has been devastated by severe floods. More than 350 people have died, while more than a million have been evacuated to over 4,000 relief camps. Tens of thousands remain stranded. The crisis is a timely reminder that climate change is expected to increase the frequency and magnitude of severe flooding across the world. The monsoon season usually brings heavy rains but this year Kerala has seen 42% more rain than would be expected.

The dam that divides a dry district | Newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – It was during the summer of 2000-2001 that the effects of over-allocation of water from the Waimea River, at the top of the South Island, became abundantly clear. With only a sprinkling of rain over five months, the river dried up. Unprecedented water restrictions came in for the Tasman district and neighbouring Nelson. Commercial growers on the Waimea Plains couldn’t irrigate to grow and ripen their produce. Economic losses were thought to be in the millions of dollars.

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Economy and Business

Making a business from food scraps all in a dirty day’s work for Hobart duo | ABC News
Starting a business from the ground up is always hard work, especially when you’re trying to make a living out of rotting food scraps and the rent is paid in compost. Hobart friends Tom Crawford and Gabriela O’Leary are doing just that.

Photo: Friends Tom Crawford and Gabriela O'Leary are creating Hobart's first compost cooperative. (ABC Hobart: Georgie Burgess)

Photo: Friends Tom Crawford and Gabriela O’Leary are creating Hobart’s first compost cooperative. (ABC Hobart: Georgie Burgess)

Waste and the Circular Economy

New solar-powered watch is made from recycled plastic | Climate Action Programme
Two French designers are leading the way to reducing plastic pollution by creating a watch made from recycled bottles. The new eco-friendly watch is named ‘Awake’. It is made from plastic waste, recycled stainless steel and is powered by solar energy. The watch, launched on Kickstarter last month, was fully funded within one hour. Currently, they have 858 backers and a total of $307,080 which has dramatically surpassed the $30,000 target. It will cost around $300 and is available to pre-order now.

97% of plastic bottles in Norway are recycled | Climate Action Programme
Norway’s bottle deposit scheme has allowed for 97 per cent of all plastic bottles to be recycled. The Norwegian model proposes a loan scheme where the bottle you purchase does not belong to you. Instead, it can be exchanged at the several thousands of reverse vending machines, or over the counter at stores and gas stations in return for cash or store credit.

Carry the cost: plastic bag levy ‘to rise to 10p – with no shop spared’ | The Guardian
UK – Ministers have been considering rolling out the plastic bag levy to all shops and doubling it to 10p. The prime minister was reportedly planning to announce the proposals next week as part of a series of measures designed to encourage the reuse of carrier bags and reduce the UK’s reliance on plastics, which are harmful to the environment.

Wasted nation: feeding bellies not bins |
NEW ZEALAND – Food waste is a growing social, environmental and economic problem in New Zealand. Meanwhile, about 270,000 children go without meals each day. But a few food rescue groups are making important social change that could benefit us all.

Politics and Society

View from The Hill: Furious voters deliver their verdict, with government’s huge Newspoll plunge | Michelle Grattan | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – The voters have screamed their anger about the Liberals’ self-indulgent blood letting, in the first Newspoll after the coup. Labor’s two-party lead over the Coalition has jumped to 56-44%, a massive change from the 51-49% margin only a fortnight ago. While Bill Shorten could never get his nose in front of Malcolm Turnbull as “better prime minister”, the opposition leader holds a 39-33% lead over new prime minister Scott Morrison. Two weeks ago Turnbull had a 12 point advantage as better PM. This is the first time since February 2015 that Shorten has led on this measure.


How Andy Vesey became the fall guy in the national power play | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Hubert Horatio Humphrey, the 38th president of the United States, famously once said: “To err is human, to blame someone else is politics.” Never was that more evident than on Friday when, in the midst of Canberra’s chaotic political meltdown, AGL boss Andy Vesey pulled the plug and walked off into the sunset.


Flinders University installs 4000-panel solar car park in 1.8MW PV rollout | One Step Off the Grid
Bedford Park campus in Adelaide, the bulk of which make up a 4136-panel shaded car park. The $4.8 million project, which includes 1681 panels across six campus roof-tops, is expected to generate 20 per cent of the University’s electricity needs, and pay itself off – through cheaper bills – within seven years.

Built Environment

City mayors make joint call for urgent action to tackle UK air pollution | The Guardian
UK – City leaders across England and Wales have teamed up to demand that Theresa May take immediate action to fight air pollution, which scientists say causes at least 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK. A total of 17 mayors and civic leaders, representing 20 million people throughout the country, have signed a letter that calls for a national action plan to clean up the nation’s air to be implemented as a matter of urgency.

Electric cars exceed 1m in Europe as sales soar by more than 40% | The Guardian
There are now more than a million electric cars in Europe after sales soared by more than 40% in the first half of the year, new figures reveal. Europe hit the milestone nearly a year after China, which has a much larger car market, but ahead of the US, which is expected to reach the landmark later this year driven by the appetite for Tesla’s latest model. Between January and June around 195,000 plug-in cars were sold across the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, a 42% increase on the same period a year before.

Street trees set to weather threats of climate change and heated suburban warfare | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Unpredictable and drastic weather is affecting the livelihood of the humble suburban street tree. The expectation of harsher winters and hotter summers is forcing city planners to ensure tree-lined avenues stay green and resilient. Researchers from the Australia National University (ANU) say they have witnessed the deaths of 100-year-old trees all around Canberra. They have now partnered with the ACT Government to look ahead to the next century amid ever-changing weather conditions.

Smart street lighting to be trialled on Australian coast | Climate Action Programme
AUSTRALIA – A scheme to use intelligent street lighting is to be given a two-year trial on Australia’s north-east Sunshine Coast. Smart tech company Telensa has been chosen to pilot the project in the new Maroochydore city centre development. The wireless system uses sensors to recognise movement and only operates when necessary. The sensors can also be used to monitor air quality, traffic, and waste conditions. The new pilot is designed to cut the region’s energy consumption, costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Great Ocean Road erosion prompts call for plan to preserve tourist destination’s future | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Not enough is being done to protect the Great Ocean Road from erosion, local residents say, after large stretches of beach at Apollo Bay and Marengo were washed away in recent winter storm surges. While it is not uncommon for erosion to occur during the winter months, infrastructure has been damaged over the last few years, without any long-term government solution proposed.

Photo: Large stretches of beach at Apollo Bay and Marengo were washed away in winter storms. (Supplied: Pete Fillmore)

Photo: Large stretches of beach at Apollo Bay and Marengo were washed away in winter storms. (Supplied: Pete Fillmore)

Food Systems

A tale of two farms: ‘Quite extreme’ times hit in uneven ways | SMH
AUSTRALIA – Images of dustbowl grazing and crop lands may be increasingly familiar to Australians, but spare a thought for the struggling growers of vegetables and fruit, many of them just a short drive from Sydney. Erika Watson and Hayden Druce, owners of Epicurean Harvest at Hartley, just south of Lithgow, are first-generation farmers entirely dependent on their dams to grow the organic vegetables they supply to top-end restaurants in the city. “One dam is dry and the other is quite low,” Ms Watson said this week. “This year is quite extreme.”

See also: Rain brings relief in NSW and Queensland, but drought far from over | The Guardian

Thanks to Climate Change, Oranges Are the New Coffee in Costa Rica | World Resources Institute
Coffee is core to Costa Rica’s economy and its national identity. Farmers have been growing it there since the 1800s. The beans are so important that the country’s history, as portrayed in the National Museum in San Jose, centers on coffee cultivation and trade. But because of climate change, increased competition and shifting demographics, some farmers are giving up coffee in favor of fruits better suited to warmer temperatures. This shift in crops is a trend that may become more common—not just in Costa Rica, but in agricultural communities throughout the world.