Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
If you like what you see, you are welcome to sign up (on the right) for free sustainable development news delivered direct to your inbox each weekday morning.

All things are connected to everything else in our one, finite, enclosed planetary ecosystem. Today’s top story talks about the need to break our habit, indentured through our schooling, of thinking in a simplistic cause and effect way and embrace complex systems thinking for a holistic view in solving the wicked problems we face. Elsewhere, lots of stories on waste and circular thinking, and some thought provoking articles on food systems.

Top Story

Problem Solving Desperately Needs Systems Thinking – Disrupt Design | Medium
If we want to overcome the systemic issues behind today’s problems, then we need to change the thinking that led to them to begin with. The status quo of how we are taught to think is linear and often reductionist. We learn to break the world down into manageable chunks and see issues in isolation of their systemic roots.

Systems thinking

Climate Change and Energy

Renewable energy set to supply one-third of market needs by 2020 | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Renewable energy will provide one third of the national electricity market’s needs within two years, according to new research from Green Energy Markets (GEM). The consultancy firm’s forecast uses the latest data from the Australian Energy Market Operator and is based on solar and wind farms already under construction or contracted plus rooftop solar maintaining stable installation levels.

Solar pushes mid-day electricity prices below zero in Queensland | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – The roll-out of large-scale solar power in Queensland – and the continuing rapid uptake of rooftop solar by homes and businesses – is starting to have an impact on electricity prices in the state, even sending them into negative territory in the middle of the day.

Tidal power to be trialled in Queensland coal port | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – Renewable tidal energy technology is set to be tested in one of Australia’s biggest coal ports in Gladstone, Queensland, marking the latest development in that region’s rapid shift to renewables that has been led by a number of significant utility-scale solar projects. Sydney-based MAKO Tidal Turbines (MTT) and Gladstone Ports Corporation (GPC) say they are set to undertake a six month tidal turbine demonstration at the port, to investigate how tidal power could contribute to Australia’s future energy mix.

Rising seas: ‘Florida is about to be wiped off the map’ | The Guardian (Book Talk)
USA – Sea level rises are not some distant threat; for many Americans they are very real. In an extract from her chilling new book, Rising, Elizabeth Rush details how the US coastline will be radically transformed in the coming years.

‘Take the six million people who live in south Florida today and divide them into two groups: those who live less than six and a half feet above the current high tide line, and everybody else.’ Photograph: Milkweed Editions

‘Take the six million people who live in south Florida today and divide them into two groups: those who live less than six and a half feet above the current high tide line, and everybody else.’ Photograph: Milkweed Editions

Environment and Biodiversity

Climate change threatens Unesco status of Canada’s largest national park | The Guardian
CANADA – The world’s second-largest national park is under threat from a destructive combination of climate change, oil and gas development and hydroelectric projects, according to a new report from the Canadian government.

Wood Buffalo national park, the world’s second-largest national park, was placed on Unesco’s endangered list in 2017. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Wood Buffalo national park, the world’s second-largest national park, was placed on Unesco’s endangered list in 2017. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

For Madagascar’s park managers, the science literature is out of reach | Mongabay
The people responsible for managing Madagascar’s protected areas tend to rely more on experience and “advice from others” than on scientific research to make on-the-ground decisions, a new study has found. Since 2003, Madagascar has aggressively created new protected areas, quadrupling its protected area coverage by 2016. Much of the conservation research in the country is carried out within these parks. But people who manage the protected areas, such as park directors or conservation managers, use very little of that research, according to the study published in Madagascar Conservation & Development.

An indri (Indri indri), a critically endangered lemur that lives in Madagascar’s Makira Natural Park. Image by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.

An indri (Indri indri), a critically endangered lemur that lives in Madagascar’s Makira Natural Park. Image by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Our clothes are contaminating our planet with tiny plastic threads | Ensia
You try to do the right thing. You’re conscientious about recycling. You carry reusable shopping bags, drink from refillable water bottles, and you’ve stopped using those face washes and toothpastes that contain plastic microbeads. Unless you’re a nudist, though, you probably haven’t yet addressed another big contributor to your environmental footprint: wearing clothing… a growing body of research shows that apparel made wholly or partially from synthetic textiles is the source of yet another big problem: a type of microplastic known as microfibers, shed during normal use and during laundering.

Recycling: Senate inquiry recommends all single-use plastics be banned | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – A Senate inquiry into Australia’s recycling crisis has recommended that all single-use plastics – which could potentially include takeaway containers, chip packets and coffee cups with plastic linings – be banned by 2023. The wide-ranging report also recommends the establishment of a national container deposit scheme as a response to an unfolding crisis in Australian recycling that forced some councils to tip their recycling into landfill. The report sets out a blueprint to create a “circular economy” – where all materials used in Australia are then recovered and reused domestically.

Plastic garbage patch: Medical tests ‘inspired me to investigate’ | BBC News
UK – Experienced sailor Emily Penn has set out with an all-female crew to investigate the world’s largest accumulation of marine plastic. Her team will carry out scientific experiments on the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, now said to be three times the size of France. Ms Penn said her own medical tests had convinced her of the potential toxic impacts of plastic, especially for women.

Solar panel recycling plant opens in France | Climate Action Programme
Europe’s first dedicated recycling plant for old solar panels has opened in France. Veolia, an environmental services company, has opened the plant in the town of Rousset, near Marseille, after securing a contract with recycling organisation PV Cycle France.

Blockchain and the Circular Economy: An Exploration | Circle Economy (Twitter Chat)
Blockchain is often touted as the key to improving trust and transparency across industries and moving towards more equitable and collaborative systems. But could it also be the key to a circular economy? To explore the potential for blockchain to support and accelerate circular supply chains, Circle Economy and Circle Lab hosted a series of Twitter chats on June 12, 13, and 14, where they invited people around the world to join the discussion online, share their insights, and explore what problems currently hindering circular supply chains the technology could help solve.

Politics and Society

US judge rejects climate change lawsuit against oil majors | Climate Action Programme
USA – A US judge has thrown out a case brought against major oil companies on climate change. The city councils of both San Francisco and Oakland had sought damages against some of the world’s largest oil companies for their role in global warming.

Australian climate policy ignoring billions in potential health savings, experts say | ABC News
Australia is missing out on billions in short-term health savings that could come with tougher greenhouse emission targets, experts say. Air pollution can lead to premature deaths and problems such as heart attacks and asthma, but the economic cost of this is not being pitted against the apparent benefits to the economy of burning fossil fuels, according to Tony Capon, professor of planetary health at the University of Sydney. He and others point to ballpark figures suggesting the energy and transport sectors alone cost Australia at least $6 billion a year in health problems.

New coal doesn’t stack up – just look at Queensland’s renewable energy numbers | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – As the federal government aims to ink a deal with the states on the National Energy Guarantee in August, it appears still to be negotiating within its own ranks. Federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg has reportedly told his partyroom colleagues that he would welcome a new coal-fired power plant, while his former colleague (and now Queensland Resources Council chief executive) Ian Macfarlane urged the government to consider offering industry incentives for so-called “clean coal”. Last month, it emerged that One Nation had asked for a new coal-fired power plant in north Queensland in return for supporting the government’s business tax reforms. Is all this pro-coal jockeying actually necessary for our energy or economic future? Our analysis suggests that renewable energy is a much better choice, in terms of both costs and jobs.

Scientist claims Murray-Darling Basin Authority ‘suppressed’ research | SMH
AUSTRALIA – The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has been accused of “suppressing” research findings it didn’t like in formulating its target for returning a minimum amount of water to the environment. Matthew Colloff, a senior CSIRO research scientist, will on Wednesday tell the South Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission the authority “attempted to influence CSIRO findings on several occasions”, according to his submission.

Watchdog needed to halt freshwater decline – forum | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – A Land and Water Commission should be created to stop further damage to New Zealand’s waterways, a top-level forum says. In its new report, the Land and Water Forum called for a national body to oversee measures to protect and manage the country’s lakes and rivers. It also sought urgent action to save those most threatened, and for the vexed issue of iwi rights and interests to be finally resolved.

Worms’ war on waste from cattle stomach contents perfect for NSW mid north coast worm farm | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – There would not be many who would like a truck turning up with what had recently been inside a cow’s stomach, then dumping it on the driveway just outside what look like a number of large greenhouses. But for Lee Fieldhouse, that dumping plays a major part in helping his prized Indian blues, night crawlers, tigers and red wriggler worms create a rich compost.

Built Environment

Urban ‘forests’ can store almost as much carbon as tropical rainforests | The Conversation
Most people would never think of London as a forest. Yet there are actually more trees in London than people. And now, new work by researchers at University College London shows that pockets of this urban jungle store as much carbon per hectare as tropical rainforests.

Food Systems

Supermarket supply chains are driving poverty and inequality. We can do better | World Economic Forum
The global food chain is a modern marvel. It employs hundreds of millions of people, an eclectic fusion of different cultures from all corners of the world brought together through the wonders of food. It is also a story of industrial-scale hunger and inequality. Oxfam’s new research and its Behind the Price campaign show the hidden human cost to this powerful industry – and it goes to the heart of global poverty.

Citizens can rally to demand their food be produced without human suffering. Image: REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo

Citizens can rally to demand their food be produced without human suffering. Image: REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo

Government regulation is the missing ingredient in efforts to end deforestation driven by agriculture | Mongabay (commentary)
Despite countless corporate commitments, tropical deforestation for agriculture remains rampant. New research reveals that we need government regulation to achieve meaningful results. The European Union, a top importer of products that drive deforestation, must take the opportunity to make a difference, writes Nicole Polsterer, Sustainable consumption campaigner at the NGO Fern.

Palm oil ‘disastrous’ for wildlife but here to stay, experts warn | The Guardian
It is consumed daily by billions of people but palm oil is “disastrous” for wildlife such as orangutans and tigers, according to an authoritative new report. However, the analysis warns that alternatives are likely to drive biodiversity losses elsewhere, rather than halt them.