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.

Energy and Climate Change

India’s slum dwellers find off the grid solutions with help of Australian company
India is home to some of the poorest people on earth – 64 million of its residents live in slums, many have no access to services like clean water and electricity.  Over the past two years a company founded by a group of young Australians has been providing some of them with a solution that is not only helping India’s poor, but also creating work for people in the job-starved nation.

Airbus aims to help cut jet emissions
Airbus has launched a programme to help airlines reduce their environmental footprint as an international aviation organisation works to cut the growth of emissions. The Airbus programme is based on four pillars – aircraft technology, aircraft operations, air traffic management and sustainable aviation fuels. The Sustainable Aviation Engagement Programme is developing pilot projects, during which Airbus will work closely with Cathay Pacific, British Airways and KLM. Lessons from the projects will be extended to operators worldwide from next year.

This once-stable Antarctic region has suddenly started melting
Antarctica’s glaciers have been making headlines during the past year, and not in a good way. Whether it’s a massive ice shelf facing imminent risk of collapse, glaciers in the West Antarctic past the point of no return, or new threats to East Antarctic ice, it’s all been rather gloomy. And now I’m afraid there’s more bad news: a new study published in the journal Science, led by a team of my colleagues and I from the University of Bristol, has observed a sudden increase of ice loss in a previously stable part of Antarctica.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

The people taking their money out of coal, oil and gas
The fossil fuel divestment campaign is gaining traction on campuses, churches and at other organisations, but you can take action on your personal pension and bank account too. Here, three people explain how and why they divested.

Climate change activists hand deliver message to divest to Commonwealth Bank CEO
NEW ZEALAND – More than a dozen activists marched through the sliding glass doors of ASB’s headquarters on the Auckland waterfront last Tuesday, stationing themselves beside the giant yellow block letters of the banking corporation’s logo to send a message to the company to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Representatives from New Zealand environmental organisation Aotearoa 350 decided to stage the demonstration at ASB’s flagship building after hearing rumors that the bank’s parent company, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, is engaged in talks with India mining industry titan Adani Group to finance one of the world’s largest fossil fuel projects.

Environment and Biodiversity

How Arctic ozone hole was avoided by Montreal Protocol
The Antarctic ozone hole would have been 40% bigger by now if ozone-depleting chemicals had not been banned in the 1980s, according to research. Models also show that at certain times, a large hole would have opened up at the other end of the globe. The Arctic hole would have been large enough to affect northern Europe, including the UK, scientists say.  The Montreal Protocol is regarded as one of the most important global treaties in history.

Frogs of Australia app identifies species by their croaks, developed at James Cook University in Queensland
An app that can identify a frog by its croak and shows what species can be found where has been developed by Queensland scientists. The Frogs of Australia – eGuide app features descriptions, location maps, call sounds and photographs. James Cook University biologist Dr Conrad Hoskin said three years of work went into developing the app, which was released last week. “There are a lot of people who like frogs,” he said. “They are cute little creatures and there is a lot more interest and familiarity with frogs these days.” The app has been designed for anyone with an interest in frogs, from schoolchildren to researchers.

Poisonous cane toads: Researchers discover the most humane way to kill the pests
AUSTRALIA – The most humane way to kill cane toads is to put them in the freezer alive, Sydney researchers have found. The once-popular method was used to kill millions of the poisonous pests until it was banned 20 years ago because animal ethics committees considered it inhumane. It was thought cane toads toes would freeze while their brain remained warm enough to register the pain. But cane toad expert Rick Shine wanted to know if the theory held true.

[Ed: Cane toads are a destructive and prolific pest in Australia, displacing and killing native animals]

Warning issued after Maui’s dolphin numbers drop below 50
A new warning has sounded for the world’s smallest dolphin, with a researcher now reporting there are less than 50 Maui’s dolphins left. Dr Barbara Maas of the NABU International Nature Conservation Foundation and Otago University’s Professor Liz Slooten are presenting new research during discussions with 200 leading cetacean scientists at the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee in San Diego. Research by Dr Maas reports the numbers of the critically-endangered Maui’s dolphin, endemic to our waters, have sunk to an all-time low of between 43 and 47 individuals, and just 10 to 12 adult female Maui’s dolphins. She warned that unless the level of fisheries protection was increased significantly, the critically-endangered dolphins could become extinct in just 15 years.

Maui's dolphins are less than 1.5m long and only found off the west coast of New Zealand

Maui’s dolphins are less than 1.5m long and only found off the west coast of New Zealand

Poachers killed half Mozambique’s elephants in five years
Poachers have killed nearly half of Mozambique’s elephants for their ivory in the past five years, the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society said on Tuesday. A Mozambique government-backed survey showed a dramatic 48% decline in elephant numbers from just over 20,000 to an estimated 10,300, the WCS said. “This decline is due to rampant elephant poaching in the country’s most important elephant populations,” the WCS said. Remote northern Mozambique, which includes the Niassa National Reserve, was the hardest hit, accounting for 95% of elephant deaths, reducing the population from an estimated 15,400 to an estimated 6,100.

Explainer: what is the List of World Heritage in Danger?
The List of World Heritage in Danger has recently come to the attention of Australians, as the World Heritage Committee considers whether the Great Barrier Reef belongs there. What is the list, and what does getting onto it mean?

Economy and Business

We need honesty from business to tackle climate change
Confusion and obsession about the environment and about climate change … creates opportunity for the investor – this is hard-core capitalist advice from James Altucher and Douglas R. Sease, authors of the audaciously titled Guide to Investing in the Apocalypse published by the Wall Street Journal. Money is going to be spent, they point out, and so, in their eyes, there is money to be made. In fact, across a range of scenarios which read almost like a field manual for the “shock doctrine” described by Naomi Klein, the message is that if you can’t make money by seeing opportunity where others see peril, you’re probably in the wrong game.

Food solutions to rural poverty
NEW ZEALAND – An iwi from South Taranaki is making its own opportunities, stimulating food-related entrepreneurship through a pilot project to create new jobs as an alternative to dairying and extractive industries in the region.  Ngaa Rauru Kiitahi is an iwi based in Waverley, South Taranaki. Their rohe (area) stretches between the Whanganui River to the Patea River. This area is also a major focus for extractive industries including seabed mining, which the iwi opposes. “Our area here is under immense pressure from the dairy industry and the extractive industries – oil, gas and iron sand mining.  We believe it’s time to take a more proactive role in caring for our environment and reducing the reliance on these invasive industries.

Camel milk demand sparks interest in Shepparton camel auction
AUSTRALIA – At $25 a litre, camel milk can cost you more than most Australian wine.  Even though it commands such high prices, milking camels is a rapidly growing industry that has a waiting list of up to four months for its products. It is this demand that has farmers in southern Victorian dairy regions looking closely at an animal that is usually confined to the hot deserts of central Australia. Auctioneers will sell 200 camels on Saturday, May 30 at Shepparton in northern Victoria. There is a lot of demand for camel milk at the moment and we’ve got a lot of girl camels with babies that are ideal for milking. Ebony Loffel’s family captures wild camels from a property they lease in outback South Australia and transport them to their property at Mooroopna, near Shepparton, before sale.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Supermarkets forced to give unsold food to charity under news laws aimed at reducing waste in France
France’s national assembly has vowed a crusade on food waste in the country by passing a law that will stop supermarkets destroying unsold food. Instead chains will have to donate the old food to charities or find a use for it somewhere else. France’s parliament voted unanimously for the law proposed by former Food Minister Guillaime Garot. The Socialist Party deputy was quoted by the Guardian as saying saying it was scandalous to see bleach poured into supermarket dustbins along with edible foods.

Why China’s waste pickers are a better alternative to incineration
Zhang Jinling is picking cardboard boxes from a trash can on the side of the road in a downtown area of Shanghai. She empties the boxes, folds them and puts them on a trailer hitched to a bicycle. She also buys cardboard from residents in the houses on the same street, purchasing it for 2.5 mao (less than 3p) for a pile. When her trailer is full, she takes the load to a recycling market on the outskirts of the city where she sells each pile for a 1p profit. Markets like these sort waste into different materials and sell it to bigger markets where it ends up at big industrial recycling plants for individual materials.

Politics and Society

Bootcamp helps young people from disadvantaged areas in NSW get ‘on the right track’
AUSTRALIA – New South Wales Police are taking a different tack to reduce crime and social problems in some of the state’s most disadvantaged areas. Officers have helped to run a bootcamp to teach life skills and basic discipline to kids at risk of falling foul of the law. More than 20 children and teenagers are roughing it this week at Illaroo, south of Wollongong, as part of the bootcamp, named TRYP or “To Reach Your Potential”. It is a military-style bootcamp but instead of the soldiers, it is teenage recruits facing their own personal battles. Many come from communities with serious rates of crime, alcoholism and domestic violence.

Built Environment

The skyscrapers of the future will be made of wood
Vancouver-based architect Michael Green was unequivocal at a conference at which I heard him speak a while ago: “We grow trees in British Columbia that are 35 storeys tall, so why do our building codes restrict timber buildings to only five storeys?” True, regulations in that part of Canada have changed relatively recently to permit an additional storey, but the point still stands. This can hardly be said to keep pace with the new manufacturing technologies and developments in engineered wood products that are causing architects and engineers to think very differently about the opportunities wood offers in the structure and construction of tall buildings.

Food Systems

Ten ways to get great soil
The key to growing great organic veges is to look after the soil. Here are ten areas where you can actively improve your soil quality.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.