Sustainable Development News

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Top Story

You don’t have to be an activist, just saying you care is sometimes enough
Cognitive behavioural therapy speaks about how ‘all-or-nothing thinking’ can lead us to depression and inaction. It is something that I personally have had to guard against as I have struggled to lead a more sustainable life over the years. There are always compromises, and that nagging voice says ‘I cant do enough, so I may as well not try.’ Reading Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett’s response to Vivienne Westwood in the Guardian, ‘Living ethically isn’t cheap, Vivienne’, made my inner voice rear its ugly head again – she finishes with the words ‘people don’t seem to care … or don’t have the energy to care. Caring is a luxury’.

Energy and Climate Change

Move over big power – the micropower revolution is here
There is no shortage of shouting and dire warnings about the state of the climate and our need to phase out fossil fuels. But there is a more silent revolution happening too — in micropower. Small-scale electricity generation is slowly replacing big fossil-fuel driven power plants, which are currently the world’s single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. These micro-electricity producers are relatively small scale, inexpensive, and most importantly, produce little to no carbon emissions. Last year micropower contributed to around a quarter of the world’s energy, up from 10% in 2000.

New Age energy (Video)
Moves to set up Australia’s first community owned clean energy generator and retailer.

Five ways to keep your home warm this winter
If you live in a poorly insulated home, and many of us do, you could spend thousands this winter on energy bills. But our ancestors had many ways to keep snug at little or no cost. Now, thanks to modern infrared cameras and advances in environmental physics, we can understand how these methods work and measure how effective they are. The key to understanding how to keep warm is the fact you lose more heat by radiation to your surroundings than you do by convection to the air… Fortunately, there are five simple ways to overcome this and minimise your energy bills.

Environment and Biodiversity

Orange bellied parrots’ wild population doubles after scientific recovery program
One of the world’s rarest species, the orange bellied parrot, has bucked its long-term trend of decline and almost doubled its wild population. The critically endangered birds, which spend winter in South Australia and Victoria, have just migrated to the remote Melaleuca outpost in Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area for the breeding season. Last November, fewer than 10 wild breeding pairs returned to Melaleuca, prompting a recovery program to arrange for the population to be artificially increased.

Teaching Kenya’s Warriors to Make Peace With Fast-Disappearing Lions
The lion cubs are hungry, their mother even more so. With virtually no natural prey—gazelles, buffalo, or other grazing animals—left in her dwindling Kenyan habitat, the lioness approaches a herder’s homestead in search of livestock.  She’s successful, so tonight her family will eat. But will the herder retaliate with a gun, spear, or poison the next time she encroaches?

Bee parasite will flourish under global warming, study warns
Climate change threatens the survival of the UK’s honey bee population, new academic research has claimed. An exotic parasite which targets the insects is set to flourish in northern Europe if the Earth continues to warm, scientists at Queen’s University, Belfast found. The study assessed the future threat posed by the gut parasite Nosema ceranae, which originates in Asia but can now be found worldwide. New evidence of the parasite’s superior competitive ability and the link between its population size and climate change has been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Imports of illegal timber fall in five major countries, says report
Five major timber importers have made progress in cutting contraband wood from their markets since 2010, argues a series of reports published by Chatham House. The analysis — which covers Britain, France, Japan, the Netherlands, and the US  — is based on point-of-origin data for timber imports. For example, countries and states with a high risk of illegal logging and timber laundering would hurt an importer’s rating.  Overall, the reports estimate that 4% of timber imports by volume are still at “high risk of illegality”, at an estimated value of $7bn (£4.5bn).

Economy and Business

McCrone and Bullard: Fossil Fuel Divestment – Slippery transition or financial shock?
Market economies have two, apparently contradictory, characteristics. One is the ability to prosper despite periods of hectic transition. The other is to slip on banana skins on a regular basis. Frequently, those banana skins can be spotted in advance but the markets slip on them anyway. During the course of 2014, a view has begun to take hold that the current configuration of the energy sector may be a sizeable banana skin, waiting to ambush the world economy. At best, the crash is a decade or so away, say proponents of this view, at worst, it may already be right under our feet.

Responsible investment still being viewed as detrimental to returns
Fiona Reynolds, managing director at Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), has commented that whilst the responsible investment community is making the case for wealth creation whilst considering sustainability it is not translating into the amount of action needed. Sustainable investment has gradually been gaining ground and research suggests that investors that consider environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues could be better off financially as well as helping communities and the planet. Figures from the European Sustainable Investment Forum (Eurosif), published last month, revealed that sustainable investment in Europe has grown by almost 23% between 2011 and 2013, whilst impact investment went up by 132%. However, despite this impressive growth, sustainable investment continues to account for only a small portion of the investment market.

Capitalism v environment: can greed ever be green?
Is it possible to run an expanding capitalist economy while keeping its impacts within safe ecological boundaries, or is the greed-driven system effectively a suicide machine that is doomed to destroy itself? The fact that the now dominant capitalist economic system is unsustainable is not in doubt. It has contributed to the breaching of several ecological boundaries, in relation to climate change, biodiversity loss and nutrient enrichment. At the same time as damaging the natural systems that sustain it, capitalism is also leading to increasing inequality, in turn creating social tensions that make it still more exposed.

Your Business: Sustainability with Steve Rickerby, We Compost
NEW ZEALAND – We Compost is a collection service for compostable waste. Our aim is to help our customers reduce the amount of waste they send to landfill, and we started with one bin of coffee grounds on the back of my ute in September 2009. It’s just me working full time in the business, plus two part-time drivers and my partner Gemma.

Is Your Environmental Management System Working?
Your company’s environmental management system should work for you — not make you work for it, says a WasteStrategies blog post. The company, which provides waste reduction and zero waste tools and services, says an all-too-common approach to running an EMS is a procedural, documentation-oriented approach that often does little more that bog down the organization few or no real outcomes. WasteStrategies says it looks for the following four red flags when assessing an organization’s EMS.

Perth office towers get water efficiency acclaim
Water use monitoring, sub-metering, low-flush toilets, waterless urinals and improved cooling tower management have led seven Perth office towers to be first to achieve “waterwise” status as part of Perth’s new Waterwise Office Program, a joint initiative by the Property Council, the Water Corporation and the City of Perth. The measures taken by the buildings are set to reduce collective water use by 43 million litres a year.

China’s Growth Fuels Boom in World Shipping Traffic
Ship traffic on the world’s oceans has quadrupled over the past two decades, according to a new study that’s the first to rely on satellite data to produce global maps of shipping on the open seas. The data for the study, which was published on November 17 in Geophysical Research Letters, came from a series of satellites that carried radar altimeters, devices that measure the height of the sea’s surface at a given location by bouncing a radar beam off it. The data had been used primarily to measure sea-level rise, ocean currents, and even the topography of the ocean floor. But the radar echoes can also pinpoint the location of icebergs—and ships.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Fashion, Scuba Giants the Latest to Close the Loop on Textiles
The concept of the circular economy — a more thoughtful approach to how we process materials and manufacture products — continues to gain traction, especially in the textile and fashion industry. In the last few weeks, some of the industry’s biggest players have upped their involvement in the market shift. For example, the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Institute recently launched its Fashion Positive initiative with industry leaders including Stella McCartney, G-Star Raw, Loomstate, Bionic Yarn and the manufacturer Saitex, with ambitions to accelerate material, product and process innovations in the industry with good intentions for both people and the planet.

Tyre cooker could save landfills
NEW ZEALAND – A Hawke’s Bay man hopes to be the first to commercially cook tyres that clog up the country’s landfills. Neil Mitchell hopes to process 24,000 tyres a month, taking a significant portion of the 4.5 million tyres sent to landfills nationwide each year. “Everyone wants to drive their motor car and have four wheels on their motor car. Those tyres need to go somewhere when their life is gone,” he said. A discussion document published by the Ministry for the Environment earlier this year highlighted tyre disposal as one of four waste streams that needed addressing. Fewer than a third of used tyres are diverted from disposal… After six years of planning, and having gained various consents, Tyreless Corporation is on the verge of opening commercially. Mitchell plans to extract oil, carbon black, steel, and gas from used tyres, leaving little waste behind.

Politics and Society

Watering down the Climate Act would be headline-chasing populism
The British political landscape at the end of 2014 is fraught with uncertainty, distrust and fragmentation. Parties are struggling to bolster support as political debates become ever more divisive. Voters see politicians as out of touch and motivated by short-term, self-serving concerns.  In this fractious landscape, sensible long-term policymaking in the public interest, and the type of cross-party consensus needed to deliver it, are in short supply. So it is worth this week marking the anniversary of one of the most successful products of consensus and collaborative working in post-war politics. That was the Climate Change Act, which received Royal Assent six years ago today.

Food Systems

10 things you need to know about sustainable palm oil
Palm oil is in half of the products we buy but the impacts of unsustainable production can be devastating. Here’s what we learned from our expert panel on ways to build a sustainable palm oil industry.


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