Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Top Story

Brexit, 2016 politics and 4 lessons for sustainable business leaders
The people of Britain have narrowly but loudly spoken to halt integration. And it doesn’t stop there. Elsewhere in Europe, support for the European Union is lagging, anxiety about migration is rising and economic opportunity is weak. Elections in France and Germany next year look increasingly uncertain. And in the United States, of course, there has also been a loud cry against integration in this strange election season.

At its heart, sustainability is about integration — integrating social and environmental considerations into business, and integrating disparate populations into a global economy that works for everyone. Both of these aspirations require open societies. There are numerous lessons for sustainable business leaders amidst these troubling signs of disintegration, more than we have seen since the Berlin Wall fell.

Energy and Climate Change

Tweet from BBC News UK

Tweet from BBC News UK

The inter-generational theft of Brexit and climate change
In last week’s Brexit vote results, there was a tremendous divide between age groups. 73% of voters under the age of 25 voted to remain in the EU, while about 58% over the age of 45 voted to leave.  This generational gap is among the many parallels between Brexit and climate change. A 2014 poll found that 74% of Americans under the age of 30 support government policies to cut carbon pollution, as compared to just 58% of respondents over the age of 40, and 52% over the age of 65.

Mars’ 100% renewables pledge: a cause for celebrations?
The switch to renewables by Mars and other companies is welcome, but building clean power facilities on-site should be the ultimate goal.

Australia’s big energy switch: from coal and gas to wind and solar
The policies may not yet be in place, and the resistance from the incumbents will be fierce, but according to global analysts Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the future is clear: wind and solar will replace coal and gas fired generation, and a lot quicker than many think.

NSW to double existing solar farm capacity with four new plants approved
AUSTRALIA – The Baird government has granted planning approval for four new large-scale solar plants, potentially more than doubling the existing capacity in the state. The four plants approved for construction have a combined capacity of 175 megawatts (MW), and would generate another electricity for 56,000 homes if built.

‘Largest community-owned’ solar farm in Australia taking root in Canberra vineyard
AUSTRALIA – There are two reasons Canberra’s David Osmond puts his money into solar panels rather than stockpiling it in the bank. “The returns are better plus it’s going towards a cause I’m very passionate about,” he said… Mr Osmond is one of the first investors in the SolarShare Community Energy Majura Solar Farm, a $3 million solar plant that, when built, will generate enough electricity to power 250 Canberra homes.

Environment and Biodiversity

We can have fish and dams: here’s how
Fish are the most threatened group among Earth’s freshwater vertebrates. On average, freshwater fish populations have declined by 76% over the past 40 years. Damaged fish communities and declining fisheries characterise global freshwater environments, including those in Australia.

Rush to dam northern Australia comes at the expense of sustainability
It is well recognised that the development of northern Australia will depend on harnessing the north’s abundant water resources. However, it’s also well recognised that the ongoing use of water resources to support industry and agriculture hinges on the health and sustainability of those water resources. Northern Australia is home to diverse ecosystems, which support a range of ecosystem services and cultural values, and these must be adequately considered in the planning stages.

The great spider crab migration (Video 9:23)
Sheree Marris describes herself as the ‘Love child of David Attenborough and Ariel the mermaid”.  She’s an aquatic scientist, raconteur, bubble blower and lover of all things salty and slimy – and one of Australia’s youngest environment ambassadors. She has been documenting the migration of hundreds of thousands of great spider crabs.

Logging companies take falcons under their wing
Pine forests have become the habitat of choice for the threatened New Zealand falcon in the central North Island, and forestry companies have had to adapt to work around them. Timberlands, which manages Kaiangaroa Forest, can spend $10,000 a year shifting cultivating machines away from areas where the ground-nesting falcon breeds.

Forest & Bird to join Kermadec court case against Treaty fishing claims
NEW ZEALAND – Conservation group Forest & Bird will go to court to protect the set-up of the Kermadec ocean sanctuary. Forest & Bird has applied to join High Court proceedings to defend the sanctuary from a challenge by the Maori Fisheries Trust, Te Ohu Kaimoana. The Trust believe Maori fishing rights under a Treaty settlement have been breached with the establishment of the protected area north-east of New Zealand. Other fishing industry representatives have spoken out against the sanctuary.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Garbage in, energy out: creating biofuel from plastic waste
Maschmeyer’s renewable energy startup Licella is taking a more refined approach to the idea of waste incineration, pioneering a method to transform end-of-life plastics into a bio-crude petroleum substitute.

A pint of the unusual? The search for a zero-waste beer
Have you ever pondered how sustainable your favourite beer is? No, I hadn’t either – until I started brewing. In truth – and it pains me to say it – the act of transforming barley into fermented beer carries an environmental footprint of pretty epic proportions.

Report: Australia’s “internationally embarrassing” recycling rates must be fixed
Parties running in the federal election urgently need to respond to Australia’s “internationally embarrassing” recycling rate, according to a new report from the Australian Council of Recycling. The peak body’s Australia is Losing the Recycling Race report finds that Australia ranks 13th in the world for recycling rates, with recycled and composted waste comprising 41 per cent of total municipal waste, compared with 65 per cent for leader Germany, and behind countries like South Korea, Sweden, the UK and Denmark.

Politics and Society

Professor David Cresswell on mindfulness (Audio 18:10)
A ground-breaking academic study into mindfulness published earlier this year in Biological Psychiatry has brought a scientific lens to mindfulness meditation. Professor David Creswell led the research and he joins Wallace to reveal the results.

Katharine Hayhoe: Bridging the climate change divide
Katharine Hayhoe is a leading climate scientist at Texas Tech University and has been featured in documentaries such as “Years of Living Dangerously,” but she’s probably best known for engaging diverse communities — including Evangelicals — in an ongoing discussion about the impacts of climate change. Hayhoe recently stopped by Ensia’s offices to talk about her experiences bridging the climate change divide.

Save the environment from posh crusties – it’s a working-class issue too
Environmentalism is often belittled as an indulgence for the affluent. This is not simply an existential criticism, but also a potent ploy to head off any environmental argument before it can gain traction.

How time-poor scientists inadvertently made it seem like the world was overrun with jellyfish
When is a jellyfish plague not (necessarily) a jellyfish plague? When time-poor scientists selectively cite the literature to make it look like the oceans are flooded with jellies – even when it’s far from clear that they really are. What does scientists being in a rush have to do with jellyfish populations? Let’s start from the beginning…

Queensland approves all environmental activity applicants despite ‘disqualifying events’
An independent review has raised serious questions about the system for registering people and companies for sensitive environmental activities in Queensland. The ABC can reveal that not a single applicant has been denied “suitable operator” status since the system was brought in three years ago, despite instances of missing paperwork, inadequate information, and applications containing “disqualifying events”.

Strong NSW budget welcomed by industry, but climate change missing
AUSTRALIA – The NSW budget has been well-received by the built environment sector, thanks to record infrastructure investments of $73.3 billion over the next four years and a surplus of $3.4 billion expected to rise to $3.7 billion in 2016-17. Though while praise has been high for the budget, there is also concern not enough is being done regarding climate change, the environment, affordable housing and critical infrastructure projects like hospitals.

Despite the rhetoric, this election fails the feminist test
The idea that there are policies of particular interest to women goes back to the suffrage era at the turn of the 20th century. Among the key arguments for women gaining the vote was that it would allow them to address overlooked poverty and temperance… While both the Liberal Party and the Labor Party have issued women’s policy documents, these are strong on equality rhetoric but short on the continuing gender inequities, instead offering some funding to fix service problems.

Built Environment

Green homes: would you pay more for energy and water efficiency?
According to research by the CSIRO and Common Capital for the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Low Carbon Living’s EnergyFit Homes project,  due to be released at the end of June, 92% of housing consumers would like information on the energy efficiency of homes from service providers as part of sale and lease processes. Furthermore 89% said that an energy-efficient home would be more attractive to buy or rent.

Christchurch City Council to reduce use of potentially dangerous weedkiller
NEW ZEALAND – The Christchurch City Council is being applauded for drastically reducing its use of a potentially dangerous weedkiller. Glyphosate​, commonly sold as Roundup, will now only be used on sites closed to the public or places where no other method is practical.

Food Systems

Pesticides help developing countries produce more food — but also take a toll on human health and the environment. Photo by Thomas Cristofoletti for USAID (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Pesticides help developing countries produce more food — but also take a toll on human health and the environment. Photo by Thomas Cristofoletti for USAID (Flickr/Creative Commons)

The developing world is awash in pesticides. Does it have to be?
In today’s globalized world, it is not inconceivable that one might drink coffee from Colombia in the morning, munch cashews from Vietnam for lunch and gobble grains from Ethiopia for dinner. That we can enjoy these products is thanks, in large part, to expanded pesticide use across the developing world. Every year, some 3.5 billion kilograms (7.7 billion pounds) of pesticides — a catch-all term for the herbicides, insecticides and fungicides applied to crops from seed to harvest — are used to preserve the quality and quantity of fruits, vegetables and grains.

5 Food Commodities Produce More GHGs than Any Country Apart from China, U.S.
New research commissioned by Oxfam shows that rice, soy beans, corn, wheat and palm oil together lead to more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than any country’s individual footprint, with the exception of emissions giants China and the United States. The organization asserts that without making drastic emissions cuts to these five food commodities’ supply chains, the Paris Agreement’s goals to reach ‘net-zero’ by 2050 and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will not be met.


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