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Monday 30 October 2017

Sustainable Development News

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

Natural historian Sir David Attenborough, the 91-year-old presenter of Blue Planet II. BBC

Natural historian Sir David Attenborough, the 91-year-old presenter of Blue Planet II. BBC

Return of The Blue Planet: the message that humanity cannot afford to ignore

The first episode of Sir David Attenborough’s eagerly anticipated Blue Planet II airs this Sunday and, if the trailers are anything to go by, it’s going to be another spectacular series. Produced by the BBC’s Natural History Unit in partnership with the Open University, and narrated by the world’s favourite natural historian, the series revisits The Blue Planet after a gap of 16 years.

Climate Change and Energy

US winter has shrunk by more than one month in 100 years
The length of the US winter is shortening, with the first frost of the year arriving more than one [month] later than it did 100 years ago, according to more than a century of measurements from weather stations nationwide. The trend of ever later first freezes appears to have started around 1980, according to data from 700 weather stations across the US going back to 1895 and compiled by Ken Kunkel, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

Environment and Biodiversity

Earth is fragile, Pope tells astronauts who can see planet from the ‘eyes of God’
The Pope spent about 20 minutes in a video call to the six crew members on the space station, asking them several questions, sometimes with the gee-whiz wonder of a schoolboy.

Pictures of Wildlife Items Illuminate the World of Contraband
A pair of footstools made from elephant feet. A coat with matching shoes, hat, and purse made from the pelts of 20 leopards. Crates filled with bags and bags of dessicated seahorses. Britta Jaschinski’s photographs of items seized at airports and border crossings are a quest to understand what it is about the human psyche that fuels a demand for wildlife products, even as this causes suffering and, in some cases, pushes animals to the brink of extinction.

Turtle Month: battle on to save nests of freshwater species from marauding foxes
They’re cute. They’re native Australians. They inhabit our most iconic river. They’re endangered by an introduced and voracious pest. And November is “Turtle Month”, the most crucial time in their reproduction cycle… “Across the entire length of the Murray, 95 per cent of all turtle nests are destroyed by foxes,” Dr Spencer said at the project’s halfway mark.

Queensland tilapia threat likened to the march of cane toads into Northern Territory
AUSTRALIA –  Spotted tilapia have been found in the Walsh River, which is in the Mitchell River catchment, connecting to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Biosecurity authorities are now rushing to figure out whether the fish can be stopped from spreading to lucrative multi-million dollar barramundi and prawn industries before the looming wet season.

National riparian planting trial proposed for cropping farmers
NEW ZEALAND – A national pilot project designed to help cropping farmers reduce sediment run-off in waterways has been proposed – and will hopefully fill a gap in knowledge, its organisers say… The trial will compare the effectiveness of a range of “setback widths, species and cultivation practices” and will include six trials in three different regions, on flat and sloping land.

Economy and Business

Fairphone Takes the Prize in Greenpeace’s Guide to Greener Electronics
For years, it’s been a neck-and-neck race: Samsung, Apple, Sony, and a myriad of other electronics manufacturers have all lauded their ability to reduce their environmental impacts better than the next guy. Whether it’s recycling hard-to-get materials and components, or developing new technology that is kinder to the atmosphere, its clear that big tech companies understand that consumers want them to use greener manufacturing processes. Well, thanks to Greenpeace, consumers can now get the latest skinny on tech manufacturers online.

Ed: I love Fairphone and have been following their progress for a while, so I’m excited they’ve received recognition in this ratings list… I’m only disappointed we won’t be able to obtain one down under for a long time.

An MBA finds cold comfort in solving a nation’s food waste
This spring, a global manufacturer of industrial refrigeration equipment asked me and another MBA candidate — eager, passionate students with a slew of newly minted sustainable business pedagogies in our quiver — to explore emerging market opportunities that also tackled global social and environmental issues. Our project was a result of the company’s strategic focus on tackling major world issues that go beyond eco-efficiency, such as food loss.

Why we can’t rely on corporations to save us from climate change
While businesses have been principal agents in increasing greenhouse gas emissions, they are also seen by many as crucial to tackling climate change.  However, our research shows how corporations’ ambitious pro-climate proposals are systematically degraded by criticism from shareholders, media, governments, other corporations and managers.

‘Way off the planet’: regional businesses use renewables to slash costs
AUSTRALIA – In the heart of Queensland’s mining belt, a businessman who has grown his enterprise mostly off the back of the coal industry sees the energy sector going only one way. “I think renewable energy is where the market’s going – what we class as the energy revolution,” says Jason Sharam.  The self-described “dumb-arse electrician”, who will have grown his Mackay mining energy business from a starting staff of six to 150 by mid-2018, says he is trying to help people “see through the politics” on energy.

Nestlé, Hershey and Mars ‘breaking promises over palm oil use’
Nestlé, Mars and Hershey have been accused of breaking pledges to stop using “conflict palm oil” from deforested Indonesian jungles, just days before the annual Halloween confectionery frenzy. The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) says consumers have been “deceived” by promises from the brands to clean up their supply chains which were subsequently delayed, revised or watered down.

Economist calls for greater living wage uptake
NEW ZEALAND – A Deloitte Mood of the Boardroom survey last month showed 91 percent of New Zealand businesses were prepared to pay their workers the living wage, but only 85 companies are accredited as paying the $20.20 an hour.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Shocking photo shows Caribbean Sea being ‘choked to death by human waste’
A photographer has captured the damage being done to the planet’s oceans with a shocking “sea of plastic and styrofoam” image taken near a tranquil Caribbean island.  Caroline Power, who specialises in underwater photography, has dedicated her career to highlighting the damage plastic waste is doing to our oceans.  She said witnessing the plastic blanket of forks, bottles and rubbish between the islands Roatan and Cayos Cochinos, off the coast of Honduras, was “devastating”.

Do you really need that plastic fork with your street food or take away container? Caroline Power captured a shocking sea of plastic floating near the Caribbean island of Roatan.   Credit: Caroline Power Photography

Do you really need that plastic fork with your street food or take away container? Caroline Power captured a shocking sea of plastic floating near the Caribbean island of Roatan. Credit: Caroline Power Photography

Ed: Make a point of carrying reusable cutlery with you so you don’t get caught out.  If traditional cutlery is too heavy, lightweight, purpose made kits can now be bought online, including straws (always refuse plastic straws too).  Ask your local organic store if they stock any, and if they don’t, can they start.  Check out my favourite store, Biome (based in Brisbane), which has some advice and sells a wide variety of reusable alternatives to takeaway waste.

The eco guide to sanitary products
This column nearly didn’t happen. When a manufacturer of eco friendly menstrual pads bounded up to me and asked me brightly in public: “Are you a flusher or a binner?” I stared at her in total horror. Menstrual products and their disposal represent one of the last great consumer taboos – odd in a society which cheerfully discusses the vajazzle. It’s a taboo that powers a huge environmental issue. In their 2016 beach clean-up, the Marine Conservation Society found 20 tampons and sanitary items per 100 metres of shoreline.

See also: Tampons, pads, menstrual cups, period underwear: What’s best for the environment?

Politics and Society

Why we’re building a climate change game for 12-year-olds
There is no doubt that we need to teach kids about climate change.  But although the Australian Curriculum embeds climate change into its senior high school program, children are typically aged around 16 before they receive any formal teaching on the topic. We argue that this is too late.

Education for Sustainable Development
The Global Learning Programme (GLP), a government-funded initiative working with several partners, provides funded training and free educational resources. In England, around7,000 schools are registered, representing nearly a third of the eligible state-funded schools in the country. These schools can now embed these lessons about the SDGs throughout their curricula.

Productivity Commission pulls no punches on ‘appalling’ energy crisis, calls for carbon price
AUSTRALIA – Treasurer Scott Morrison last week stood at the lectern and delivered a thundering dissertation on the urgent need for cuts to company taxes. The occasion was the release of the Productivity Commission’s latest report on how best to lift our living standards. So convincing was the Treasurer’s speech, so lucid his argument, a reasonable person may well have formed the impression that the commission endorsed his major policy initiative. Sadly, not. In fact, not a single sentence on company tax is to be found anywhere in the entire report, the modestly titled ‘Shifting the Dial: 5 year productivity review’, which runs to six chapters with various forwards and appendices.

Politics podcast: Energy Security Board chair Kerry Schott on a national energy plan (Podcast: 24:40)
AUSTRALIA – The government’s long-awaited energy plan rejected Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s clean energy target, which focused on subsidies for renewables, in favour of a National Energy Guarantee… Energy Security Board chair Kerry Schott headed a group of energy experts charged with developing a scheme, the details of which are now being modelled.

NT fracking inquiry: Economic benefit uncertain, Australia Institute think tank warns
A new economic assessment of the impact hydraulic fracking would have on the Northern Territory shows the financial benefit does not warrant a lifting of the current moratorium, a Canberra-based think tank says.

See also: NT fracking inquiry: More than 500 jobs and up to $5.8b predicted by economic assessment

Chimpanzees among 33 breeds selected for special protection
A UN-backed wildlife conference held in the Philippines has voted for additional protections for a list of 33 endangered species including chimpanzees, leopards and giraffes. Whale sharks, the world’s largest fish, were also included on the list. The six-day long Convention of Migratory Species (CMS) concluded on Saturday, demanding better protections for species that cross country borders.

Trump says he will shrink Bears Ears National Monument, a sacred tribal site in Utah
President Trump informed Sen. Orrin G. Hatch on Friday that he will reduce the size of the protected area prized by many tribal leaders but opposed by several state and federal Republican officials.

Built Environment

Freeing up the huge areas set aside for parking can transform our cities
Parking may seem like a “pedestrian” topic (pun intended). However, parking is of increasing importance in metropolitan areas worldwide. On average, motor vehicles are parked 95% of the time. Yet most transport analysis focuses on vehicles when they are moving.  Substantial amounts of land and buildings are set aside to accommodate “immobile” vehicles. In Australia, Brisbane provides 25,633 parking spaces in the CBD, Sydney 28,939 and Melbourne 41,687. In high-demand areas, car parks can cost far more than the vehicle itself.

Made of rubbish, but radically sustainable — Victoria gets its first ‘Earthship’
AUSTRALIA – Only the mudbricks were left after the flames had done their worst to Daryl Taylor’s home on Black Saturday. Why did the bricks survive the devastating 2009 blaze but nothing else did? It was a question that set Mr Taylor on a journey of discovery aimed at building a radical, new home that he could defend in the event of another fire.

Photo: The Earthship rises: The building takes shape at Kinglake, one of the worst-hit areas in the Black Saturday fires. (Supplied: Daryl Taylor)

Photo: The Earthship rises: The building takes shape at Kinglake, one of the worst-hit areas in the Black Saturday fires. (Supplied: Daryl Taylor)

Food Systems

Buying fresh potatoes and carrots all year round is destroying Australia’s soil
Have you thought about what it takes to get fresh carrots onto supermarket shelves during winter? We all want fresh carrots rather than soft, old or bendy ones. That’s why many companies – such as supermarkets that tout their “fresh food” credentials – build their brand around providing crisp, fresh veggies all year round.  Unfortunately, consumers’ expectations that certain types of produce will always be available mean that farmers must engage in unsustainable and destructive practices.

Organic or starve: can Cuba’s new farming model provide food security?
Once it grew only sugar and was heavy handed with fertilizers and pesticides, now Cuba is in the grip of a small-scale organic farming revolution.

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