Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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As expected, the misogynist, homophobic, evangelical Bolsonaro has been elected as President of Brazil. Today’s top story covers some of the reaction. In other news, we need to protect and restore wetlands as a climate change buffer; millions of dollars are being given to Pacific nations, including Australia, to better manage fisheries; 90% of the world’s children are breathing toxic air; Indonesian fishermen take enforcement of a ban on blast fishing into their own hands; and an insight into the world of pig farming.

Top Story

Brazil elects Bolsonaro, who has threatened Amazon and global climate efforts | Climate Home News
BRAZIL – Jair Bolsonaro is the next president of Brazil, sparking fears for the future of the Amazon rainforest and the global climate. In Sunday’s run-off, the right-winger won 55% of the vote, beating Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party. Bolsonaro has courted the mining and farming lobbies, pledging to roll back environmental protections and gut federal enforcement. Early in the campaign, he threatened to withdraw Brazil from the Paris Agreement, but backtracked last week after an outcry at home and abroad.


Climate Change

To save the planet we need a treaty – and to consider rationing | The Guardian (Letters)
Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, Caroline Lucas, John Sauven, Craig Bennett, Ann Pettifor and Leo Murray add their voices to calls for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty. Plus letters from John Huggins and John Ranken.

Environment and Biodiversity

Climate change: ‘Wetlands vital to protect cities’ | BBC News
Cities around the world are frequently flooding during extreme weather, largely because they are fast losing the wetlands that work as a natural defence, experts warn. Wetlands are ecosystems like lakes, rivers, marshes and peatlands, as well as coastal marine areas including mangroves and coral reefs. The experts say wetlands work as a giant sponge that soaks up and stores extra rainfall and water from storm surges. Conservation of these water bodies in urban areas was the focus of an international meeting on wetlands that concluded in Dubai on Monday.

Bees of Australia: up close with native species | The Guardian (In pictures)
AUSTRALIA – Bees are at the heart of Australia’s multibillion-dollar agriculture industry, as 75% of our food crops rely on animal pollination. However, native bees face serious threats. Habitat loss, exotic species, climate change and pesticides are all affecting bee populations. The author and photographer James Dorey has created the book Bees of Australia, showcasing the species unique to Australia using macro photography.

Hylaeus (Macrohylaeus) alcyoneus, female (NSW).

Hylaeus (Macrohylaeus) alcyoneus, female (NSW).
The banksia bee is named such because it likes to feed off of banskia plants. Males will guard flowers, chasing off other male banksia bees in order to mate with the females who come in for a feed.
Photograph: James Bryce Dorey

World’s top fishing nations to be given millions to protect oceans | The Guardian
Millions of pounds’ worth of funding to tackle global overfishing and protect coral reefs will be announced at a major conference in Indonesia this week. Politicians, marine experts and philanthropists will convene in Bali at the Our Ocean conference on Monday to agree commitments on how to address the pressures facing our oceans, including rising sea temperatures, unsustainable fishing practices, marine pollution and coral bleaching.

They shell rise again: Sea turtles make comeback in Mexico |
MEXICO – Still officially listed as endangered, the olive ridley has nonetheless made a spectacular recovery. Conservationists credit both legal protections and a generational shift in attitude among Mexicans who once sustained the industrial-scale looting of eggs, which were eaten and regarded as a male aphrodisiac.

Although human poaching remains a problem, it is now regarded here as less of a peril. Photo: 123RF

Although human poaching remains a problem, it is now regarded here as less of a peril. Photo: 123RF

Great Barrier Reef authority chairman appointed days after dire bleaching forecast | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – The Australian government has appointed marine scientist Ian Poiner as the new chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, days after a dire new forecast for coral bleaching was issued.

[Ed: Poiner comes from the RRRC, which was recently in the news for altering a scientific report that was less than complimentary about its crown of thorns program.]

Climate change is ‘escalator to extinction’ for mountain birds | BBC News
Researchers have long predicted many creatures will seek to escape a warmer world by moving towards higher ground. However, those living at the highest levels cannot go any higher, and have been forecast to decline. This study found that eight bird species that once lived near a Peruvian mountain peak have now disappeared. Researchers are particularly concerned about tropical mountain ranges and the impacts of climate change. “The tropical mountain areas are the hottest of biodiversity hotspots; they harbour more species than any other place on Earth,” lead author Dr Benjamin Freeman from the University of British Columbia told BBC News.

A yellow-throated tanager. Photo: Graham Montgomery

A yellow-throated tanager. Photo: Graham Montgomery

Auckland central tree loss ‘horrific’ | Newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – A new report detailing the loss of tree canopy in Auckland’s inner city suburbs over the last 10 years is being described as “horrific” by urban ecologist Dr Margaret Stanley. The University of Auckland expert was staggered at the numbers that emerged from the publication done by Auckland Council’s research and evaluation unit. At least 12,879 trees – the report says the real number is likely to be far greater – were chopped in the Waitematā board area in the decade to February 2016. The area of tree canopy lost has been 61.23 hectares. Stanley pinpoints as the villain the 2009 change in the Resource Management Act that stripped trees of bulk protection. It kicked in from 2012.

Waste and the Circular Economy

90% of world’s children are breathing toxic air, WHO study finds | The Guardian
Poisonous air is having a devastating impact on billions of children around the world, damaging their intelligence and leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths, according to a report from the World Health Organization. The study found that more than 90% of the world’s young people – 1.8 billion children – are breathing toxic air, storing up a public health time bomb for the next generation.

Can we make batteries better for the environment? | Ensia
Batteries are ubiquitous yet often ignored, humming in the background while powering appliances, smartphones, and other parts of our lives. They’re also a pivotal piece in the environmental puzzle, as batteries better able to store energy will boost intermittent renewables like wind and solar. But batteries themselves have environmental drawbacks, too. They contain toxic and in some cases flammable materials. And they require lots of energy to manufacture, which means high greenhouse gas emissions.

Circular economy 2.0 – ready for download | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – The 2018 World Circular Economy Forum in Yokohama last week offered some great ideas for Australia’s ”circular economy 2.0”, according to Open Cities chief executive officer Lisa McLean, but so far only the most forward-thinking companies have caught on, she says.

Politics and Society

Watch: Finding common ground on the environment | Ensia (Video 1:03:56)
From the Paris Climate Agreement to the Clean Power Plan, environmental issues — and contentious debates about them — have been front and center in the Trump administration. Individuals on both sides have dug in their heels, and there’s little appetite for finding common ground. But is there another way forward? Ensia decided to find out by bringing together two of the country’s most influential emerging leaders — Benji Backer, founder of the American Conservation Coalition, and Caroline Weinberg, co-founder of the March for Science — for a conversation. Together they discussed the role of science in policy-making and how we might find common ground on critical environmental challenges given our hyperpartisan political climate.

Some questions for Simon Birmingham, from two researchers whose ARC grant he quashed | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – We are two of the researchers affected by Simon Birmingham’s intervention in last year’s Australian Research Council (ARC) funding grants. The title of our application, “Greening Media Sport: The Communication of Environmental Issues and Sustainability in Professional Sport”, was on a list of 11 projects rejected by the then minister for education and training’s office after the ARC had recommended these for funding.


Energy efficiency technologies are cheapest energy but investment slows | The Fifth Estate
More investments in existing energy efficiency technologies, coupled with stronger policy measures, would boost progress toward the goals of the Paris climate deal, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said this week. But unfortunately, this is not happening. In fact, the IEA warns that progress in energy efficiency is slowing. And, global energy demand rose by 1.9 per cent in 2017 – the fastest annual increase since 2010.

Home battery scheme to shore up power supply ahead of summer | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – South Australia’s Energy Minister has warned there is still a 10 per cent chance of load-shedding blackouts this summer, ahead of warmer temperatures in the state this week. Parts of South Australia and Victoria are expecting a sweltering start to November, with temperatures forecast to reach the low-40s in regional areas… The SA Government’s long-promised home battery scheme became available to the public on Monday, with hopes to serve the dual purposes of shoring up the power grid and bringing down bills for 40,000 homes. From Monday, South Australian households can access up to $5,000 towards a battery system or $6,000 if they hold a concession card.

Queensland solar homes win as retailers compete to buy rooftop PV exports | One Step Off The Grid
AUSTRALIA – Queensland’s energy market appears to be catching up with the state’s residential solar boom, with the number of retailers competing to buy rooftop solar exports nearly doubling since 2015, while the amount being offered for that solar power has jumped by around 50 per cent in just 12 months.

Clean energy is cheap, surging – and headed for a fall | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – The relentlessly corrosive nature of political debate about climate change can sometimes mask that this is a golden moment for the clean energy industry in Australia. A near-constant stream of investment announcements suggests a barrier has been knocked down such that leading renewable technologies, so long dependent on public subsidies, have assumed market supremacy.

Built Environment

Are hydrogen trains the future of UK travel? | BBC News
Trains powered by hydrogen could be a reality in the UK by the “early 2020s”, according to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. They’re seen as a cleaner – but pricier – alternative to diesel trains, as the exhaust emission is pure water. The BBC’s Roger Harrabin reports from Germany, where hydrogen trains are already running.

Food Systems

Amid lack of enforcement, fishermen take the fight to blast fishing | Mongabay
Indonesia’s ban on blast fishing has gone unenforced in some parts of Sulawesi island, local fishermen say. Two villages on Sulawesi’s eastern peninsula have responded to the lack of enforcement by declaring their own marine protected areas. The zones are now being patrolled by local fishing groups, but the province needs to sign off on them before legal action can be taken against violators. A local NGO called Japesda is helping the villages protect their waters.

The light and the dark sides of the pork industry |
Comedian and former pork industry spokesman Mike King catapulted pig welfare firmly into the national psyche nearly 10 years ago. Grim images of sows (mother pigs) incarcerated in metal farrowing (birthing) crates with their piglets were plastered across the media as part of campaign fronted by King for animal rights group Safe. The pigs were kept in dank, dark barns. They were filthy, their stalls were filthy, their babies were filthy. The reasoning behind the crates, said defensive pig farmers, was to stop sows trampling their piglets. The piglets’ needs outweighed those of the mother. But the farmer-voice was drowned out by public outcry and pork sales plummeted nationwide. Such was the controversy that 18 months later legislation was passed to phase out the crates.

See also: Countdown sells Kiwi free farmed fresh pork only |