Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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An unusual approach to sustainable development is proposed in today’s stop story, with an argument that a good general knowledge of the development of Earth and our Universe can unify people through an understanding of a shared history. Other news includes coverage of the weather with droughts across Australia and an article calling for adaption rather than reaction and on the increasing threat of wildfires. More opinion on the $444m grant to the little GBR Foundation, how to have a low waste kids party, and the potential to help purchase a high country station in New Zealand. Oh, and can’t forget the latest on the NEG saga with Victoria saying they want the Feds to legislate on emissions before they’ll provide support.

Top Story

How ‘Big History’ can save the world | The Conversation
The term “Big History” was coined in the early 1990s by the historian David Christian of Macquarie University. It is nothing if not ambitious, aiming to integrate human history with the deeper history of the universe. The story begins with the origin of the universe in the Big Bang some 13.8 billion years ago… Various species of hominins appeared a few million years ago. With the eventual appearance of Homo sapiens some 300,000 years ago, human history can finally take over. An excellent online overview of the whole story has been compiled by the Big History Project.

Includes: TED Talk ‘The history of our world in 18 minutes’ | David Christian

Climate Change

To help drought-affected farmers, we need to support them in good times as well as bad | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – With the New South Wales government announcing that drought is now affecting the entire state, the federal government’s crisis assistance payments have been described by some as too little, too late. The National Farmers Federation has renewed its calls for a national drought policy and drought experts have expressed concern about reliance on emergency handouts. With droughts predicted to grow in frequency and severity in the future, we need to support farmers and their communities to adapt to these changes.

The hydro-illogical cycle. US National Drought Mitigation Center, Author provided

The hydro-illogical cycle. US National Drought Mitigation Center, Author provided

See also:

The era of megafires: the crisis facing California and what will happen next | The Guardian
USA – California is no stranger to fire. The temperate winters and reliably dry summers that make the Golden state such an attractive place to live are the same conditions that make this region among the most flammable places on Earth. But even for a region accustomed to fire, the continuing wildfire siege has proven unprecedented.

See also: California wildfire will burn for the rest of August, say officials | BBC News

Environment and Biodiversity

Barrier Reef Foundation grant ‘unthinkable, mind-blowing’, former board member says | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – A member of the Myer family dynasty who played a key role in establishing the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) has condemned a $444 million federal grant to the body as “shocking and almost mind-blowing”. Michael Myer was a financial supporter of the GBRF and a member of its board for two years until 2002, when he quit in part over concerns about its “corporate” direction and the growing involvement of figures from the fossil fuels industry.

See also: ‘It stinks’: $444m grant to reef foundation is a scandal, Greens say | The Guardian

Drone trial expected to boost endangered turtle monitoring and protection project | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Rangers involved in a massive population survey of endangered turtles are trialling drones to help them locate vulnerable nests faster to ensure their protection from predators. A stretch of coastline along Queensland’s remote Cape York Peninsula is home to Australia’s largest nesting population of flatback turtles and home to the rare hawksbill turtle.

Photo: The images capture the turtle tracks that are tallied up for the survey. (Supplied: Droner)

Photo: The images capture the turtle tracks that are tallied up for the survey. (Supplied: Droner)

Why the summer sound of noisy crickets is growing fainter | The Conversation
There is strong evidence that large numbers of crickets and grasshoppers (known, along with mantises, earwigs and cockroaches as the “Orthoptera”) are declining across Europe. A 2017 review of European species showed that over 30% of the 1,000 European species were in decline while only 3% were increasing. As with many insects, we simply don’t know what is happening to most of the rest… “We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life, and are currently on course for ecological Armageddon. If we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse.”

Orca mother grieving for dead calf inspires push to save dying pods | The Guardian
USA – At last count, 75 orca live in the Salish Sea, the saltwater trough stretching from south of Seattle up the eastern coast of Vancouver Island. They’re a tight knit, talkative bunch; unlike their seal and shark-eating cousins, they chirp incessantly. They are stressed, and they are starving. Deafened by sonar and boat noise, they hunt for fish that are too few in number. With each Chinook salmon they catch, they poison themselves a bit more; pollution in the Pacific accumulates at the top of the food pyramid. And their calves are dying. Three years have passed since an orca calf born in the region survived. In the past 20 years, 40 orcas have been born into the group while 72 have died.

Wellington aims to be the world’s first predator-free capital | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – It might seem an impossibility to get all the rats out of a capital city, but that’s exactly what conservationists have set their minds to. Predator Free 2050, Capital Kiwi, Wellington City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and NEXT Foundation are joining forces in a goal to make Wellington the first capital city to be predator-free. They have set a 10-year deadline to eradicate possums, rats and mustelids in a 30,000ha ring around the city.

See also: $3.2m committed to help make Wellington predator free |

This native fish may soon be extinct, scientists warn |
NEW ZEALAND – This mudfish is small, but staunch: It favours slow-moving, swampy creeks and can live outside of water for months on end, entering a kind of semi-hibernation beneath damp logs or burrowed in the dirt. But scientists say the Canterbury mudfish is at risk of becoming the second native fish known to have become extinct in New Zealand.

Economy and Business

Shell pushes further into EV charging, invests in ‘Electric Cars for Everybody’ | RenewEconomy
Big oil is increasingly taking notice of shifts in the transition towards fossil-free future, including the inevitable impacts of soaring trends in the electric car market. As electric car sales surge—heading towards over 50 per cent of all car sales in a decade or two, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance — the potential implications for big oil in fossil fuel sales are obvious.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Plastic-free kids’ party: an 8 step guide on how to do it without being the fun police | ABC News
Kids’ parties are a breeding ground for colourful, sparkly, fun … trash. From the plastic soldiers in your pass the parcel to deflated balloons and discarded party bags, there’s no shortage of waste. “A low-waste kids’ party? That’s an oxymoron”, wrote one reader on the ABC Facebook page. Organising a party is hard enough: forgoing a quick clean-up may seem like a big ask. But parents who’ve gone plastic-free or low waste say it’s easier than you think.

Politics and Society

Anthropocene vs Meghalayan: why geologists are fighting over whether humans are a force of nature | The Conversation
The Earth discovered it was living in a new slice of time called the Meghalayan Age in July 2018. But the announcement by the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) confused and angered scientists all around the world. Over the past decade, more and more scientists have agreed that human impact on Earth is so significant that we have entered a completely new geological phase, called the Anthropocene, including a group convened to agree a formal definition. The world of science was expecting an official announcement acknowledging this Anthropocene Epoch, not the unheard-of Meghalayan Age. It was so unexpected it turned up zero hits on Google when first reported. So what’s going on?

Let kids bond with nature while there’s still time | Newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – The huge growth in recent decades of what is now sometimes termed ‘the early childhood industry’ has intensified the proliferation of poor quality outdoor spaces. Researchers have pointed out the need for a review of the regulations regarding the minimum requirements for the spaces. A petition launched recently calls for these regulations to be changed to enable full-time nature-based outdoor programmes.

First buy the beach, now buy the South Island high country station |
Inspired by New Zealand’s successful Buy a Beach crowd-funding campaign, a conservationist wants the nation to buy a high country station in the South Island’s Mackenzie country. The 4000-hectare station has been put up for sale by American-born Cayman Islands billionaire Ken Dart, whose fortune comes from global investments in distressed debt and luxury property, plus a family business making polystyrene cups.

The tussock-covered high-country land stretches for 4000 hectares. Photo: Supplied

The tussock-covered high-country land stretches for 4000 hectares. Photo: Supplied


Victoria suggests federal government should legislate on emissions while NEG talks continue | Michelle Grattan | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Victoria has again shifted the goal posts in the battle over the National Energy Guarantee, by suggesting parliament should pass the federal government’s emissions reduction legislation ahead of the states signing onto the NEG. This would delay any finalisation of the NEG for months. The latest development comes as both former prime minister Tony Abbott and former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce again flagged they may cross the floor on the emissions legislation.

Origin to install 4MWh battery at north Queensland peaking plant | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – Origin Energy has revealed plans to install a 4MW/4MWh battery at its rarely used Mt Stuart peaking plant near Townsville in Queensland, for use in starting up the power station in times of electricity outages, and to support the roll-out of renewables in the region.

Food Systems

Opposition mounts to watered down labelling rules |
NEW ZEALAND – Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi says he will use his ministerial powers to change proposed country of origin labelling rules. A pared-back version of the proposed law was released in July and drew criticism for leaving out foods like bacon, much of which is made from imported pork. If the revised bill became law, Faafoi said he would use his ministerial powers to put products like bacon back on the mandatory labelling list, Radio New Zealand reported.