Costa Rica setting the bar for sustainability

Costa Rica has broken its own record for sustainable energy production and had another UNESCO Biosphere Reserve declared within its borders, all before the end of July 2017. Phew!

Aiming to be the first carbon neutral country in the world by 2021, Costa Ricans have set themselves high standards in sustainability. Over the last 30 years they have already achieved producing around 93% of their energy from sustainable sources such as wind, geothermal, solar and hydroelectric power. However, in the first six months of this year they upped that figure to an impressive 99%!

Adding to the year’s environmental achievements, The Savegre River, an area of great biodiversity in the Zona de los Santos, was declared as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. Biosphere Reserves are areas dedicated to exploring how sustainable development might practically work by ‘combining core protected areas with zones where sustainable development is fostered by local dwellers and enterprises’. The naming of this new reserve means that Costa Rica is now home to a total of four Biosphere Reserves.

 

A pair of Cappuchin Monkeys laze happily in the Savegre River Biosphere Reserve. The area is home to 54% of the mammal species native to Costa Rica, 20% of the country’s flora and 59% of its birds. Image – Paradise Products

 

According to the Costa Rica Tourism board, tourism has had a huge part to play in encouraging the adoption of sustainable practices at all levels of society. The Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) encourages entrepreneurs to think sustainably and rewards their efforts with a five-leaf system which can be displayed on their publicity materials, setting them apart from other businesses.

 

Re-post ~ Costa Rica Achieves Two New Records in Sustainability Effort | Market Watch

Read more ~ Costa Rica Achieves Two New Records in Sustainability Effort | Newswire Canada

Population concentration in major cities is more extreme in Australia than elsewhere

A new map graphically illustrates how Australia’s population is massively biased towards major cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.

“Australia has a weirdly large share of big cities for its size.”

 

In fact, an analysis carried out in the year 2000 showed that Australia had a greater share of urban population living in cities of over 750,000 people than any other major country, and that it has very few small cities for a country of its size.

This trend has continued, according to the latest census data, which shows that populations in major cities are still growing nearly twice as fast as elsewhere. This is despite the many potential benefits of life in smaller, regional cities such as cheaper house prices, less congested roads and greater life satisfaction.

The transport issue is something of a conundrum for city planners, as in most major Australian cities sufficient infrastructure was not put in place before development and high land prices made it a much more difficult proposition. Decision makers are now left wondering whether investment is worthwhile now, before things get even worse, or whether internet-led developments such as remote working and internet shopping will give people all the benefits of a city life wherever they are and mean the end of the big city boom in decades to come.

 

Re-post ~ Clever Aussie map raises serious questions by Jason Murphy on News.com.au

Climate change leads to huge infrastructure cost on Torres Strait island

The economic costs of rising sea levels due to climate change are beginning to hit home as a $24.5m sea wall is completed on Saibai Island in the Torres Strait.

The small island just off the coast of Papua New Guinea has been suffering the effects of land erosion and flooding due to rising sea levels for years. At one point it was feared that its 350 inhabitants would have to be permanently evacuated. However, in 2014, under the Torres Strait Seawalls Project, the Australian Federal and Queensland governments pledged a total of $26.2 million to help the islands deal with the crisis.

$24 million has now been spent building only one seawall on Saibai and, whilst this sea wall is expected to protect the community and its livelihood for 50 years, it leaves little money for infrastructure on the other 5 islands in need of protection. Preliminary talks to try and secure more funding are now underway.

However, with sea levels rising by millimetres every year, inhabitants of the other islands can not afford to wait for beaureaucracy. They are at risk of losing land and culture in the very near future, despite adaptation plans which are being developed. This is especially true for the narrow coral island of Poruma, to the south of Saibai.

 

“Time is very critical in terms of getting some work underway so we can actually protect and combat erosion at Poruma — Poruma doesn’t have time to wait,” said Torres Strait Mayor, Fred Gela.

 

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The old, damaged sea wall on Saibai Island.

 

Sabai Island’s new seawall. which cost nearly $25 million and is a harbinger of the huge costs climate change could bring to governments and taxpayers worldwide.

 

Queensland Minister for Local Government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Mark Furner said that the Palaszczuk Government’s $12 million contribution to the Torres Strait Seawalls Project demonstrated their commitment to improving communities in regional and remote parts of Queensland.

 

“These are Queenslanders facing real risks to their homes and livelihoods as a result of the impacts of climate change, so to be able to provide a long‐term infrastructure solution is a great win for this community.”

 

However, it remains to be seen if government will remain so committed and optimistic as the inevitable economic costs of climate change continue to rise.

 

Read more ~ Saibai islanders celebrate new $24.5m seawall to fight rising ocean levels in Torres Strait by Emilia Terzon for ABC News

Read more ~ Minister Scullion: Saibai Island Seawalls ready to hold back the tide on indigenous.gov.au

Why the Paris climate deal is not enough without economic de-growth

Whilst the Paris climate deal has noble aims, it is based on shaky assumptions, according to a recent article in the Guardian. To genuinely put ourselves on a trajectory which avoids the economic crisis that climate change will force upon us, we need to embrace purposeful economic de-growth. 

The Paris climate deal relies upon data and ‘pathways’ modeled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The emissions cuts agreed upon in Paris will not sufficiently limit climate change unless the ‘negative emissions technologies’ the IPCC models rely upon are successful. Unfortunately 80% of the models are based upon BECCS (bio-energy with carbon capture and storage) which is a technology which has not been proven at scale and which is being increasingly discredited by scientists.

This reliance on ‘negative emissions technologies’ has come about as the IPCC attempt to appease politicians and big business. Original IPCC models, which did not assume humanity’s ability to pull large amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere, required the slowing and reversing of economic growth in a way which would have been hard for those benefiting from the current economic model to stomach.

However, these original models, based on what we currently know to be possible, clearly called for economic de-growth.

 

“De-growth might sound scary, but it’s really not. All it means is easing the intensity of our economy, cutting the excesses of the very richest, sharing what we have instead of plundering the Earth for more, and liberating ourselves from the frenetic consumerism that we all know does nothing to improve our wellbeing or happiness.”

 

Humanity is now faced with a choice: to choose controlled economic de-growth or to allow the economic crisis which is sure to arise from climate change to choose us.

 

Re-post ~ The Paris climate deal won’t save us – our future depends on de-growth by Jason Hickel in The Guardian

Read more ~ In defense of de-growth: opinions and minifestos by By Giorgos Kallis, edited by Aaron Vansintjan

Regional Cities Are Small But Great

The Regional Australia Institute (RAI) is challenging the common misconceptions about rural cities through its Great Small Cities initiative. With a growth rate four times that of major cities and and and economic output on a par with that of Finland, encouraging investment in regional cities could provide huge economic benefits to Australia as a whole.

 

 

4.5 million Australians live in a network of 31 regional cities across Australia and these cities are a vital part of the Australian economy. The RAI plans to work with city leaders, governments and the Australian public to encourage policy which will make the most of the opportunities presented by regional city economies.

They take a two pronged approach. Firstly they aim to bust the myth that it is only worth investing in metropolitan cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane. Secondly they have developed a blueprint for investment in City Deals to ensure that regional cities will be investment ready.

The Regional Australia Institute’s Regional Accelerator Program seeks to support regional businesses

If investment is successful, Australia’s ‘hidden metropolis’ of 4.5 million people spread across 31 regional cities has the capacity to produce $378 billion in output by 2031.

The Great Small Cities Initiative emphasises that regional cities are just that: cities, rather than the small rural towns revolving solely around agriculture that readily spring to mind when most Australians hear the word ‘regional’. However RAI are also keen to point out that regional towns often have less congestion, pollution and extreme property prices than their metropolitan counterparts.

In order to show the real demographic and skills base of regional Australia, RAI have teamed up with LinkedIn to examine the skill mix in five regional cities and how connected professionals are within, and outside of, those cities.

Read more ~ Great Small Cities – Regional Australia Institute

Wind power saves agribusiness expansion project and creates rural jobs

The largest hydroponic vegetable grower in Australia has been able to expand its operations thanks to a groundbreaking collaboration with a 196MW wind farm development.

 

Nectar Farms had planned to power its $565m expansion project with gas but almost had to abandon the project when costs proved to be prohibitive. However, after discussions with state government, local council and Neoen, the wind farm developer, they will now convert their entire operation to run on electricity from the wind farm and expand their glasshouses to 40 acres, creating 1,300 new jobs in an area which has recently suffered the closure of a goldmine.

 

Bulgana GPH Announcement from New Era Media on Vimeo.

 

Energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio highlighted the fact that renewable energy can ‘unlock opportunities for large, energy intensive businesses, to create jobs in regional communities’.

“We’re delivering affordable, secure and clean energy, which is powering new jobs right across our state,” D’Ambrosio said.

The project will also incorporate 20MW of battery storage, meaning it is 100% powered by wind energy. Nectar Farms will only use 10% of the electricity generated by the wind farm, with the rest to be purchased by the Victorian government.

This is one of several wind and solar farms planned for western Victoria, which will help the state to meet its target of 40% renewable electricity by 2025 and also count towards the federal renewable energy target.

Re-post ~ Giles Parkinson – Victoria agribusiness turns to 196MW wind farm with 20MW storage in RenewEconomy

Report highlights importance of preserving Australia’s plant biodiversity

Kew Gardens has released its second annual State of the World’s Plants report. Last year’s report named Australia as one of the top three places in the world to discover new plant species, but also estimated that it is home to 12% of the world’s threatened plants.

This year’s report deepens the research from the previous year. For example it increases our understanding of the reasons why particular plants may be more vulnerable to extinction and which plant families contain the highest percentage of medicinal plants. It also maps the major traits associated with a plant’s resilience to climate change, which include thicker leaves, efficient water-use strategies, deeper roots and higher wood density.

The report also looks at threats to various plant species, including the increased need for food production and a particular focus on wildfires, seeking to understand how patterns of burning may be affected by factors such as changing land use and climate change.

Over 100 scientists are involved in preparing the report, which also highlights the good news on newly discovered plants.

Australia has been identified as one of the top three places in the world to discover new plant species, alongside China and Brazil. Dr Martin Taylor, a conservation scientist with WWF Australia, said Australia had about 21,000 plant species, making up 10% of the world’s total.

However, there are concerns that government policies may not be giving plants the protection they are due. An increasing demand for food production and housing mean more pressure to clear land. Dr Taylor singled out land clearing in Queensland as a major issue.

 

“Land clearing has accelerated, we’ve done an estimate that over 200,000 hectares of threatened species habitat was cleared in just the first two years of the Newman Government.”

 

When clearing laws were relaxed in Queensland, so much was cleared it looks set to completely undo greenhouse gas emissions cuts made under the federal government’s Direct Action policy. Photograph: WWF

 

There are concerns that new, more relaxed, land-clearing laws in NSW may lead to a similar trend in the state.

 

Read more ~

Syrian, Iraqi and Jewish women create friendships over food

The Shared Table Project is bringing Syrian, Iraqi and Jewish women together to promote understanding and friendship.

The project brings newly arrived Syrian and Iraqi refugees to Emmanuel Synagogue in Sydney. With local Jewish women, they prepare a meal and eat together for five consecutive weeks. These occasions often include spontaneous outbreaks of song and laughter and give participants the opportunity to share aspects of their culture, such as the dishes they prepare, with others from a different background.

 

 

Project Director Mel Don Port points out that most of the Christian and Muslim women who take part will never have met a Jewish person before and vice versa. She remembers Hasna, a Syrian woman who was terrified and shaking when she first attended the group:

“‘At the end of that first week, she was the first one in class each week.”

“She was kissing us, and cuddling us and hugging ~ and in tears in the last week that she was saying goodbye to us.”

 

Sharing food, stories and laughter together breaks down barriers for these women and gives them a taste of the kind of harmony and love we’d all like to see more of in the world.

Dishes prepared and shared as part of the Shared Table Project

Re-post ~ Syrian, Iraqi and Jewish women creating friendships, harmony over food by Rachael Kohn for The Spirit of Things on ABC News

Dingoes: a farmer’s new best friend?

Whilst dingoes have traditionally been seen as a pest by farmers, there are some innovative land managers who see dingo populations as a good thing, and the evidence increasingly backs them up.

By law, land managers in Australia are required to take ‘all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with [dingoes] under their control’ as dingoes are considered a pest. However, individual case studies where dingo populations have been left alone show potential for this revolutionary farming practice to positively impact land regeneration.

The benefits of not managing dingo populations artificially include:

  • Smaller numbers of dingoes ~ when their social hierarchies are uninterrupted by poison baiting etc. dingo populations are self-managing, with only one breeding pair per group. The dominant group will scare off other dingoes who venture into the area.
  • Dingoes keep down kangaroo, feral goat, pig, cat and fox numbers, which allows pasture to rest effectively and protects native wildlife.
  • Even with some calves being taken, research shows a net financial benefit to having dingoes on a cattle property.

 

Dingoes are Australia’s apex predator and an essential part of a balanced ecosystem. They keep kangaroo populations in check, which in turn prevents overgrazing and land degradation. Photo: Angus Emmott

Dingoes are a bigger issue for sheep farmers than cattle farmers and this has created some controversy in areas where farmers are experimenting with allowing dingoes to live on their land. However, there are a number of potential ways of protecting sheep without killing dingoes, such as dingo-proof fencing and the use of guardian dogs, which have been shown to be effective dingo-deterrents in many locations across Australia. This, in combination with a longer-term move towards changing our eating habits” farming and eating native fauna, such as kangaroos, would allow massive regeneration of land that has been overgrazed and degraded for decades.

These experiments seem to back up what has been learned from other land regeneration efforts: that working with natural processes, rather than against them, is the simplest and most cost-effective way to live well on Australian soils.

 

Re-post ~ Why do some graziers want to retain, not kill, dingoes? by Euan Richie in The Conversation.

Read more ~ Predator-friendly farming—good for livestock, dingoes and the bottom line by Marea Martlew on Phys.org

Free manual on the use of guardian dogs for protecting livestock by Linda van Bommel

The virtuous circle: predator-friendly farming and ecological restoration in Australia by Johnson and Wallach in the Resotoration Ecology Journal

The Nuka System of Care ~ Indigenous healthcare for the people, by the people

A revolutionary health care system run by and for indigenous people and incorporating indigenous healthcare perspectives has become an international model for health care reform.

Since Southcentral Foundation (SCF) began overseeing healthcare provision for Alaska Native and American Indian people in Alaska, emergency room visits have dropped by 36%. Deaths from cancer, heart disease, and cerebrovascular disease have dropped by 26%, 47%, and 59%, respectively and infant mortality has also dropped by 58%. This has all been achieved while also cutting costs.

 

In the lobby of Southcentral Foundation’s Anchorage Native Primary Care Center, Alaska Native artists sell their work under “Bird Spirit Mask” by Inupiat artist Sylvester Ayek. (Photo Courtesy of Southcentral Foundation)

 

SCF serves a population of 136,000 native people spread out over 108,000 square miles, including more than 200 native villages, many of which are only accessible by boat or air. The system involves partnerships with 51 village health clinics, medical teams who regularly travel to villages and tele-medicine, and is centred around the Native Primary Care Centre in Anchorage, where nearly half of the entire population of Alaska lives.

The health centre has the feel of a community centre and is decorated with indigenous art and craft, which increases pride and self-confidence in its ‘customerowners’ (as users of the clinic are called). It also has open offices and offers integrated treatments including complementary and traditional medicine, support with substance abuse, mental health, and home health. This all forms part of a preventative approach which aims to deal with the root causes of illness and to encourage healthy lifestyle choices.

 

“Emphasis on prevention and integrated healthcare delivery results in less demand for specialty care and fewer emergency room visits. Equally important is the understanding that physical health is bound to social and spiritual wellbeing. Wellness, in this model, comes from facilitating cultural connection and strengthening families and communities.”

 

SCF recognises that indigenous people are at particular risk of health issues because of their history, with the fallout from years of epidemics, high levels of child abuse in missions and boarding schools and the loss of culture, community and identity all contributing to current high levels of domestic and child abuse and drug and alcohol misuse. To counter this, the effects of multi-generational trauma are treated by tribal doctors along with current health issues in an integrated, holistic process.

 

A customer-owner receives care from Tribal Doctor Steven Booth in Southcentral Foundation’s Traditional healing clinic. (Photo courtesy of Southcentral Foundation)

 

Preventative, holistic healthcare would seems to make sense for us all, but the Nuka System of Care developed by Southcentral Foundation has particular relevance for indigenous communities because of the specific issues those communities face and the way it leverages the rich traditional knowledge that is already present.

SCF offer training, site visits and consulting to share this system with other healthcare providers worldwide.

Re-post ~ Native Wisdom Is Revolutionizing Health Care by Shari Huhndorf in SSIR