‘Coronered’ by the global pandemic

Sadly, Starfish has been seriously coronered by the global pandemic. For the moment, the organisation has been placed into an hibernation-like state awaiting a possible positive return.

The impacts of Covid-19 on Starfish’s work program were severe.

By late March 2020, more than 80% of Starfish’s forward work had been either postponed indefinitely or cancelled outright. As an enterprise-based charity with freelance contractors, not employees, Starfish was not eligible for any of the government assistance that was available.

From April to September 2020, Starfish reset and pared back its operations to just three projects, so as to match work with capacity and resources.

Unfortunately, there was further wave of impacts which played out during this time, the affect of which was to undermine the financial viability of even this handful of projects.

As a result, all of Starfish’s sustainability initiatives and professional services have now been discontinued. The Starfish Associates program has been suspended.

Thankfully, Starfish remains still a going concern and has sufficient reserves to cover it’s fixed overheads for several years to come. The Board intend to initiate a new strategic planning process once a forward view of the situation becomes clearer, which they anticipate will be mid-to-late 2021 at the earliest.

During this transition period, Starfish’s Board will consider any new sustainability initiative on a case-by-case basis, to ensure that Starfish has the required capacity and resources. All regulatory and compliance requirements will continue to be satisfied during this time.

Dodgy reporting distorts data on new coal plants

Recent reports of 621 coal plants being constructed worldwide are wildly inaccurate, according to a recent Guardian article. What’s more, the amount of electricity produced by coal globally has fallen each year since 2013.

The figure, which came from a parliamentary assessment based on out-of-date and unreliable data, was then further distorted as it was misreported to refer to power stations, rather than coal-fired power units (smaller modules, several of which make up one power station).

A look at the most up-to-date figures from the well-respected Global Coal Plant Tracker database run by US-based CoalSwarm, shows that in July construction was only occurring at 300 coal plants worldwide; 183 new power stations and 117 extensions of existing plants.

On top of this, big coal players such as China and India are cancelling several planned construction efforts due to many plants currently running as low as 43% capacity. Whilst Australia decides whether or not to subsidise Adani’s controversial export coal mine in Queensland, many of India’s domestic plants are struggling, including those owned by Adani.

Global coal production has dropped every year since 2013. According to CoalSwarm’s director, Ted Nace:

“A distinction needs to be kept in mind between capacity and electrical output…Even though there are more power plants, the actual production of electricity from those plants ~ and likewise the amount of coal used worldwide ~ has fallen every year since 2013, with a small drop in 2014 and larger drops in 2015 and 2016.”

The Guardian seems skeptical about whether these more accurate and up to date figures will be widely reported, given the way that the false figures were propagated by the majority of the press and several pro-coal public figures.

However, for those willing to look at the facts, its clear that the world is beginning to say farewell to coal.

Re-post ∼ The world is going slow on coal, but misinformation is distorting the facts in The Guardian

Australia is second worst in world for biodiversity loss

A new international study published in the journal Nature found that Australia is among a group of seven countries who are causing around fifty percent of global biodiversity loss.

Using measures from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list, the study calculated that Indonesia has the worst record, accounting for 21% of global biodiversity loss, with Australia coming in second. The other main offenders were Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, China, India, and the United States (largely due to Hawaii’s influence).

The study also showed that biodiversity loss has a direct relationship with government spending on conservation efforts (or lack thereof) as well as other ‘human development pressures’ such as economic, agricultural and population growth.


Conservation spending is inversely proportional to biodiversity decline.


Between 1996 and 2008 the 109 countries who signed up to the Convention on Biological Diversity and Sustainable Development Goals were able to reduce biodiversity loss by 29% per country through conservation investment.

In order to help policy makers decide how much to spend on conservation investment in order to reach specific conservation goals, the authors of the study have developed a model which predicts the effects of conservation investment when combined with varying levels of human development pressures.


“The model offers a flexible tool for balancing the Sustainable Development Goals of human development and maintaining biodiversity, by predicting the dynamic changes in conservation finance that will be needed as human development proceeds.”


In Australia, there are a number of pressures contributing to the the loss of biodiversity. According to Environmental sustainability professor Barry Brook from the University of Tasmania:


“The predominant one is land clearing ~ ongoing clearing for habitat. New South Wales and Queensland have been particularly bad for that over the past two decades,”


Given that the study also found that the effects of conservation funding are reduced as human development pressures increase, it is likely that conservation investment in Australia will not only need to ramp up in the short-term, but also increase over time to meet the increasing demands of agriculture and population growth.

Re-post ∼ Australia among seven nations responsible for more than 50 per cent of global biodiversity loss

Read more ∼ Reductions in global biodiversity loss predicted from conservation spending


Land returned to Aboriginal Owners thanks to donation collaboration

A large area of land in north-west Tasmania has been returned to the local Aboriginal community thanks to a donation from the founder of travel website Wotif. See Starfish’s latest newspost for more details.

Glen Innes recognised as renewable energy hub

Glen Innes is at the centre of the renewables revolution according to a recent ABC news article, which highlights the Sapphire and White Rock wind farms. Both are being constructed close to the town due to the ideal combination of high winds and grid connectivity found on this part of the Great Dividing Range.

Goldwind, who are responsible for White Rock wind farm, have also started construction of a 70,000 panel solar farm in the area making the town a genuine renewable energy hub.

The developments have brought a huge boost for the local economy. Some of the 30 farmers on whose land the new turbines are being built have declared that it is helping them to drought-proof their businesses. What’s more, local businesses are employing more staff to deal with the influx of construction workers who are now spending money in the area.


Alex Hewitt, MD of CWP Renewables says the company is looking to invest over $300 million in renewables projects in NSW over the next four years.

Starfish is collaborating with Sapphire Wind Farm, which will be the largest wind farm in NSW, to pioneer a community investment project. This would give community members the chance to capitalise even further on the development by investing directly in the wind farm. For further information and to show your interest complete the Community Investment Survey here.

Starfish’s is also work to develop a community-owned wind farm for the region, called New England Wind. This is a longer-term project, with a large amount of work required to secure a viable site and successfully put the project together ~ hence the excitement at Sapphire’s community investment, which, all going well, will happen in the short-term!

Read more ∼ Small town of Glen Innes to become renewable energy hub scattered with wind turbines by Phillipa McDonald on ABC News

Sapphire Community Investment Survey

Regional Australia’s innovation potential revealed by new index

A new Innovation Index maps which areas of Australia contribute most to new business and where input is needed to unlock the huge potential of rural areas.


The Rural Australia Institute, along with Bendigo and Adeleaide Bank, have developed the index based on a new measure of innovation – business dynamo – along with the more traditional r&d and science measure. These two measures, when viewed in tandem, give some interesting insights into which areas are producing the most innovation and why. For example, although major cities are the most productive innovators, this is largely due to the fact that they are home to 174 out of the around 200 research and development institutions which exist nationwide,  and therefore attract the majority of research and development investment and funding.

Although many regional centres score low on the index for research and development, 110 score highly for business dynamo; think lifestyle locations such as the Sunshine and Gold Coasts and Busselton (WA) as well as regional entrepreneurial centres like Griffith (NSW) and Ballarat (Vic). The producers of the index suggest that improving the research and development capacity of these areas could unlock untapped potential.

Conversely, there are a number of regional centres, mainly mining and mineral processing hubs like Whyalla (SA), Mt Isa (Qld), Muswellbrook and Singleton (NSW Hunter Valley), which score highly for research and development but are lacking in business dynamo.

There are 49 local government areas like Hobart (Tas), Palerang and Yass Valley (NSW/ACT), Queenscliff (Vic), Toodyay (WA) and Darwin (NT) that score highly in both measures of the index, i.e. there is a strong local business network along with a high rate of trademark applications. This suggests that businesses in these regional centres are innovating successfully.

To encourage more rural and regional areas to reach their innovation potential The Rural Australia Institute advocates interventions such as the ‘Entreprenuer in Residence’ program which is happening


Repost ~ Here’s 49 small communities innovating as well as the big cities | The Conversation

Read more ~ Learn more about the Innovation Index results.

NSW farmer compares widespread use of herbicides to ‘genocide’

A fifth generation NSW farmer, Charles Massy has always had an intimate relationship with the land he works. But his experience of the drought years, earning a PhD in human ecology as a mature student and listening to the wisdom of his Aboriginal friends has convinced him that the white man’s ‘mechanical mind’ understanding of natural systems is severely flawed. 


Farmer Charles Massy at Severn Park, the NSW property his family has farmed for five generations.


Massy is the author of Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture – A New Earth, in which he makes a poetic as well as scholarly case for a revolution in the way we think about the soil beneath our feet.

He links the widespread use of glyphosphate (Roundup) to a whole slew of autoimmune diseases and disorders such as Autism and ADHD, which he says are intimately linked to immune function and therefore gut health.


Glyphosphate is disrupting the balance of natural ecosystems according to Charles Massy.


Massy believes that healthy soil equals healthy, nutrient rich food, and he has therefore become a practitioner and vocal proponent of biodiverse planting and holistic grazing, which have transformed the ecosystems on his farm.


“If people ate truly nutrient-rich food out of healthy soil, you would slash the national health bill straight away. The big chemical companies and big food companies know exactly what they are doing. It is now causing millions of deaths – tell me why that is not genocide?”


But it’s not just the benefits to humans that interest Massy. He would like to see humans get out of the way of nature and let the ‘self-organising regulating system’ of the Earth recover equilibrium. For an example of how this can be done in the unique Australian landscape he points to pre-colonial times and the way Aboriginal people nurtured and nourished the land and lived in “one of the greatest ever sustainable partnerships between humankind and the ecosystems they occupied”.

When the soil is nurtured in this way, what emerges is:

“a burgeoning mass of life and activity that is 10-fold that above the ground; fungi bacteria, and other organisms have begun to create and sustain an entirely different, living absorbent soil structure; the very heart and essence of healthy farming and landscape function. The secret is to simply restore healthy landscape function and allow nature to do the rest.”


Repost ~ Farmer wants a revolution: ‘How is this not genocide?’ | The Guardian

Millennials’ biggest concern is climate change & destruction of nature

Climate change was chosen as the top concern by nearly half of participants in the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Survey 2017. The survey included over 24,000 young people who responded in 14 languages. The majority of participants also agreed that humans are responsible for climate change. 



Millenials worldwide also showed concern for a wide range of social ills:

1. Climate change / destruction of nature (48.8%)
2. Large scale conflict / wars (38.9%)
3. Inequality (income, discrimination) (30.8%)
4. Poverty (29.2%)
5. Religious conflicts (23.9%)
6. Government accountability and transparency / corruption (22.7%)
7. Food and water security (18.2%)
8. Lack of education (15.9%)
9. Safety / security / wellbeing (14.1%)
10. Lack of economic opportunity and employment (12.1%)


“This survey reaffirms the image of young people I have from my meetings with youth around the world: they are optimistic, empathetic and view themselves as global citizens. I hope we can answer their call for a more equal, transparent and open world.”
– H.R.H Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway


The Global Shapers Forum is a network of young people under the age of 30 which sprang out of the World Economic Forum.  This collective of dynamic, inspiring young people is driving global change through a diverse range of grassroots projects in cities across the world.



Re-post ~ The 10 biggest global concerns, according to millennials | Treehugger

Read full report ~ Global Shapers Survey 2017

Kenyan government introduces toughest plastic bag ban to date

In the toughest crack-down on single-use plastic yet, the Kenyan government has introduced a countrywide ban on the production, sale and use of plastic bags, with penalties of up to four years’ jail or fines of up to $US40,000.



Whilst critics of the ban say it will cause job losses and affect small tradespeople’s ability to sell their products, many Kenyans are pleased that the ban has finally been enforced, after ten years of government effort. Habib El-Habr, an expert on marine litter working with the UN Environment Programme in Kenya, notes that many plastic bags end up in waterways where they strangle or are eaten by marine life:

“If we continue like this, by 2050, we will have more plastic in the ocean than fish.”

There are also concerns that cattle are now routinely arriving at Kenyan slaughterhouses with up to 20 plastic bags in their stomachs. Plastics eaten by fish and animals then make their way into the human food chain.


Plastic bag ban infographic


Forty other countries have introduced some level of plastic bag ban, and although Kenya’s is potentially the harshest, Environment Minister Judy Wakhungu points out that bag manufacturers will initially be the main targets of enforcement.

Re-post ~ Plastic bag-makers and users risk jail, fines as Kenya cracks down on pollution in ABC News

The Social Progress Index: a GDP alternative for the 21st Century

The Social Progress Index has been developed to provide accurate and detailed data on fifty social and environmental outcomes, in an effort to improve upon traditional, purely economic, measures of success such as GDP. These fifty outcomes are grouped into three main ‘dimensions of social progress’: Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, and Opportunity.


The 2017 Index, which was released in June, shows Denmark as the country having the highest overall social progress, with Australia coming in joint 9th along with New Zealand.

The above graph of social progress relative to GDP shows that there is a lot of ‘noise’ around the trend line, meaning that statistically, GDP and social progress do not necessarily go hand in hand. This is particularly true once countries reach a certain level of GDP, where the curve begins to level out and further increases in GDP produce little or no improvement in wellbeing according to social indicators. This is why its creators believe that the Social Progress Index is important, because GDP as a measure leaves out so many factors which influence human wellbeing, such as environmental sustainability, freedom from discrimination and access to education.



Accurate data on how communities are performing in different areas gives leaders the ability to take a more strategic approach to improving quality of life by prioritizing their investments in areas of greatest need, just as having accurate measures of GDP helped the US government to lift itself out of the Great Depression in the 1930s.


Read more ~ The Social Progress Index website and The Social Progress Imperative website