Tony Burke sets out Sustainable Population Strategy

Australian sustainable population minister Tony Burke spoke to the Express on Friday about the Australian Government’s sustainable population strategy and what it will mean for communities like Canterbury-Bankstown.

The Sustainable Australia report, which was released at a housing industry conference on May 13, seeks to cap population growth in capital cities in favour of boosts in regional centres.

Mr Burke, who is also the Federal Labor Watson MP, described the strategy as a great initiative for working people living in outer suburbs of big cities.

“People in our community regularly face long commutes to and from work,” Mr Burke said when asked about potential impacts for the area of Watson. “We have communities where there are not enough workers and communities where there are not enough jobs a locally targeted approach to addressing population growth and change is needed.”

He said the strategy’s focus is on alleviating pressures in overstretched areas by supporting more local jobs, rather than setting “arbitrary” population targets.

“Population change is not just about growth and the size of our population. It is about the skills and needs of our population, how we live and where we live,” he said.


Brazil to create cabinet post to address deforestation

Brazilian Minister for the Environment Izabella Teixeira announced yesterday the creation of a cabinet post responsible for monitoring and addressing the deforestation crisis affecting Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. The cabinet post will be filled by government specialists as well as by members of the Environmental Ministry and representatives from the states which have registered the highest levels of deforestation. According to satellite imagery, deforestation of the Amazon has increased from 103 square kilometers (64 square miles) in March-April 2010 to 593 square kilometers (368 square miles) this year — an almost 600 percent increase in one year. Minister Teixeira called the figures “alarming” while noting the concern as a main reason for establishing the cabinet position.

The increase in deforestation is occurring mostly in Mato Grosso state where nearly 25 percent of Brazil’s soybean harvest is produced. Experts say that increased demand for soy and cattle are key factors in farmers’ decisions to clear more forests from their lands. However, activists like Greenpeace’s Maricio Astrini believe the deforestation is due more to a lack of significant legal protections and penalties for land-clearing activities.


Study: population rise threatens Southern forests

Growing populations and increased urbanization could reduce the 200 million acres of forestland in the South by about 10 percent over the next 50 years, according to a U.S. Forest Service study released Tuesday.

The multiyear study looks at the impact a variety of factors will have on the future of forests in 13 states stretching from Texas to Virginia.

“The diversity in Southern forests is unparalleled in North America,” said Dave Wear, the project leader on the report. But that diversity and the home it provides to a variety of wildlife is threatened by a combination of four primary factors: population, climate change, timber markets and invasive species.

But population growth and the ensuing urbanization are expected to reduce the amount of forestland in the South by as much as 23 million acres — about the size of the state of South Carolina — and stress other resources that forests depend on for survival.

“The growing population reduces the capability of forestry agencies to manage forests,” Wear said. About 90 percent of the region’s forestland is owned by companies and individuals, and the rest is owned and managed by U.S. or local government agencies.


Brazil: Amazon rainforest deforestation rises sharply

Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest has increased almost sixfold, new data suggests.

Satellite images show deforestation increased from 103 sq km in March and April 2010 to 593 sq km (229 sq miles) in the same period of 2011, Brazil’s space research institute says. Much of the destruction has been in Mato Grosso state, the centre of soya farming in Brazil.

The news comes shortly before a vote on new forest protection rules.

Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said the figures were “alarming” and announced the setting up of a “crisis cabinet” in response to the news.

“Our objective is to reduce deforestation by July,” the minister told a news conference.

Analysts say the new figures have taken the government by surprise.

Last December, a government report said deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon had fallen to its lowest rate for 22 years. However, the latest data shows a 27% jump in deforestation from August 2010 to April 2011.


Extinction rates ‘overestimated’, says study

Current extinction rate projections may be overestimating the role of habitat loss on species, a study suggests.

Current methods are too simplistic and fail to take into account the full complexity of what influences species numbers, researchers observed. Writing in the journal Nature, they said present figures overestimated rates by up to 160%, and called for updated, more accurate calculations. But they did add that habitat loss was still the main threat to biodiversity.

Co-authors Professor Stephen Hubbell, from the University of California Los Angeles, and Professor Fangliang He, from Sun Yat-sen University, China, said existing mathematical models were flawed.

“The most widely used indirect method is to estimate extinction rates by reversing the species-area accumulation curve, extrapolating backwards to smaller areas to calculate expected species loss,” they wrote. “Estimates based on this method are almost always much higher than actually observed.”


MIT study: biofuels not necessarily greenest choice

Biomass used to make biofuels must be carefully sourced, or the biofuels they produce may be no greener than conventional jet fuel. That’s according to a study that was published this week in the online version of Environmental Science and Technology and was conducted by a group of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

For the nearly four-year study, researchers conducted a life cycle analysis on 14 diesel and jet fuel sources made from feedstocks, and identified the key factors that make a difference in whether a biofuel is truly an environmental improvement over conventional jet fuel.

The team was led by James Hillman, principal research engineer, and a professor at the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT.


Australian government releases population strategy

The Australian Government has released its first population strategy which focuses on boosting growth in regional areas and alleviating pressures in the outer suburbs of cities.

The report — Sustainable Australia, Sustainable Communities — does not set a population target, saying adopting one would limit the Government’s ability to use the migration program to deal with skills gaps and labour shortages. The report says a balance must be struck between the principles of economic sustainability, making communities livable and environmental sustainability.

One proposal is to create more jobs outside major CBDs.

The Population Minister Tony Burke says the Government is aiming to encourage business hubs in the outer suburbs and regional areas so people can find employment closer to home. He cited the example of Springfield near Brisbane as an example of a self-contained community away from the inner-city, and said the National Broadband Network is integral to the new strategy.

Mr. Burke says the strategy centres on where and how people live, rather than population targets or caps.


Rising resource use threatens future growth, warns UN

The world is set to consume three times more natural resources than current rates by the middle of the century, according to a United Nations report. It predicts that humanity will annually use about 140 billion tonnes of fossil fuels, minerals and ores by 2050. The authors call for resource consumption to be “decoupled” from economic growth, and producers to do “more with less”. Growth in population and prosperity are the main drivers, they observe.

The report is the latest in a series by the UN Environment Programme’s (Unep) International Resources Panel.

“Decoupling makes sense on all the economic, social and environmental dials, ” said Unep executive director Achim Steiner. “People believe environmental ‘bads’ are the price we must pay for economic ‘goods’. However, we cannot and need not continue to act as if this trade-off is inevitable.”


UN conference says population of world’s poorest nations expected to double by 2050

The United Nations says the population of the world’s poorest nations is expected to double to 1.7 billion by 2050.

U.N. officials attending a conference in Istanbul Tuesday said that the increase would place more strain on essential services such as health and education.

The officials added that 60 percent of the population of these “least-developed” countries is under the age of 25, and that youth can become an engine of economic growth with the right opportunities or face a slide into deep poverty.

Thousands of delegates have gathered for the conference, which seeks ways to help the 48 countries in the least-developed category. Most of the countries are in Africa.


Population growth stirs worries about stress on region’s water supply

When Colin Cavill began planning the 325-unit Enso Atlanta apartments near Grant Park three years ago, water was at the top of his mind. Simply put: the metro’s area’s supply is limited, and he didn’t want to make matters worse. So Cavill — who says his company, Capital 33, wanted to “help reduce our footprint” — developed the complex as a green project. Toilets and faucets are low-flow, shower heads are water-efficient, and a cistern collects water for the landscaping.

Cavill’s efforts may need to be become the norm as the state struggles with its limited water supply, experts say.