What's New?

Why it's dangerous to liken DNA to computer code

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

(From The Guardian)

The lure of bioengineering is obvious but we should be wary of bugs

A few days ago, on my way to a discussion in the exquisite little McCrum theatre, which is hidden away in the centre of Cambridge, I had to pass through the courtyard of the Eagle pub in Bene’t Street. As I did so, I suddenly remembered that this is the hostelry where, on 28 February 1953, Francis Crick, rushing in from the nearby Cavendish Lab, announced to astonished lunchers that he and James Watson had discovered the secret of life. (They had just unveiled their double-helix model of the DNA molecule to colleagues in the laboratory; there’s now a blue plaque on the wall marking the moment.)

As a graduate student in the late 1960s, I knew the pub well because it was where some of my geeky friends from the Computer Lab, then located in the centre of town, used to gather. We talked about a lot of things then, but one thing that never really crossed our minds was that there might be a connection between what Crick and Watson had done in 1953 and the software that many of us were struggling to write for our experiments or dissertations.

With the 20/20 vision of hindsight, though, the connection should have been obvious. The implication of the Crick-Watson discovery was that the genes and genomes that underpin organic life are based on a code written in four letters – C (for cytosine), G (guanine), A (adenine) and T (thymine). Organisms are basically biological machines built by executing programs written in these letters. Just like computers, in other words, which are just machines that execute programs written in ones and zeroes.

The implications of this analogy are mind-blowing. Once you have figured out the sequence that programs an organism, then, in theory, you could replicate it. And if you can write biological code then you can edit it to change the organism or even create an entirely new one. You can, in other words, become a biological programmer and play God.

Read full article here.

Debate over gene editing legislation heats up in wake of disallowance motion

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

(From Australian Dairyfarmer News)

THE MAINSTREAM agriculture sector is on a collision course with environmental and organic farming groups over controversial changes to the Gene Technology act.

Groups such as Friends of the Earth and Organics Australia are supporting a disallowance motion from Greens Senator Janet Rice that would stop the unregulated use of gene editing techniques in plants, animals and microbes.

Among the techniques that would not need to be labelled aSupporters of Senator Rice urged the same approach here and said there was the need for safety assessment and regulatory oversight with gene editing.

s genetic modification is the CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) system, which plant scientists say could markedly shorten the plant breeding cycle.

CRISPR technology is legislated as genetic modification in jurisdictions such as Europe.

Supporters of Senator Rice urged the same approach here and said there was the need for safety assessment and regulatory oversight with gene editing.

The debate is set to continue in the lead up to the vote in the Senate on November 13.

Friends of the Earth emerging technology spokesperson Louise Sales said her group was against the use of gene editing in farm animals as it posed risk to human health, the environment and animal welfare, a point hotly disputed by the biotechnology sector.

Read the full article here.

The Tipping Point in Focus – State of Waste 2019

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

(From MRA Consulting Group)

The Australian Commonwealth has achieved a first. A Minister for Waste (and Environmental Management) was announced by the Morrison Government. In the 200 years since colonial settlement we have not had a Minister with Waste in their title. I hope that ushers in a period of attention and reform.

After the China National Sword import restriction on Australian recyclables, the return of container loads of recyclables, the massive success of 'War on Waste', the 60 Minutes 'expose' of waste management activities and a Four Corners documentary, waste is finally attracting attention (not all of it good). The recent collapse of SKM, one of Australia’s largest recyclers, should be focusing a lot of minds.

The increased profile will only be a positive if it generates rapid action and policy reform.

Australia has a mixed record on waste and recycling. On the positive side we have grown our recycling rate from 7% in 1996 to 58% in 2016/17. That is pretty impressive given that we don’t have a domestic Energy from Waste (EfW) industry, which tends to boost the (often over 90%) recycling rates claimed by European countries. We have a robust kerbside recycling collection system for households and the essence of good practice in the commercial, construction and demolition sectors. But our policy settings are weak compared to Europe and are not strong enough to achieve even the existing State Government targets (which themselves are relatively weak).

'I am optimistic that with Commonwealth Government involvement we will see a re-emergence of a policy reform agenda and coordinated approaches to national waste and recycling.'

Here are some key issues which must be addressed if we are going to create the Circular Economy that (almost) everyone endorses:

Market Price Signals

There is a significant failure of recycling and waste economics in Australia. The fact is almost all recycling in Australia is subsidised by someone. Only the metals (steel and aluminium) and fibre (paper and cardboard) have sufficient economic value to recycle themselves. In other words, the value of metal and fibre outweighs the costs of collecting and reprocessing it. All of the rest of the materials we recycle are subsidised by someone. Think kerbside recycling (subsidised by ratepayers essentially paying for collection and MRF gate fees), food waste (subsidised by waste generators), container deposit schemes (subsidised by drink consumers) etc. The bottom line is that if we want higher recycling rates then that comes at a cost to the economy and at a cost to someone. The question is who should pay and how much?

Secondly and self-evidently, waste is something that is discarded or unwanted. So, it will naturally trend towards the cheapest point of disposal. As I often say in public presentations “Waste is like water, it will flow downhill – in this case to the cheapest price”. That is a fundamental law of waste policy. If your recycling option costs a dollar more than the cost of landfill, then the waste will go to landfill (with the minor exception of companies that are prepared to voluntarily subsidise the recycling for environmental good, brand or other commitments).

Which brings me to the role of government. Only governments can remedy market failures. Single companies can’t do it. You and I can’t do it as individuals or consumers. (That doesn’t stop us trying). Governments must create the market conditions for recycling to be viable both environmentally and financially. Governments set the targets for waste diversion from landfill. They need to give the market the right signals to achieve their own targets.

Most of the 21Mt of waste that currently goes to landfill is not financially viable to recycle under current policy settings. Innovation alone won’t fix our waste market failures. The cost impediment is just too high.

Hence governments have to intervene. To their credit most State governments have introduced landfill levies to start rebalancing the market prices, advantaging recycling over landfilling. They use some of the levy money to further subsidise new infrastructure and services. All good. But so far, not enough to drive overall waste to landfill downwards (significantly or rapidly).

If Governments don’t want to use market price signals then the only other structural policy lever is to regulate waste by requiring it to be recycled, banning it from landfill or requiring processing. That is the European model and explains much of their higher recycling rates (along with EfW).

For example, unprocessed organic waste is banned from landfill in Europe. It must be reprocessed into valuable products – compost and energy. Generating investment and jobs.

Infrastructure Funding and Planning

If we want more and better recycling then not only do we need the policy incentives for companies and councils to invest in it, but we need them to be able to get bits of infrastructure approved and built. That is inherently difficult for waste infrastructure.

Nobody wants a waste processing plant, a transfer station or a composting facility next door to them. Many councils are responsive to local community concerns. Fair enough. But what that means in practice is waste activities are either being prohibited or pushed further and further away from waste generators (to the city outskirts) increasing traffic and heavy truck movements.

Clearly what is needed in all States is a planning policy statement that preferences waste infrastructure in industrial zones and has an approvals pathway that recognises the strategic importance of waste assets. In NSW for example the industry has been calling for a SEPP (State Environmental Planning Policy) for waste infrastructure. If we don’t have the kit then we can’t recycle the 21Mt of mixed waste that is currently being landfilled.

Finally, on infrastructure (large and small) we need to preference the building of kit to process mixed materials; MRF, C&I sorting platforms, more C&D sorting, EfW, transfer stations and composting facilities to name a few.

Mixed (unsorted) waste represents over 90% of the materials sent to landfill. The highest priorities are organics processing (composting and anaerobic digestion below), mixed commercial waste sorting facilities and mixed demolition sorting facilities. Not difficult and well known. Other priority infrastructure includes glass sand manufacturing (from bottles), plastic reprocessing (in response to China see below), dirt reprocessing, consolidated well run landfills, community recycling centres and EfW facilities.

How do we pay for all this kit you say? The current landfill levies around Australia raise over $1.2b per year. Of that less than 20% is hypothecated to recycling and waste management (on average). There is an immediate source of revenue to build infrastructure.

Read full article here.

Nobel Laureates' statement on the urgent need to prevent nuclear war

Sunday, 22 September 2019

(From ICAN Australia)

Nobel Peace Laureates at their Summit in Merida, Mexico have adopted the attached powerful statement on the urgent need to prevent nuclear war.

Please be encouraged to use/share.

Nobel Peace Laureates' statement

Taking a seat at the Global Table

Saturday, 21 September 2019

(From Prof Andy Lowe)

I have to say I experienced something pretty special just the other week.

It was Global Table at the Melbourne Show Grounds earlier in September. Billed as an event that brings together the world’s brightest minds to solve our biggest food challenges, it had much to live up to.

But the event delivered - boasting over 3,000 attendees from 29 countries and over 200 speakers and 150 exhibitors. In one fell swoop it has become Australia's largest Food and Ag-Innovation meeting.

Read the full article here.

Composting 101: A Simple Guide To Composting At Home

Saturday, 21 September 2019

(From Food Faith)

Composting is a cheap and clever way to use your organic food waste for something good, while doing your bit for the environment. And even though it is known as ‘black gold’ for to gardeners, you don’t need to be a gardening pro to start composting your waste. Compost can be given away to neighbours/friends, or even sold, if you can’t use it yourself or you have too much. Most importantly, you would be reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that would be produced by your waste if it went into landfill, and lessening the financial loss of your food wastage. So you don’t have to feel guilty about wasting that piece of fruit that went off in the fridge anymore!


Australians waste a staggering amount of food each year. $8 billion, or 4 million tonnes worth each year to be exact! That’s the equivalent of around 40 million blue whales!

Almost half of all fruit and vegetables produced are wasted, which is the equivalent to approximately 1 in 5 shopping bags worth of food ending up in the bin, costing families thousands each year.

These 4 million tonnes of food wastage are essentially left to rot, creating greenhouse gas emissions in the process. In fact, 8% of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by this.

Composting eliminates the greenhouse gases caused by rotting in landfill, and allows your food wastage to be put to good use. Of course it’s also important to rethink the amount of fresh produce you buy to reduce your food wastage, but even the most efficient of buyers will still end up with scraps for composting.

Read the full guide here.

Wind Just Surpassed Nuclear Capacity in the US

Saturday, 21 September 2019

(From ICAN)

On a day that millions of people across the globe are out on strike to raise awareness about the climate crisis, a major milestone has been achieved in the race to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy. As of today, the US now has more wind power than nuclear power, as measured in megawatts (MW) of generating capacity.

The American Wind Energy Association has reported that an additional 736 MW of wind generating capacity was added to the US electricity grid during the second quarter of 2019 (April-July). This brought the total generating capacity from 57,000 wind turbines in this country up to 97,960 MW.

Meanwhile, the closure of the last remaining nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania just reduced the total generating capacity from nuclear power by 819 MW. This means, according to World Nuclear Association figures, the total generating capacity from the remaining 97 nuclear power plants in the United States now stands at 97,722 MW – that is, 238 MW less than wind!

Solar capacity still lags behind wind and nuclear, but not for long. Solar farms already in the works will soon bring the total US solar capacity to 117,000 MW, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association. In addition to these utility-scale systems, houses, farms, and businesses across the country are rapidly installing solar panels and wind turbines that are not included in these figures.

Even though the total capacity of wind and solar electricity is even higher than these figures suggest, it must be pointed out that “capacity” of an electricity source is not the same as the amount of electricity actually delivered to the customer. Nuclear power plants need to be shut down, sometimes for months, for routine maintenance, repairs and refueling. But when they are running, they are generating electricity fairly consistently around the clock.

According to the Energy Information Agency (EIA), nuclear power in the US has an average “capacity factor” of 90-92%. Wind, on the other hand, is sometimes blowing very hard and sometimes not at all. According to the EIA, wind power has had an average capacity factor of 32-37%, although the newest wind turbines are reaching capacities of 40-50%.

Solar power is even more erratic than wind, due to clouds and nightfall. The EIA rates the average solar capacity factor at 25-26%. Once again, continuing developments in solar technology are steadily improving the capacity factor, with some newer systems now approaching 40%.

So, in terms of actual electricity generated, wind and solar have yet to surpass nuclear power. But they are well on their way to doing so, as the milestone reached today indicates.

The United States is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels for generating electricity, as well as for transportation, heating and other uses. According to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have until 2030 to drastically reduce this dependence if we are to avert a climate catastrophe.

With a serious commitment from the next Administration, coupled with sufficient investment, moving to 100% fossil-free electricity in the next 10 years is entirely doable. Reaching other fossil-free targets may take longer (or cost more), but we are clearly on the way.

Timmon Wallis,

Author, Warheads to Windmills: How to Pay for a Green New Deal, NuclearBan.US, 2019. Available from www.NuclearBan.US/w2w/

Powering Queensland’s first community energy project | Seasonal Gardening Tips for September

Friday, 20 September 2019

(From Living Smart QLD's September newsletter)

The first community energy project by a Queensland group is now up and running with a social enterprise in south Brisbane successfully powered by community-funded solar.

Read full story here.

This year, we had a wetter than normal June (which was very welcome!) but warmer than average temperatures during July – and a very short winter. In my garden, spring started mid- July this year, a couple of weeks earlier than is typical for our climate. Usually spring begins sometime in August, but not always! These climate conditions resulted in many fruit trees in my garden flowering earlier than normal. With the soil moisture available, they got off to a good start and avoided aphid infestations on new growth.

Read full article here.

Climate chaos and nuclear weapons: twin existential threats

Friday, 20 September 2019

(From ICAN Australia)

It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the existential threats humanity is grappling with right now. Our one precious atmosphere is rapidly heating up while nuclear-armed leaders jostle their weapons as if it were all a game. Climate chaos and nuclear brinkmanship have us on the edge of our planetary seats.

Thankfully, grassroots movements for change are rising up, and you're part of it. This Friday the world is striking for climate action, and we've released a short paper by ICAN co-founder Dr Tilman Ruff on the climate impacts of nuclear weapons. Click the image below to read it.

Next Thursday on the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (26 September) a number of nations will sign or ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at a special UN ceremony, bringing it ever closer to entry-into-force. Stay tuned to find out who the newest ban champions are!

In Canberra on Monday a motion was introduced to the federal Parliament by Labor's Steve Georganas MP urging Australia to work towards signing and ratifying the ban treaty. He spoke passionately alongside Libby Coker MP (Labor member for Corangamite) and Dr Katie Allen MP (Liberal member for Higgins), demonstrating increasing cross-party support for the ban treaty. Watch a short compilation of their strong words of support here. The discussion will continue next sitting period.

In other news, the ICAN Cities Appeal has now been endorsed by 22 Australian councils (see image below), the latest being Shellharbour, NSW. If you haven't reached out to your local council yet to urge their support for the ban treaty, do it here. If you have but they haven't moved forward on it, then chase them up! Persistence is key.

Perils for Borneo's forests

Friday, 20 September 2019

(From Professor William F. Laurance, James Cook University)

Despite pledges to cut deforestation in half, global rates of forest loss have risen by 43% in recent years.

What’s especially alarming is the rapid disappearance of surviving wild areas and intact forests. Why are we fragmenting the Earth so rapidly?

The biggest direct threat: an explosion of new infrastructure, and the dramatic changes it often brings—a Pandora’s box of environmental disruption.

This massive tsunami of new roads, railroads, dams, mines, and other high-risk projects is slicing and dicing the Earth. And the risks are not just environmental but also economic, social, political, and reputational in nature.

The attached paper shows how ambitious plans for road expansion in Sabah, Malaysia will dramatically imperil remaining forests there—one of the world’s most biodiverse and environmentally critical regions.

The many planned road projects in Sabah will, if completed, chop off the head of the “Heart of Borneo”—a trans-national conservation initiative designed to maintain ecological connectivity and forest intactness on this great tropical island.

In the attached paper, we use robust spatial analyses to identify the riskiest projects and recommend strategies to lessen their impacts.

Also attached is a brief press release, and below is an excellent summary in Mongabay: https://news.mongabay.com/2019/09/pan-borneo-highway-development-threatens-to-carve-up-intact-forest/

S. Sloan, M.J. Campbell, M. Alamgir, A.M. Lechner, J. Engert, and W. F. Laurance. 2019. Transnational conservation and infrastructure development in the Heart of Borneo. PLoS ONE 14: e0221947. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0221947

Planned roads would be ‘dagger in the heart’ for Borneo’s forests and wildlife (press release)

Trans-national conservation and infrastructure development in the Heart of Borneo (research article)

HOPE's Waste Hierarchy Chart

Monday, 16 September 2019

View the above poster in full size here.

A Beginners Guide to Keeping Chickens

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Keeping chooks can be a rewarding activity for a household. The advantages are:

  • They lay eggs. A good layer can lay over 240 eggs in a year.
  • They can be a joy for children.
  • They provide an economic way of disposing of kitchen scraps.
  • Their litter is a source of manure for composting.

But, before you start, you need to be aware that chooks need some care and attention every day. You need to give serious consideration:

  • Where are they going to live?
  • How will you feed and water them, especially when you go away on holiday?
  • How will you keep them secure from predators, principally foxes?

Read more by viewing the information sheets below by Ian Simons:

Also see the Barastoc Chook Book here

Labor motion and new climate paper

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

(From ICAN Australia)

Labor's Steve Georganas MP (Adelaide) and Libby Coker MP (Corangamite) put forward and spoke to a motion urging Australia to work towards signing and ratifying the nuclear weapon ban treaty yesterday afternoon. They were joined by new Liberal MP Katie Allen (Higgins) who said:

“I urge the government to work towards signing and ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. By signing this treaty we send a strong message to our international counterparts that the use of nuclear weapons has no place on the global stage, and that disarmament and elimination of nuclear weapons is the only course of action."

The debate on the motion will continue at the next sitting session. You can watch and share a short compilation of the speeches on facebook or twitter. It's great to see the first federal Labor motion to call on Australia to join the treaty, and a new ban supporter in the Liberal Party.

Further, in the lead-up to the global climate strikes this Friday, we have published a short paper on Nuclear weapons and our climate. We hope it is useful.

URGENT: HOPE fund-raising request

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Good afternoon HOPE members and supporters,

Re: Your financial assistance sought

Due to ongoing software problems with our free version of Windows 10 Pro and MS Office 2016, the HOPE Management Committee authorised me to go ahead and obtain a quote from local Toowoomba firm Colmac Computers to update our software. Colmac Computers will backup - our data files, Outlook email folders and address book and our communications information. They will then clear the hard drives, install current versions of Windows 10 and MS Office 2019 and reset out data files, Outlook information and our communications links. The cost of this exercise is $854 including GST.

I invite you to make a donation towards this amount via our website link at http://www.hopeaustralia.org.au/annual-pledgedonation/.

Thanking you in anticipation.

Frank Ondrus, President – HOPE Inc., ph 07 4639 2135

Win tickets to The Map to Paradise movie night! (QLD only)

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

(From National Parks Association of Queensland)

Win a double pass to THE MAP TO PARADISE on 25 September! For your chance to win, simply email us with your name and phone number. Draw closes Sunday 22 September and winners will be contacted on Monday 23 September.

Please join us on Wednesday 25 September at 6:30pm at Event Cinemas Indooroopilly (322 Moggill Road, Indooroopilly) for a screening of THE MAP TO PARADISE, co-hosted with National Parks Association Queensland and Coral Watch.

Doors open 6.20pm | Introduction + Film 6.30pm | Q&A with Laura Hahn, Conservation Principal, National Parks Association Queensland, and Professor Justin Marshall, Chief Investigator, Coral Watch/University of Queensland from 8.10-8.40pm.

You can also purchase your tickets in advance here.

From Executive Producer Martin Sheen, THE MAP TO PARADISE is an adventure-filled and spectacularly gorgeous tale about the birth of the global movement to protect the sea. From underwater worlds of ice to glistening coral sanctuaries, discover what it takes to build a movement and to create positive change.

Filmed across six continents, the filmmakers have set out to challenge the mainstream narrative of hard-hitting environmental documentaries with a “doom and gloom” message, and replace it with one of hope and courage. Along the way, we meet a prince, a president, a pirate, and also an island chief — among others — who are all playing a role in the quest to save the planet.

Mixing colourful character-driven stories and hand-rendered animations, THE MAP TO PARADISE is a rare urgent environmental wake-up call that retains a sense of awe and wonder for the kind of beauty that is still possible.

Running time: 95 minutes
Rating: PG

More info: www.themaptoparadise.com

EMBARGOED until 5AM 17.09.19 - New Climate Council Ecosystems Report

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

(From Climate Council)

Tomorrow the Climate Council will release our latest report: This Is What Climate Change Looks Like.

This report highlights recent examples of the devastating impacts climate change is having on our natural ecosystems and unique wildlife. As predictions about climate change increasingly become observations, we are witnessing firsthand the impact of more frequent and severe weather events.

The report has the following key findings:

  • Climate change is the last straw for many species already facing a litany of threats from human activity including stress from land-clearing, over-harvesting and invasive feral animals.
  • Australia has one of the highest rates of species extinction in the world and now holds the first record of a mammalian extinction due to climate change.
  • Ecosystems from the Top End to Antarctica, in terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments, are being rapidly transformed by the impacts of heatwaves, droughts and severe fires.
  • Australia’s high greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to increasingly severe changes in the climate system, which means further deterioration of our environment is inevitable.

Australia needs to take a bolder approach to conservation to ensure our species and ecosystems are resilient and protected into the future. To do this, we must also achieve deep and rapid cuts to greenhouse gas emissions to keep temperature rise to well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Attached is a copy of the report, please note as this report is currently under embargo the hyperlink above will be live tomorrow morning.

Report: What Climate Change Looks like

Striking for our future

Saturday, 14 September 2019

(From Environmental Justice Australia)

Three days before the UN Emergency Climate Summit, millions of students in Australia and around the world will be striking for their future.

Climate change is happening now and the students who are inheriting our planet will be left to deal with the consequences if we don’t act.

Our future leaders are demanding immediate action from our government to address the global climate crisis.

Our team at EJA will be out in full force to support the students in this fight. Will you join us?

Greta Thunberg began her solitary strike a year ago, outside Sweden’s Parliament. Since then, she has inspired millions of kids including Australian teens from Castlemaine who grew the movement throughout the country.

Australia is already suffering the effects of this climate crisis -- drought, floods, bushfires, cyclones and heatwaves. We’ve even recorded the first mammal extinction due to climate change.

It’s time to ramp up climate solutions, not open the floodgates to new coal, oil and gas projects.

We understand that attending a climate strike isn’t an option for everyone, there are many other ways to show your solidarity and support.

Inaction over climate change will affect all of us if we don’t act now.

Did you see what happened on Tuesday?

Friday, 13 September 2019

(From 350.org Australia)

Last week we wrote to you about our Future Fund – Australia’s national wealth of $200 billion which is currently still invested in coal, oil and gas industries that are rapidly decimating the possibility of a safe climate future.

We know that our Future Fund can’t benefit future Australians while it remains invested in fossil fuels.

That is why we headed to Parliament House on Tuesday, led by savvy school students and a team of allies. Together, we let our country’s leaders know that Australians want our national wealth invested in the opportunities of tomorrow, not industries of the past.

We need to demonstrate that an overwhelming number of Australians support a Future Fund divested of fossil fuels. Can you sign and share this petition to show you’re with us?

New polling released this week shows that 68% of Australians support the Future Fund divesting from fossil fuels by 2030. This issue is a no-brainer, and students leading on this issue have illustrated it clearly.

In the words of Year 12 student Kate Grimwood, who joined us on Tuesday, “my generation is demanding change so that ourselves and all following generations can have a safe and liveable future to look forward to. The Future Fund is a perfect platform on which our leaders can act.”

Our demands are already drawing the attention of our politicians, This week, we want to gather the numbers to prove that the public is in favour of a cleaner, brighter Future Fund.

We’re excited to watch this campaign grow as Australians from all walks of life unite for a Future Fund invested in a safe climate and the industries of tomorrow.

From ambition to action: Ecosperity 2019 recapped

Friday, 13 September 2019

(From Eco-Business Partnerships)


It has been almost a year since a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that we have just over a decade to cut emissions if we are to avoid climate calamity.

Are we doing enough to tackle what Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently called a matter of "life and death"? According to a United Nations report in June, Asia is on course to miss all of the Sustainable Development Goals. So how do we accelerate the pace of change?

The 2019 Ecosperity conference explored how to find the solutions to quicken the shift to a low-carbon, resource-efficient future. From tipping cascades to exponential curves, here are the biggest stories from the sustainability event of the year.

From tipping cascades to exponential curves: 5 things we learned at Ecosperity 2019

This year’s Ecosperity conference explored how to get Asia’s circular economy spinning, speed up Southeast Asia’s clean energy transition, and better manage the region’s dwindling water resources.

Read More

Download the 2019 Ecosperity Post-Conference Report here.

A message from the office

Friday, 13 September 2019

Good afternoon,

Householders’ Options to Protect the Environment (HOPE) is keen to broaden its contact base of “like-minded” envNGOs and businesses promoting sustainability.

So, if you know of an agency promoting ‘sustainability’, please let the office know by emailing your suggestions to office@hopeaustralia.org.au at your earliest convenience.


Frank Ondrus, Office Manager – HOPE Inc., ph 07 4639 2135

Position available: Qld Climate & Energy campaigner

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

About the Role

The Climate and Energy Campaigner will lead QCC’s new campaign to accelerate Queensland’s transition away from polluting coal and gas power to 100% clean renewable energy. This will be a state-level campaign with a clear set of goals and objectives, to reduce climate pollution from Queensland’s electricity sector, in line with the latest climate science.

Although this is a 12-month contract, QCC aims to secure funding to continue the campaign beyond the first year and expand the campaign budget to enable us to meet our goals.

The Climate and Energy Campaigner will report to the Director, work closely with the staff team and QCC’s member groups and allies. Some travel will be required within Queensland and interstate. Your major areas of responsibility will be:

  • Develop campaign strategy
  • Mobilise supporters
  • Implement campaign tactics
  • Work cooperatively with campaign partners
  • Raise the profile of the campaign
  • Persuade decision makers
  • Project management & fundraising

We are looking for someone who is passionate about tackling climate change and has at least 2-3 years of experience in an advocacy or community campaigning role. Knowledge of climate and energy issues in Queensland is preferred, but not essential. This will be an exciting and challenging role that could have a big impact on the future of renewable energy in Queensland and deliver significant cuts in climate pollution. It provides the opportunity to shape the direction of the campaign from the beginning, and extend your skills in new directions.

The full selection criteria and more information about the role can be found in the position description, which can be downloaded below. Applicants who meet some, but not all, of the selection criteria are still encouraged to apply.

Salary $76,000 plus superannuation and leave loading.

Link to job advert including full position description and instructions on how to apply

Cruelty Concerns for Gene Edited Animals, More Than Reputation At Risk

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

(From GE Free New Zealand)

New Zealand exporters and government Ministers must speak out against deregulation of gene editing in Australia, and call for both countries to maintain world class ethical, safety and traceability standards. International trust in the reputation of Australian and New Zealand product is at risk if controls on GE are sidelined.

Australia could become one of the first countries in the world to deregulate several new genetic modification (GM) techniques in animals, plants and microbes if government plans succeed. Anyone could use techniques like CRISPR to genetically modify animals without the regulator or the public knowing.(1)

It is not just the fate of New Zealand's reputation and food safety standards that are at risk because of decisions in Australia.

The new GM methods are being used to develop more muscular and disease resistant livestock, designed to endure confinement without getting sick; and to create animals that never reach sexually maturity so they eat less food.

"The risk of extreme animal cruelty is increased if a wild west of gene editing is allowed," said Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-Free NZ (in food and environment).

There is urgent need for the re-establishment of the Bioethics Council that was set up at the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification but then abolished by the government.

(1) https://www.foe.org.au/keep_gm_animals_off_our_farms
(2) https://www.gefree.org.nz/assets/pdf/GE-Animals-in-New-Zealand.pdf

Jon Carapiet- spokesman 0210 507 681

Toowoomba region only -- Email of Support Request - Petition to TRC from Toowoomba for Climate Action

Monday, 9 September 2019

(From Toowoomba for Climate Action)

I am writing today to ask if you would be willing to write a short letter or email of support for Toowoomba for Climate Action before the end of this week about our current petition to TRC asking them to form a Climate Change Advisory Committee.

We are submitting our petition next week and have several Councillors supportive of our request. We know having the support of the wider community will give us the best chance possible of having a positive result. If you could also forward to other community leaders who you think would be interested in supporting us we would be very grateful.

Because the climate crisis affects all aspects of our society, whatever issue you care about will be affected by it and supported by an advisory committee.

  • Care about Toowoomba as your much loved home? The CSIRO is predicting if things don't urgently change we will have five straight months over 30 degrees and no true winter by 2050. What does this mean for our way of life and industries?
  • Care about public transport and bike riding? We need to reduce emissions to counter climate change and this will be a key part of the solution.
  • Care about refugees and human rights? Climate change is making large areas of the planet uninhabitable and forcing people out of their homelands and into conflict. For example Syria had its worst drought in recorded history forcing regional people to the city which was a large contributor to the unrest.
  • Care about retaining habitat and wildlife? Climate change is making animals and plants who have evolved over millions of years unable to adapt to the quickly changing temperatures. We also need trees and wildlife to draw carbon out of the atmosphere.

Full text of what we're asking for here: http://chng.it/L6Nqgd5m - We therefore ask Council to: Respond urgently and strategically to current and predicted impacts of climate change by forming an ‘Advisory Committee’ to guide Council on these issues and assist with developing mitigation and adaptation policies and actions for our community.

It would be absolutely amazing if you could send an email of support this week to all of the Councillors at once:

Emails to copy and paste into your email - also include us so we can see who has supported us: Paul.Antonio@tr.qld.gov.au; Carol.Taylor@tr.qld.gov.au; Nancy.Sommerfield@tr.qld.gov.au; Geoff.Mcdonald@tr.qld.gov.au; Megan.OHaraSullivan@tr.qld.gov.au; James.O'Shea@tr.qld.gov.au; Mike.Williams@tr.qld.gov.au; Bill.Cahill@tr.qld.gov.au; Chris.Tait@tr.qld.gov.au; Joe.Ramia@tr.qld.gov.au; Anne.Glasheen@tr.qld.gov.au; tba4climateaction@gmail.com

A bit of a template:

Dear TRC Councillors,

Introduce yourself: Outline who you are and a brief summary of why you are writing. Say you are a member of their electorate. State your position in your organisation/s. It can also be helpful to briefly set out your personal, such as whether you’re a parent/grandparent, have lived and/or worked in the electorate for a long time, or your involvement with local organisations.

Why you are writing: Make it clear what your specific concerns are and set out them out briefly in your own words. Refer to your own personal experiences with the issue and highlight how this issue affects the broader community. Eg we support establishing an Advisory Committee to build on the work council is already doing to move to a clean energy future and respond to increasingly unstable weather patterns.TRC’s 2019 Planning Scheme Review states that due to climate change our region can expect “higher temperatures, hotter and more frequent hot days, harsher fire weather, more intense downpours and less annual rainfall,” and council asked the community to provide feedback on how we can prepare for this. A Climate Change Advisory Council would be a positive next step from identifying the problem to implementing budgeted council wide responses that suit our local community. In particular our group is interested in .....

What you want: State clearly what you want the Councillor to do. Eg Please respond and let me know if you will support the petition from Toowoomba for Climate Action to form a Climate Change Advisory Committee.

Provide your contact details: Either 'I can be contacted on [insert phone number] or at [insert email address].' Or under your name below.

Yours faithfully,
[name, address, email and phone - must be included if you want a reply]

September#ClimateStrikes --- A message of hope

Monday, 9 September 2019

(From GetUp)

My name's Jean — I'm 15, I live in Birchgrove, and in two weeks, I'm helping to lead a global strike.

It all started a year ago, at 11:30pm on a school night. I saw a Facebook post about some students organising a climate strike in Melbourne, so I emailed them straight away. Before I knew it, I was leading the Sydney #ClimateStrike!

That first strike, we were expecting five hundred people — 5000 turned up. The next strike, 30,000 people came. I remember watching crowds of kids flood the streets; it was a sea of bright colourful posters and powerful chants - I thought my ears might explode!

But a whole year later, this government is still refusing to listen. So we have two options: give up, or get louder. And I'm not giving up.

We're organising the biggest Student #ClimateStrike yet on Friday, September 20, and this time we're asking everyone, everywhere — parents, grandparents, workers, and everyday Australians — to join us. Are you in?

When: Friday 20 September
Where: Over 60 locations across Australia
Who: Everyone! Bring all your friends and family!
RSVP: getup.org.au/climate-strikes-global

I believe that my future can be bright. I want to keep exploring the world with all its colour and wonder. And one day, I want to show my kids those things too.

I imagine a future of green energy, land rights and renewable jobs. The science is there: we can stop climate change, create jobs, and protect our future. But we need politicians to act.

Sometimes politicians say we should write letters or protest on weekends instead. But we've been doing that for years. The truth is, they want us to keep doing those things because they're easier to ignore.

But when hundreds of thousands of us take to the streets and show that we're willing to sacrifice school or work to protect our future – everyone's forced to notice. We spark conversations in newspapers, parliaments and lounge rooms, and bit by bit, that's how we build change.

The government doesn't want us to strike because they know that if enough of us do, eventually we will win.

For our future,


Its time to get active on gene technology

Sunday, 8 September 2019

(From Organic Industries of Australia)

Imminent deregulation may significantly affect our industry

A few weeks ago we let you know that OIA Ltd had written to the Health Minister and several other key parliamentarians expressing grave concerns about the Australian Government's plans to deregulate gene editing technology.

Australian organic exports rely on our produce meeting the organic standards as set by the importing countries. In China, Europe and other markets, SDN1 and CRISPR–CAS9 technology does not comply with those standards. With the Government’s deregulation, Australian organic product may no longer be certified as organic in those and other premium export markets. We have produced a fact sheet to help you understand the implications.

The Senate will consider on 17 September a motion to disallow the Government's deregulation instrument.

The Labor Party will meet on Tuesday morning (10 September) to determine its position on the disallowance motion. Its imperative that the ALP and the cross-bench combine to disallow this deregulation until:

  • the trade implications have been fully considered by a Senate inquiry
  • proper consideration is given to the implications for Australian consumers of organic products
  • a proper risk assessment and cost benefit-analysis of the deregulation is undertaken

You can make a difference by:

There is useful information on our website to help you. Or you can contact us at enquiries@organicindustries.com.au.

Not-for-Profit Finance Week is almost here!

Friday, 6 September 2019

(From Commonwealth Bank(

Not-for-Profit Finance Week 2019 (September 16 to 20) is just around the corner.

This is a celebration of ideas, knowledge and financial capacity-building for the $100 billion Australian Not-for-Profit sector.

This year, Commonwealth Bank and Our Community are pleased to bring you an information-packed series of free webinars and presentations. Hear from experts on some of the hottest topics, trends and issues facing NFPs.

For full list of presentations and registration, click here.

Action to keep all GM Organisms regulated - Quick and Easy

Friday, 6 September 2019

(From Gene Ethics)

A new GM-free action. Please do it now and share.

Keep regulations on all GM methods including new CRISPR Gene Manipulation processes and products

Quick and easy to tell your own MP and Senators:

Message the ALP to back the Greens disallowance (before Tuesday):

All GMOs are now regulated but the Morrison government wants to exempt many GM animals, plants and microbes so they fly in under the regulator's (OGTR) radar, unregulated, unlicensed and untraceable. There will be a GM free for all, with the OGTR, governments and the public in the dark.

We need the Greens, ALP, and the cross-bench to say NO!! to deregulation in the Senate on September 17th. The ALP will decide its position next Tuesday, September 10th, so please take action now. Without them we won't have the numbers to keep GM regulated.

Why is Australia’s Future Fund invested in industries of the past?

Friday, 6 September 2019

(From 350.org Australia)

You may remember that Australia has a national wealth fund – our ‘Future Fund’ – of over $200 billion that is invested globally for the benefit of future generations of Australians.

This collective wealth is designed to work for us. But currently, our Future Fund is caught up in the industries we have long known are putting our survival at stake – fossil fuel industries that extract and burn coal, oil, and gas and are rapidly pushing us to climate catastrophe.

We don’t need to tell you how illogical this is. But the Guardians of the Future Fund – chaired by our former treasurer, the Hon. Peter Costello – haven't been paying this issue the attention it deserves. That's why today we're joining with allies to launch a big campaign aiming to rid our Future Fund of investments that are destroying our future.

Sign this petition to the Guardians of the Future Fund asking them to divest our national wealth fund from polluting fossil fuels

Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly how much the Future Fund invests in fossil fuels. That is part of the problem. New research, however, shows that nearly three quarters of Australians believe these investments should be made transparent and publicly available – after all, this wealth belongs to all of us.

We do know, however, that the Future Fund has realigned its investments due to ethical considerations before. In the past, Guardians have made good ethical decisions to divest from tobacco and certain armaments industries, on account of their clearly detrimental impacts to our collective future.

The climate crisis poses an existential threat to our futures and warrants a similarly serious response.

But there are not only good ethical reasons to divest from fossil fuels. It is a sound commercial decision to invest in the industries of the 21st century, rather than those of the 19th. Around the world to date, more than A$12 trillion has been divested from funds containing fossil fuels, and this number is only set to grow.

$200 billion is no small amount, and it is invested in all our names. If we all join together and demand a truly clean Future Fund that doesn’t jeopardise our futures, we can leave future Australians a legacy they deserve.

BirdLife Australia: Our yearly report back on all the birds you’ve saved!

Friday, 6 September 2019

(From BirdLife Australia)

We’ve come a long way since 1901 from BirdLife Australia’s roots as the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union.

As Australia’s only national bird conservation charity, our threatened birds rely on us to protect them and ensure their futures are safe and free from danger.

Thanks to you, we can continue to grow and develop our vital work to help more birds, and this past year we’ve worked with 124 different species!

Our latest Supporter Impact Report contains some of our most inspiring stories from the last year.

Download and read the report here

Some highlights from the report and how you’ve helped:

  • Over one million hours were put in by our dedicated volunteers. We would literally be lost without them!
  • 56,000 people signed a petition and saved Christmas Island and the Abbott’s Booby from phosphate mining!
  • 2,391 volunteers took part in 9,028 surveys across the country. This acts as an early warning system for our native birds!
  • Over 500 migratory shorebirds have used our floating roosts we’ve been trialling in South Korea!
  • 76,918 people participated in the 2018 Aussie Backyard Bird Count providing us with a critical snapshot of bird numbers across Australia!
  • The Mallee Emu-wren is now back in South Australia!
  • We found new populations of King Island Brown Thornbills!

We’d love to hear from you with any feedback or questions you might have. Feel free to give our helpful team a call on (03) 9347 0757 or email development@birdlife.org.au.

Bringing them back from the brink

Friday, 6 September 2019

(From Environmental Justice Australia)

We are lucky to live in a country filled with some of the most beautiful and unique wildlife in the world.

But right now, we are in the midst of an extinction crisis and we’re losing precious wildlife at an alarming rate.

Australia has lost more animals to extinction than any other country in the world.

This is not something we want to be a world leader in. If our government doesn’t act now, what we stand to lose is unimaginable.


National Threatened Species Day this Saturday 7 September marks the death of the last known Tasmanian Tiger in 1936.

The Tassie Tiger may be gone forever but there are still hundreds of other precious animals we can save from extinction, like the beautiful Black-Throated Finch and the Leadbeater’s Possum.

Story of Plastic the movie

Friday, 6 September 2019

(From the Break Free from Plastic)

STORY OF PLASTIC is getting ready to be released to the world!

“The film represents a journey of the entire plastic pollution life cycle and the #breakfreefromplastic heroes fighting to change an unjust system and galvanizing a global movement.”
- Stiv Wilson, Executive Producer, Story of Plastic

Our first stop is the Mill Valley Film Festival for the grand premier on October 6th. Stay tuned for more details on how YOU can get involved!

See details here.

A Third of Australia's GDP at Immediate Risk

Thursday, 5 September 2019

(From GM-Free Australia Alliance)

A decision to deregulate some GM techniques from the Gene Technology Regulations 2001 will be decided by the Senate before 17th September, 2019.

"If approved, this is the biggest threat to agriculture that we have ever faced" said Julie Newman, National Spokesperson for the Network of Concerned Farmers and past Vice President of WAFarmers Grains Council.

"A third of Australia's GDP is at risk as markets cannot purchase unapproved GM varieties and it is too difficult and too expensive to segregate to the zero level required."

"Importers have standard GM regulation that exclude the new GM techniques and they will be regarded by markets to be unapproved GM varieties.

"An associated zero tolerance of unapproved GM and has resulted in markets refusing to buy from any area at risk of contamination," explained Ms Newman.

"Our key marketers have not been involved in the decision at all."

"Senate would be negligent to approve these changes without a comprehensive economic report, and a plan of how industry can manage to segregate and market any produce from the area growing new unapproved GM varieties. To date, the benefits to Government research sector has been overstated and serious risks have been ignored."

No country in the world has commercially released GM wheat due to the economic risk involved. These amendments would pave the way for Australia to be the first to take this risk.

Please contact Julie Newman Ph 0427 711 644 Available in Melbourne for TV interviews.

Australian Organic Industry position on SDN1 deregulation

Thursday, 5 September 2019

(From GM-Free Australia Alliance)

The attached letter spells out AOL's opposition to SDN1 deregulation. Their position appears to have been mis-communicated to us.

For instance, the AOL letter says, "AOL reached out to Minister and Shadow Minister's offices across Department of Agriculture, Industry, Trade and Health and has ongoing dialogue with Minister McKenzie's office. AOL has had two meetings with Minister Andrews Senior Advisor and Mr Fitzgibbons Chief of Staff regarding these matters."

I suggest we now seek to assist Niki Ford to lobby widely, especially to garner more support for ALP and cross bench opposition to the regulation.

Bob from GM-Free Australia Alliance

View letter

Tasmania to change GMO regulations to protect brand status

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

(From GM-Free Australia Alliance)

The government has decided it will regulate gene-editing technology in light of federal regulatory changes.

Under the National Gene Technology Scheme, organisms modified using the SDN-1 technique will no longer be regulated as a genetically modified organism.

This is because organisms modified by this technique are considered indistinguishable from organisms that have naturally occurring mutations.

Primary Industries Minister Guy Barnett said this decision by the federal government did not pose a risk to the 10-year extension of the state's GMO moratorium.

"However, it may create issues for businesses that export to markets where SDN-1 modified organisms continue to be considered or regulated as GMOs," he said.

Mr Barnett said a regulation would be made under the state's Gene Technology Act to ensure that SDN-1 modified organisms were regulated as GMOs in the agri-food sector for marketing purposes.

Read full article here.

Threat to Australia’s Food and Agriculture: The Deregulation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

(From Acres Australia - Issue No.101, September 2019. pp.64-65)

The object of the Gene Technology Act 2000 (Cth) is “to protect the health and safety of people, and to protect the environment, by identifying risks posed by or as a result of gene technology, and by managing those risks through regulating certain dealings with GMOs” (CoA, 2000, s 3). It was stated at the time that: “The definition of ‘genetically modified organism’ in the GT Act was intentionally cast very broadly to ensure that the definition did not become outdated and ineffectual in response to rapidly changing technology” (CoA, 2001).

Australia's Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) is over-reaching its remit by pursuing changes to the definition of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). These changes would exclude many GMOs from regulation (CoA, 2019). In rewriting and narrow-casting the definition of GMOs, the OGTR is acting as a rogue regulator and is attempting to change the intent of the Act. The role of the OGTR is to regulate. To make the regulations as well as administer them is procedural misfeasance. It is an affront to the principle of the separation of powers.

Read the full article by Dr John Paull from the University of Tasmania here.