December 18, 2012
A report by more than 60 federal, academic, and other scientists, including lead authors from the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Wildlife Federation, and Arizona State University, warns that climate change is having immediate negative effects on natural systems and wildlife. As the global temperature rises, the timing and geographic ranges of many innate processes animals go through, like breeding and migrating, are being shifted, causing an imbalance.
“These geographic range and timing changes are causing cascading effects that extend through ecosystems, bringing together species that haven’t previously interacted and creating mismatches between animals and their food sources,” said Nancy Grimm, a sustainability scientist at ASU and a lead author of the report.
These changes can influence survival for many species and can affect humans, too. The ecosystem services we depend on, like food, clean water, and wood products, can suddenly change and become scarce.
The report is one of many to be included in the 2013 U.S. National Climate Assessment, a federally required assessment of climate change and its impacts.
December 18, 2012
Sustainability scientist and professor Ann Kinzig says, while we do measure the bounty that nature provides, we fail to measure the intrinsic wealth that’s found in natural goods. That’s the reason why our inclusive wealth is not growing, and one of the reasons why we haven’t achieved sustainability.
“On our national accounting and indices, we track some forms of wealth but not others,” Kinzig, a professor in the School of Sustainability and School of Life Sciences, says. “And when we don’t track something, we are sending the signal that it is not important – that we don’t need to take care of it.”
Kinzig discussed natural capital and the wealth of nature at the Arizona Science Center on Oct. 26. As part of Arizona State University’s partnership with the Arizona Science Center, Kinzig was one of three prominent university researchers giving “lightning lectures,” or five minute talks about everything ranging from technology, to the environment, to health.
December 17, 2012
Growing up in Phoenix, sustainability and Spanish literature senior Kim Pearson was first introduced to the basics of sustainability through class projects on issues such as deforestation.
“I first heard the term, ‘sustainability’ when watching a documentary and I thought, ‘Now I can give a name to what I’ve been interested in all these years,’” she says.
Pearson is graduating from the School of Sustainability with an emphasis in sustainable economics because she wants to understand the economic policies behind agriculture and trade.
“I have been interested in sustainability concepts since elementary school, as I began to learn about environmental issues and their relation to human behavior, politics and economics,” Pearson says.
December 17, 2012
Tim Exposito’s interest in construction is nothing new. At 16, he helped his brother build a house. In high school, he worked at a cousin’s construction business. During his high school senior year, Exposito spent his mornings at a construction site and his afternoons in the classroom.
His passion for sustainability has always been there, too.
“I’ve always written papers about recycling, impacts and implications,” Exposito says. “Sustainability has always been a fascination of mine. It’s always been a goal of mine to reuse something instead of throwing it away. I do this in construction and everyday as much as possible.”
Now, Exposito gets to combine construction and sustainability in his career.
December 17, 2012
Most five year olds may be more concerned with cartoon TV shows rather than their neighborhood community garden. But Braden Kay started his life mission early – at a local youth garden when he was just a kid.
“I grew up in Washington, D.C., and saw the challenges of providing quality services to an economically and racially segregated city,” he says. “From starting at the local youth garden at age five, I always wanted to be part of producing solutions that bring diverse people together to make their city better with opportunity for all.”
Kay says it was ASU President Michael Crow’s vision of Arizona State University as a New American University that drew him to the School of Sustainability to study urban development and sustainability challenges.
“The School of Sustainability provided me with the opportunity I was looking for – to become a world-class urban solution developer,” he says.
December 13, 2012
Global Institute of Sustainability’s research is profiled in a recent State Press article. State Climatologist Nancy Selover and Senior Sustainability Scientist Nalini Chhetri both warn that the urban heat island effect, especially in the Valley, may have quicker repercussions than global warming.
Since development in the Phoenix metropolin area exploded in the 1970s, the urban heat island effect has taken its toll.
“Now, because of the heat island, we are seeing nighttime temperatures in the low 90s a lot more than we used to,” Selover says. “The record high at night is 96, and we’re hoping we don’t end up seeing it go above that.”
So what can people do? Chhetri advises implementing xeriscapes, providing shade whenever possible, and planting native trees to help mitigate the higher temperatures, which can prove fatal to the elderly, homeless, and low-income populations.
“It’s a combination of technology and lifestyle changes and disseminating knowledge, information, and awareness,” she says. “We must not force people to make decisions or give them doomsday scenarios.”
December 11, 2012
ARIZONA, USA, – December 11, 2012 – As the consumer goods industry continues to drive sustainability throughout the supply chain, there is an increasing need for a globally harmonized science-based approach to measure and communicate product life cycles. Today, a partnership between two leading global organizations was announced that will create tremendous progress in achieving this goal. The Sustainability Consortium (TSC), an independent organization of global participants developing science and integrated tools to support informed decision making for product sustainability across the consumer goods industry and The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), a global industry network with over 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers and other stakeholders are announcing a strategic alliance.
December 11, 2012
The Tempe Republic covered a mayoral forum that took place on Sept. 25. In the Southeast Valley Opinion article, each mayor’s opinions and remarks are recorded regarding sustainability plans and future improvements for Mesa, Tempe, and Phoenix.
Scott Smith, the mayor of Mesa, believes sustainability is “an environmental issue, an economic issue, a planning issue.”
Mark Mitchell, the mayor of Tempe, adds that the hardest challenge in implementing urban sustainability is education.
“The biggest challenge we have is educating the policy makers, making sure we have a good plan, a mass-transit system, to make sure we have the tools to attract economic-development opportunities,” he says.
Greg Stanton, the mayor of Phoenix, advises that sustainability must be taken into consideration now and into the future.
“Push us to be better leaders,” he says. “A lot of people made a lot of money with a sprawl economy. Even when the economy comes roaring back, let’s not do things the same way.”
The mayoral forum was part of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability’s Sustainability Series.
December 10, 2012
American Indians experienced their own civil rights movement during the 1970s and 80s as national legislation was passed that gave tribes the rights to determine their own destinies as sovereign nations.
Groundbreaking acts that were passed during this era addressed American Indian health care, child welfare, education, environmental management and self-determination.
“It was almost a perfect storm in a positive way where things came together through the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act,” said Eddie Brown, professor, sustainability scientist, and executive director of the American Indian Policy Institute in the ASU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “In the past, cities and counties would barely consider dealing with Indian tribes as governments.”
December 10, 2012
After spending countless days in a cubicle working for a local bank, ASU senior Ryan Winkle knew he needed a change. Armed with just his ambition, he applied to ASU in search of a new path and the tools to make a difference in the changing world.
Winkle is currently pursuing dual undergraduate degrees in sustainability and urban planning to fulfill his passion for creating policy changes regarding nutrition and education.
“There is a disconnect now between people and how they get their food. The lettuce you eat is probably from Mexico and your tomatoes from Chile. That’s really far away,” he said.
To assist with more organic and local food opportunities, Winkle teamed up with his friends this fall to begin working on a proposal for a Mesa Urban Garden (M.U.G.) that would unite the local community and bring awareness to sustainable dining.
November 30, 2012
Your yard in the Valley of the Sun may have many commonalities with a yard in wintry Minnesota. The plants you choose, the fertilizer you use, and how you landscape your yard may have a larger, widespread impact than you think.
A recent NY Times article profiled ASU’s Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research‘s four-year NSF project analyzing how and why America’s urban landscapes are starting to look the same. ASU is partnering with universities from Boston, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Miami, and Los Angeles to develop theories to explain what they call “ecological homogenization.”
It is noted in the article that over time, Americans have progressed a single type of landscape preference. The article’s author, Maggie Koerth-Baker, writes:
“Over the course of the last century, we’ve developed those preferences and started applying them to a wide variety of natural landscapes, shifting all places — whether desert, forest or prairie — closer to the norm. Since the 1950s, for example, Phoenix has been remade into a much wetter place that more closely resembles the pond-dotted ecosystem of the Northeast.”
Sharon Hall, a sustainability scientist and project investigator, hopes that CAP LTER’s research will show the impacts of our everyday decisions and the implications of ecological homogenization.
November 29, 2012
Efforts to reduce dependence on conventional energy sources such as fossil fuels and coal is spurred by the desire to alleviate the harmful environmental impacts of carbon dioxide emissions that result from the production and use of these sources.
Researchers are working on using sunlight as a catalyst for a process to produce clean hydrogen fuels, or looking at converting biomass (plant materials) as a clean fuel for power plants.
Arizona State University civil and environmental engineer Mikhail Chester weighs in along with other noted experts on alternative-energy issues in a recent article in a prominent international science magazine.
November 29, 2012
Researchers at Arizona State University are working to identify these unseen contaminants and to measure their effects on human and environmental health.
Some of those unnoticed pollutants are directly linked to consumer practices. Chemicals in the products we use often end up in the water supply. For example, many stain and stick resistant products are made with something called perfluorinated compounds. Their chemistry, which makes them useful in the home, also makes them persistent in the environment. They simply do not degrade.
“What’s needed is a combination of more foresight in the way we pick and produce chemicals and then education of the consumers,” says Rolf Halden, a sustainability scientist and the director of the new Center for Environmental Security in the Biodesign Institute at ASU. “Right now, people are completely in the dark – they don’t even know what they’re buying. If you work with pollution control, the best, most effective way to deal with pollution is to not create pollution.”
November 29, 2012
The Arizona Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council recognized Arizona State University for its accomplishments in achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications for building construction.
ASU received two awards for the number of LEED building certifications in Arizona: Highest LEED Achievement – Most Certifications in Arizona and LEED New Construction – Most Gold Buildings.
“The benefits of attaining LEED certification demonstrates ASU’s dedication to incorporating many sustainable models in the built environment, such as water and energy conservation, and the reduction of landfill waste and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ed Soltero, assistant vice president and university architect at ASU. “LEED silver certification is our minimum target for all new construction across all four ASU campuses.”
November 28, 2012
Arizona State University is joining together with Intel to challenge college and university students everywhere to create more optimistic and engaging stories about sustainable futures.
Tomorrow Project USA, a collaboration between ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination(CSI) and Intel’s Tomorrow Project, is currently hosting a student writing competition, “Green Dreams,” to solicit original stories and essays that envision the beauty of green: fact-based, thoughtfully optimistic visions of the future powered by sustainable living, renewable energy and game-changing technologies.
The competition ends on Saturday, Dec. 1.
November 27, 2012
Note: Bruno Sarda is the director of global sustainability operations at Dell, a consultant for the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, and a faculty member at the School of Sustainability.
Our world faces ‘wicked’ problems.
Wicked problems, as explained by Ann Kinzig, chief research strategist at ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, are challenges that are complex “all the way down.” They resist simple solutions.
Wicked problems include how to deal with a rapidly changing and unstable climate. How to feed a projected 9 billion people on this planet while enabling many to rise out of poverty. And how to do all of the above while respecting the physical boundaries and finite resources of our planet. These problems are the key challenge of sustainability.
November 27, 2012
The Conservation Alliance, a partnership of conservation organizations, parks departments, and Arizona State University researchers, has been awarded a $300,000 grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust to further work on studying, restoring, and promoting Phoenix’s mountain park reserves.
Launched in late 2011, the Alliance brings together Arizona State University’s Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER) program and the School of Life Sciences’ Ecosystem Conservation and Resilience Initiative (ECRI) with the Desert Botanical Garden, Audubon Arizona, the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department, Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department, and the Phoenix Mountains Preservation Council.
The Desert Botanical Garden leads the initiative and was the main recipient of the three-year grant from the Pulliam Trust, which will enable the Alliance to begin work on several projects this winter.
“This grant will allow the Alliance to realize many of its ambitious goals to further the preservation and conservation of the metro area’s open spaces, supporting both recreational enjoyment and ecosystem health now and into the future,” says Nancy B. Grimm, director of CAP LTER and professor in the School of Life Sciences.
The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust awards grants to nonprofit groups focusing on job creation, land preservation, and local cultural enrichment. The Conservation Alliance’s awarded portion is part of the $2.2 million the Trust granted to 24 nonprofit organizations in Arizona in 2012.
November 26, 2012
Many consumers wonder how products are made and what the footprint behind developing, delivering, and purchasing a product is. There are plenty of metrics and tons of information out there tracking a product’s journey from conception to shelf, but what information is correct? Different metrics are supported by different companies and organizations. How does a consumer decide if a product is sustainable?
That’s where The Sustainability Consortium comes in. As an organization made up of 10 universities, several nonprofits, and eighty international companies, The Consortium aims to create an “end all, be all” metric for measuring product sustainability.
Called the “Ultimate Sustainability Index” by the Scientific American, the metric will be used to evaluate the first 100 products ranging from laundry soap to cereal. The data from the index will be more comprehensive than other developed metrics due to large pressure put on suppliers to make their emissions, waste, resource use, and labor practices public.
November 21, 2012
Team FlashFood continues to improve its education in entrepreneurship en route to developing a venture aimed at helping communities alleviate hunger.
Most recently the group of former and current ASU engineering, marketing and sustainability students learned valuable lessons while competing in the 2012 YUM! Global Sustainability Challenge in Louisville, Ken.
The team was one of six finalists selected from among the 40 teams that initially entered the Yum! Challenge. FlashFood members are recent ASU biomedical engineering graduate Eric Lehnhardt, computer science graduates Steven Hernandez and Ramya Baratam, along with marketing and sustainability graduate Jake Irvin, sustainability graduate Loni Amundson and junior materials science and engineering major Katelyn Keberle.
The first-place prize of $15,000 was awarded to Berkeley’s Team EZ Green. A second-place prize of $5,000 went to Louisville. FlashFood earned the Best in Showcase award, voted on by members of the local community attending the event and by YUM! employees.
November 20, 2012
As a key player in sustainability science, Professor Soe Myint uses his background in geospatial statistics and modeling to help policymakers and land users manage resources sustainably. This year alone, Myint was awarded three grants—by the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—a notable accomplishment.
Even though all the projects utilize satellite imagery, each one has different outcomes: understanding how cities alter the environment, identifying drought-tolerant crop species, and advancing satellite imagery methods.
“Researchers at ASU are developing new materials in an effort to solve society’s most pressing problems in energy, health, public safety, sustainability, and other areas,” says Myint. “These projects will help build ASU’s strategic area that seeks to identify the cause of today’s environmental challenges in land use and create solutions that will allow us to preserve our natural resources for the near and distant future.”