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Thought Leader Series

April 22, 2014

William-McDonough-2013-Lynne-Brubaker-PhotoA Thought Leader Series Piece

By William McDonough

Note: William McDonough is a globally recognized leader in sustainable development. Trained as an architect, Mr. McDonough’s interests and influence range widely, and he works at all scales. Mr. McDonough has written and lectured extensively on design as the first signal of human intention.

Living in the age of cities
We live in the age of cities, in the midst of the most dramatic transformation of urban life and the urban landscape the world has ever seen. Cities have always been engines of growth, innovation and opportunity, drawing people from afar since the ancient settlements of Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Indus, and the Yellow River gave urban form to “a certain energized crowding” along their alluvial plains.

But urbanization on a global scale has happened in a heartbeat. It took more than 5,000 years of human development for the world’s urban population to approach one billion, in the early 1960s, but in the short half-century since it has more than tripled, reaching 3.5 billion in 2010. By 2030, according to the latest United Nations estimates, five billion people will live in cities, nearly half of them making their lives in homes, schools, workplaces and parks that do not yet exist.

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Guggenheim Fellowship granted to sustainability scientist

April 17, 2014

emily-talenEmily Talen, a senior sustainability scientist and professor in ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, has been chosen for one of this year’s prestigious Guggenheim Fellowships. The fellowship program selected 178 scholars, artists and scientists from among almost 3,000 applicants on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise.

Talen, who holds the fellowship from July 2014 through June 2015, intends to use it to compose a book about neighborhoods. The book, to be published by the University of Chicago Press, will compare neighborhoods throughout time and in places with varying cultures. With over 2,000 sources on the topic already, Talen aims to determine what urban form means for social interactivity – for example, do certain city patterns create a “sense of community”?

“The book is ‘all things neighborhood.’ I’ll explore how they’re idealized, abstracted, attributed effects, designed, bounded, fought over,” Talen explains. “My task is to try to make sense of it all, tease out the big picture and think about what neighborhoods have to do with the future sustainable city.”

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Professor expounds on need for narrative in sustainability journal

April 16, 2014

Sustainability JournalIn the April 2014 issue of Sustainability: The Journal of Record, Senior Sustainability Scientist and School of Sustainability Professor of Practice George Basile and co-author Scott McNall expound on the necessity for a new sustainability narrative in their second installment on the subject.

In their article, “How to Create a New Narrative for Sustainability That Will Work: And Why It Matters, Part 2,” McNall and Basile draw from social movement theory to illustrate how humans make decisions. They demonstrate that successful movements of the past share several key characteristics, such as a well-defined grievance and a solution that can be achieved. Though the sustainability movement possesses these characteristics, it must do a better job of of aligning its goals with those of its members.

As McNall and Basile conclude, “[The sustainability movement] must be about common values and common needs; it must be framed so that we understand that it is our responsibility to act now! A sustainability narrative will embrace the idea that the problems we face are practical ones, solvable through leadership and innovation at the local as well as the global level.”

Related Article »

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International competition invites electronic waste innovation

April 14, 2014

US-China-ewaste-competitionThe United States and China, two of the world’s biggest electronic waste (e-waste) producers, have joined forces to promote the prevention of e-waste through the U.S.-China Green Electronics Competition. Spearheaded by the Future Tense initiative - a partnership of Arizona State University, New America Foundation and Slate magazine - and China’s Tsinghua University, the competition invites participants to repurpose yesterday’s electronics by using them to repair an existing product, develop a new product or create artwork.

With rapid advances in technology, electronics tend to become obsolete after just a few years. Though approximately 50 million tons of this electronic waste is produced each year, only about 15 to 20 percent is recycled, a cause for significant concern for both human and environmental health. Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives Director Patricia Reiter said, “Supporting the sustainable efforts of preventing e-waste on the international level represents a tremendous opportunity for inspiring innovation and cultural exchange.”

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Sustaining spirit through soccer and celebration

April 13, 2014

EDSCIn a salute to the community spirit that drives local and global progress, soccer, sunshine and sustainability converged for the first bi-continental, co-ed Earth Day Soccer Classic soccer tournament on April 12. As community soccer teams took to the intramural fields near the Sun Devil Fitness Complex on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus, schoolchildren in the African city of Accra, Ghana played on a field lit by solar technology.

An Earth Day Celebration and Expo – with green-themed, family-friendly activities and entertainment – accompanied the soccer tournament, which showcased the One World Futbol. This innovative, nearly indestructible soccer ball never needs a pump and never goes flat – even when punctured. The tournament balls were donated to the Tempe Boys & Girls Club, while tournament proceeds provided soccer clubs in Accra, Ghana with this ultra-sustainable product.

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ASU aids sustainability certification through new partnership

April 10, 2014

phx-downtown-busi-park_51903085STAR Communities and Arizona State University’s Sustainability Solutions Services have announced a partnership to support local governments that are interested in benchmarking and tracking their sustainability performance. The partnership benefits STAR Community Rating System applicants in that universities are able to facilitate the data collection and reporting necessary for certification, which requires demonstration of sustainability across economic, environmental and social sectors.

“STAR allows the ASU Solutions Services group to help communities conceptualize how their current activities fit into a larger sustainability framework, as well as plan, prioritize and measure progress toward their goals,” said Mick Dalrymple, practice lead for Sustainability Solutions Services. “By becoming a University STAR Affiliate, we can better share, promote, implement and extend solutions that address sustainable approaches to complex community challenges at both a local and global scale.”

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President’s Award recognizes sustainability achievements

April 10, 2014

2014_pas_green_labsIn recognition of the achievements of ASU faculty and staff, ASU President Michael M. Crow presented awards at an April 2 ceremony in the areas of innovation, social embeddedness and sustainability. The President’s Award for Sustainability recognizes ASU teams that have demonstrated excellence in fostering the successful development, implementation and promotion of sustainability principles, solutions, programs and services in the teaching, learning, research and business missions of the university.

Of the four teams recognized in the area of sustainability, two featured members of the Wrigley Sustainability InstituteASU Green Labs, a program implemented by Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S), promotes enhanced awareness of sustainability in university laboratories in an effort to decrease ASU’s overall carbon footprint. The Salt River Waste Diversion Program, a partnership between Salt River Project (SRP) and Sustainability Solutions Services (S3) of the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, seeks to maximize SRP’s waste diversion potential while increasing the amount of materials recycled and reducing the environmental impact caused by its landfill.

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Student-designed desert dwelling returns to Phoenix

April 9, 2014

asunm-solar-decathlon-2013wTwenty-three current and former ASU students from various departments – including the School of Sustainability – were part of the ASUNM team that produced a structure called SHADE (Solar Homes Adapting for Desert Equilibrium). SHADE, which uses building materials and energy systems that are particularly effective and sustainable in a Southwestern desert environment, won fifth place in the architecture category and sixth in the engineering category of the 2013 Solar Decathlon. After making appearances in several states, it has returned to Phoenix and will soon be open for tours.

The Solar Decathlon, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, challenges teams to design and build innovative, affordable, sturdily crafted and comfortable solar-powered houses that produce as much energy as they consume and incorporate other sustainable living features. Students from ASU and University of New Mexico joined forces to form one of 19 teams of college students throughout the world selected to participate in the competition. The ASU students involved in the project hope it sparks further efforts to promote sustainable living.

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Report outlines benefits of thinner Arizonan forests

April 9, 2014

forest_1A report produced by Arizona State University’s Sustainability Solutions Services (S3) and The Nature Conservancy indicates that a thinning process could boost the health of Arizona’s forests while making them more resistant to environmental extremes and strengthening rural economies.The report, titled “Modeling the Economic Viability of Restorative Thinning,” provides an assessment of possible wood processors and consumers, or “business clusters,” if small diameter wood from northern Arizona was sustainably harvested.

The services first surveyed existing businesses, reviewed current and emerging technologies, and toured forest thinning and small diameter wood product operations in Arizona. A generalized model of a forest product supply chain based on small diameter wood was used to investigate industry scenarios in a variety of forested landscapes. Should this practice be adopted, the anticipated benefits include a lessened risk of catastrophic fires, erosion and sedimentation of downstream reservoirs, as well as improved wildlife habitat, protected recreational opportunities and an increase in water for our rivers and communities.

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Addressing climate change through expanded energy access

April 8, 2014

our_high-energy_planet_cover_smIn a report called Our High-Energy Planet, co-authored by Senior Sustainability Scientists Daniel Sarewitz and Netra Chhetri, scholars say that giving the poor access to reliable modern energy offers a promising route to addressing global challenges like climate change. Given the pivotal relationship between abundant energy access and human development, climate change must be addressed within the context of poor nations gaining access to modern energy.

Emphasizing that innovation is the key to reducing emissions while expanding energy access, the report points out that power sectors are growing at breakneck speeds in emerging nations and that their development creates tremendous opportunities. The report is the first of the Climate Pragmatism project, led by Arizona State University’s Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes in partnership with The Breakthrough Institute.

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Study shows arid lands mitigate atmospheric carbon

April 8, 2014

mohave_desert_plotsA national team of researchers, including Arizona State University Senior Sustainability Scientist Kiona Ogle, has discovered that arid lands, among the most expansive ecosystems on the planet, absorb an unexpectedly large amount of carbon otherwise released into the atmosphere. Ogle, an expert with extensive knowledge of both complex datasets and desert ecology, assisted in interpreting the findings.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, comes after a novel 10-year experiment in which researchers exposed plots in the Mojave Desert to elevated carbon-dioxide levels similar to those expected in 2050. The researchers then removed soil and plants down to a meter deep and measured how much carbon was absorbed. These findings give scientists a better handle on the earth’s carbon budget, as well as help to explain the degree to which land-based ecosystems absorb or release carbon dioxide as it increases in the atmosphere.

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Leadership program gives Palestinians roadmap to sustainable energy

April 7, 2014

PalestineRenewableEnergy-LeadershipTrainingRepresentatives from Arizona and Palestine spanned the geographical gap to meet March 24-28 at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus for the Renewable Energy Leadership Training Program. Though thousands of miles apart, the two nations face similar energy challenges – including transmission, funding and technology – making this partnership an ideal opportunity to share struggles and successes.

Throughout the course of the Renewable Energy Leadership Training Program, attendees developed roadmaps toward a sustainable and independent energy system.  Additionally, they had the opportunity to tour local facilities like First Solar, the ASU Solar Power Lab, TÜV Rheinland and the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation on ASU’s Polytechnic campus. Following the program, they will seek to implement their renewable energy projects in Palestine.

The university plans to expand the program in order to provide continued support for energy transformation in both the United States and developing nations.

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Nonprofit wins ASU sustainability award for “urban infill”

April 2, 2014

project-rising-sustainability-solutions-awardLeslie Lindo, co-founder and executive director of Project Rising, was presented with the 2014 Walton Sustainability Solutions Award at Social Venture Partners of Arizona’s “Fast Pitch” competition. The award, given by Arizona State University’s Sustainability Solutions Festival, recognizes Lindo’s vision to foster a stronger, healthier community by reactivating the vacant lots of Phoenix using sustainable building techniques.

“The businesses Project Rising engenders from the community offer long-term employment in Arizona, safe lighting for neighborhoods, community gathering places and social connectivity,” said Kelly Saunders, a “Fast Pitch” judge and project coordinator of the Sustainability Solutions Festival. “Project Rising understands that it is more sustainable and successful to create a community with the community.”

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ASU scientist leads research on saftety of nanoparticles

April 1, 2014

PhD student Heather Stancl, Environmental Engineering, Paul Westerhoff LabThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded a grant of $5 million over the next four years to support the LCnano Network as part of the Life Cycle of Nanomaterials project. The focus of the project, which is led by LCnano Network Director and Senior Sustainability Scientist Paul Westerhoff, is to help ensure the safety of nanomaterials throughout their life cycles – from manufacture to use and disposal.

Nanoparticles, which are approximately 1 to 100 nanometers in size, are used in an increasing number of consumer products to provide texture, resiliency and, in some cases, antibacterial protection. Westerhoff says there remains “a big knowledge gap” about how, or if, nanomaterials are released from consumer products into the environment as they move through their life cycles, eventually ending up in soils and water systems. The multi-university team of engineers, chemists, toxicologists and social scientists will collaborate with industry and government laboratories to find ways of reducing such uncertainties.

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ASU launches ASU Zero Waste initiative

April 1, 2014

zero-waste-dumpster-dive-asuOn April 1, Arizona State University launched the university-wide Zero Waste at ASU initiative to kick off Earth Month 2014. The zero waste principle aims for the diversion and aversion of more than 90 percent of trash from the landfill. Diversion techniques include blue bin recycling, green bin composting and reusing or repurposing; and aversion tactics include reducing or avoiding the use of non-recyclable and non-compostable materials altogether. The initiative hopes to help ASU achieve zero solid waste by 2015.

“As a New American University, ASU is committed to catalyzing social change and enabling students to succeed by being at the cutting edge of a healthy, sustainable learning environment,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “By aiming to become a zero-waste university, ASU is not only making progress toward its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and becoming climate neutral, but also instilling sustainability as a value in our students, staff and faculty, who form the critical mass to significantly impact the institution, as well as their communities.”

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Meet Our Alumni: Jessica Fox

March 31, 2014

Jessica Fox - Alumni ProfileNow working to bring a renewable surface water supply from the Colorado River to Central Arizona, alum Jessica Fox has a long-standing interest in sustainability.

As a high school student in in Canandaigua, New York, Jessica was fascinated by the intersection between environmental science and economics. Wanting to learn more, she enrolled in State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Several years after graduating with a bachelor’s in environmental science and policy, along with a minor in management science from Syracuse University, she decided to pursue a graduate education in water policy.

“Water is obviously much more plentiful in the Northeast, and it’s governed differently there, so I wanted to study how water is allocated and managed under scarce conditions in the Western US,” Jessica says.

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Women help communities cope with troubled shrimp industry

March 28, 2014

MariaCruz-Torres-ClassKnowing how the environment can impact livelihoods, Senior Sustainability Scientist Maria Cruz-Torres focuses her research on the relationship between adequate fishing resources and food security in the western Mexican state of Sinaloa. Here, the shrimp industry serves as a source of both income and food for coastal communities, but is suffering as a result of pesticide and fertilizer overuse. For this reason,  Sinaloa’s women are taking bold measures to help their communities cope.

Cruz-Torres’s research identifies several trends that illustrate the resilience of Sinaloa’s women. Some are migrating north to find work in maquiladoras, border factories run by United States companies in Mexico. Many are also organizing unions and becoming labor activists in an effort to improve working conditions in both the border-town maquiladoras and Sinaloa’s shrimp fisheries. Additionally, more and more are managing small family businesses that sell shrimp within the larger hierarchy of Mazatlan’s seafood processing and marketing industry.

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Climate change will reduce crop yields sooner than expected

March 25, 2014

Climate-Change-Crop-Yields-Netra-ChhetriThough initial research indicated that crop yields in temperate regions like North America and Europe would withstand several degrees of warming, results from a new study co-authored by Netra Chhetri, a senior sustainability scientist at ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, indicate otherwise. The study not only shows that yields in temperate regions will be affected along with those in tropical regions, but that this will occur much sooner than originally anticipated. Beginning in the 2030s, yields from the essential food crops maize, wheat and rice will start to decline significantly.

After creating a new dataset by compiling results from 1,700 published simulations, Chhetri and his team evaluated the impacts of climate change on crop yields with and without adaptations for rice, maize and wheat. Due to increased interest in the impacts of climate change on global food security, the researchers were able to amass the largest dataset to date on crop responses. Their paper, “A meta-analysis of crop yield under climate change and adaptation,” published March 16 by the journal Nature Climate Change, feeds directly into the Working Group II report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report.

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Student Spotlight: Jesus Chavez

March 25, 2014

jesus-chavez-300x200Jesus Chavez is a senior in the Urban Dynamics track within the School of Sustainability. An alumnus of El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera, California, Chavez graduates in May 2014 with a bachelor’s in both Sustainability and Urban Planning.

Chavez is energetic in his pursuit of implementable solutions to urban planning predicaments in both his studies and extra-curricular work. In August 2014, he begins an urban planning internship with a private consulting firm in Spain.

Why did you choose ASU?

The School of Sustainability is the major reason I chose ASU, a one-of-a-kind institution tackling wicked problems on a local to global scale. The fact that it is a top-ranked institution for both Sustainability and Urban Planning solidified my decision to get the most out of my education here.

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In Defense of the Earth and Women’s Rights: Four Decades of Evolution of a Philosophy and Activism

Thought Leader Series

March 21, 2014

Vandana-Shiva-EcofeminismA Thought Leader Series Piece

By Dr. Vandana Shiva

Note: March is Women’s History Month, a tribute to the generations of women whose commitment to nature and the planet have proved invaluable to society. Dr. Shiva, originally a theoretical physicist, is an environmental activist, author and expert in ecofeminism. She will present a Wrigley Lecture during the Fall 2014 semester.

Over the last four decades, I have served grassroots ecological movements, beginning in the 1970s with the historic Chipko (Hug the Tree) Movement, in my region of Central Himalaya. In every movement I have participated in, it was women who led the actions, and women who sustained actions to protect the earth and the sources of their sustenance and livelihoods.

Women of Chipko were protecting their forests because deforestation and logging was leading to floods and droughts. It was leading to landslides and disasters. It was leading to scarcity of fuel and fodder. It was leading to the disappearance of springs and streams, forcing women to walk longer and farther for water.

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