January 2, 2014
The modern agriculture system that feeds most of the world’s population relies in large part on phosphorus, a chemical element that is mined from a small number of ancient seabed locations around the world. Phosphorus (in the form of the compound phosphate) is an essential ingredient in fertilizer and is critical for food systems worldwide, but about 75 percent of it is mined and exported from just one country – Morocco.
The United States will become entirely reliant on imports of phosphorous within roughly three or four decades – and as phosphate deposits become more scarce, the price of fertilizer could spike and massively disrupt our food supply.
In a Future Tense article for Slate magazine, ASU’s James Elser, Regents’ Professor in the School of Life Sciences, and Bruce Rittmann, Regents’ Professor of Environmental Engineering and director of the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology, propose a three-part solution to this looming crisis.
December 18, 2013
In partnership with the GreenBiz Group and The Sustainability Consortium, Arizona State University’s Sustainability Solutions Festival will bring the nation’s leaders in sustainable business, renewable energy, research, humanities, and innovation during one week of local events. The Festival is a project under the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, a program part of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability.
“The Sustainability Solutions Festival exemplifies ASU’s endeavor to address the world’s environmental, economic, and social challenges of the twenty-first century through collaborative, transdisciplinary, and solutions-oriented thinking and training,” says Michael M. Crow, president of Arizona State University.
The Festival will take place at various locations across Tempe and Phoenix, beginning Feb. 17 and ending on Feb. 22. Additional partners include Arizona Solar Summit, Arizona Science Center, Arizona SciTech Festival, Sedona Film Festival, and the City of Tempe.
December 18, 2013
Note: Senior Sustainability Scientist Nancy Grimm recently guest edited and authored two articles in the November 2013 edition of the Ecological Society of America’s Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, highlighting current and future implications of climate change for ecosystems. The issue includes work from over 50 scientists who contributed to this part of the U.S. National Climate Assessment.
In 2014, the United States will release its third National Climate Assessment (NCA) based on the efforts of hundreds of scientists and practitioners over a three-year period. During 2011-2012, I served as a senior scientist for the NCA in Washington, DC. I worked with teams who assessed the current and future impacts of human-caused climate change on biogeochemical cycles, ecosystems, and urban systems. These topics are highly interrelated and solutions to climate and global challenges must recognize their interdependence. A sustainable future depends on rethinking the extraction and recycling of Earth’s mineral resources, reducing impacts on ecosystems, and investing in building sustainable cities.
December 17, 2013
Three local start-up businesses that best address sustainability challenges were awarded a total of $6,000 from the Walton Sustainability Solutions Festival, a program under the Global Institute of Sustainability’s Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives. The ventures are supported by SEED SPOT Phoenix, part of the national SEED SPOT program that works with entrepreneurs to bring their socially minded products, technology, or services to market.
Innovative HITECH Healthcare Solutions, awarded $3,000, is developing mobile-friendly apps that connect patients with health care providers for more efficient and satisfactory care. Guardian NPX, awarded $2,000, was chosen for its all-natural, FDA-approved lice removal treatment that lowers student absences. Box Play for Kids was given $1,000 for creating eco-friendly toys out of boxes and recycled stickers. Each winner will be attending the 2014 Sustainability Solutions Festival during Feb. 17-22 in Tempe and Phoenix.
“We are very excited to make these modest awards to these three inspirational, blossoming ventures,” says Patricia Reiter, director of the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives. “Each of these companies creatively address environmental, social and economic challenges through their products and their business plans.”
December 14, 2013
The Arizona Board of Regents Innovation Fund is providing monies for three unique projects organized by researchers from Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and University of Arizona. The money is coming from Arizona’s 0.6 percent state sales tax increase to support colleges.
One project, “LiveData: A Digital Research Infrastructure for Arizona’s 21st Century Universities” led by the Global Institute of Sustainability’s Philip Tarrant, will provide one common platform to store and share Arizona universities’ data and research used to gain additional funding and find future partnerships.
A second, led by Sustainability Scientist Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, studies gut microbes’ role in Autism Spectrum Disorders to improve the lives of children suffering from constant diarrhea or constipation.
Lastly, Sustainability Scientist Rolf Halden is leading a team on the further development of Arizona Environmental Grid Infrastructure Service, an informatic geospatial data system that all three universities can use to conduct environmental studies.
December 3, 2013
According to the latest report compiled by ASU’s Sustainability Solutions Services, a program within the Global Institute of Sustainability’s Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, the City of Phoenix has not only reached its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal, but has exceeded it. The goal, set in 2008, was to reduce emissions from city operations by 5 percent below the 2005 levels by 2015. By 2012, the city managed to reduce emissions by 7.2 percent three years ahead schedule.
“This is great for Phoenix and I’m very excited to see that we may be able to double or even possibly triple the reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions by 2015,” says Mayor Greg Stanton. “We are making Phoenix a cleaner and healthier place to live and work.”
City advancements include energy-efficient street lighting, landfill methane capture systems, alternative fuels, wastewater upgrades, solar power projects, and building retrofits.
December 3, 2013
Arizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) released a 10-year report, “Advancing Science in Support of Water Policy and Urban Climate Change Adaptation at Arizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City: A Synthesis of Interdisciplinary Research on Climate, Water, and Decision-Making Under Uncertainty.” The report summarizes the center’s milestones since its founding in 2004.
Under ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, DCDC has published over 340 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, and supported 69 graduate students who have authored 18 doctoral dissertations and 17 master’s theses. DCDC focuses mostly on water risks and decision-making trade-offs amidst climate change.
December 2, 2013
Arizona State University’s LightWorks is funding a comprehensive training program on renewable energy with An-Najah National University in West Bank. The first training session was on Nov. 17 in Nablus, West Bank and attendees included the Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, officials from the Palestinian Energy Authority, and university representatives including Global Institute of Sustainability Scientist Mike Pasqualetti.
“The objective of this course is to develop a comprehensive training program on renewable energy,” says Sayfe Kiaei, director of Connection One and professor in ASU’s School of Electrical, Energy and Computer Engineering. “The participants included representatives from energy industry, utility companies, policymakers, and energy sectors. After a one-week successful training program at An-Najah, there will be a one-week course at ASU.”
Palestinian energy professionals will meet in 2014 at ASU to complete the training.
November 27, 2013
The recent uprising of innovative energy technologies is profiled in a Phoenix Business Journal article by reporter Hayley Ringle. Currently, “homegrown” power is replacing utility-based power, making large corporations like Arizona Public Service (APS) struggle to keep up. Emerging technologies like solar, wind, and battery storage are driving down costs and making more people turn to renewable energy. Several experts from Arizona State University weigh in, including the Global Institute of Sustainability’s Mick Dalrymple and Harvey Bryan.
Self-sufficient home and business owners with rooftop solar have created a heated energy environment in Arizona, with utilities fighting against it.
“When you’re generating kilowatt-hours behind the meter, for yourself, you’re taking away kilowatt-hours that would ordinarily be sold by the utility,” Bryan says. “You’re competing with them in a way.”
Time will only tell if utilities catch-up with technology.
“One thing is for sure: No industry that has fought to slow or prevent technological innovation has won in the long run,” says Dalrymple. “It is not a winning strategy.”
November 25, 2013
Note: Documentary filmmaker Peter Byck joined the School of Sustainability as a professor of practice this semester. His position is jointly shared with the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where he is now teaching students how to create their own clean energy documentaries.
Can good storytelling lead us to a low-carbon economy? And can I help students become good storytellers? These questions have led me to Arizona State University to become a joint professor of practice for the School of Sustainability and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
The Greeks had an expression that I will roughly paraphrase: “The storyteller rules society.” So the power of good storytelling is clearly not a new idea; but, storytelling has been a tough nut to crack for the folks who aspire to guide us to a low-carbon economy. I think the reason is simple enough: The scientists, engineers, and thought-leaders focused on sustainability are good at what they do; they just are not trained in storytelling. That’s why Carl Sagan became so well-known – a brilliant scientist and a fantastic storyteller – a powerful combination.
For me, documentaries are an excellent way to get a story told. Films aren’t the only storytelling game in town, to be sure, but they are incredibly accessible and easily disseminated now with the World Wide Web. And great documentaries actually change society. The Thin Blue Line proved that by using DNA, many people on death row were actually innocent. Super Size Me literally showed that too much fast food is, indeed, bad for one’s health; at least it was damaging for the filmmaker and his liver.
November 25, 2013
To help achieve Arizona State University’s Zero Waste by 2015 goal, Sun Devil Athletics will host its first-ever zero waste football game this Saturday, Nov. 30 against the University of Arizona Wildcats at Sun Devil Stadium. From then on, all athletic games and stadiums will be zero waste.
Limited trash cans will be available, making game-goers choose between green compost bins and blue recycling bins. Fans can throw away food, liquids, and serviceware (plates, napkins, utensils) in green composting bins while bottles, cans, and paper programs go in blue recycling bins. Representatives from University Sustainability Practices will be on hand to answer questions and educate the public.
This season, each home football game this year has averaged over 60,000 attendees, which creates 25,000 to 30,000 pounds of waste.
November 22, 2013
The Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office Algae Program visited ASU on Nov. 19-20 to host its Algal Biofuels Strategy Workshop for interested stakeholders, scientists, industry professionals, and government officials. ASU staff and faculty from the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI), the AzCATI-led Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3), and the College of Technology and Innovation attended the workshop as well.
“ATP3 welcomed this opportunity to display our capabilities and talents to the workshop attendees and the U.S. Department of Energy,” said Gary Dirks, director of ATP3 and the Global Institute of Sustainability.
Participants applied their knowledge in hands-on training sessions at AzCATI, learning about the current progress of algae research, barriers to algae-based fuels, and metrics.
November 21, 2013
Through a unique partnership between Dell and the School of Sustainability, students get to join Dell’s sustainability team as hourly student workers.
Student sustainability assistants complete ongoing projects, collaborate with other Dell employees, and juggle priorities in an intense corporate sustainability environment. They may get to interact with supply chain management teams in China, business teams in Latin America, employees from within Dell, and people outside Dell, as well.
Since the program’s inception two and a half years ago, more than 15 individuals have participated in the Dell program. Students work from a shared office space in Wrigley Hall, where they are coached and mentored by Bruno Sarda, director of global sustainability operations at Dell, and adjunct faculty at the School.
“Bruno throws you in, and supports you,” says Jaleila Brumand, an alum of the program. “It was a great experience for me.”
November 21, 2013
The second Empowerment for Peace through Leadership in Agribusiness and Sustainability (EmPeace LABS) conference trained agriculture and community leaders from developing countries in Jalgaon, India on October 20-26. Sustainability Scientists Marek Wosinski and Rimjhim Aggarwal organized the conference with partners Gandhi Research Foundation and Jain Irrigation Systems, Ltd. to explore sustainable agribusiness, leadership and community development, peace, and violence prevention.
The conference brought together young community leaders from 18 countries including India, Rwanda, Nigeria and Lebanon, where hunger strikes the hardest. And where there’s hunger, there’s violence.
“When people are hungry, they fight for resources,” Wosinski says, referencing the 2004 United Nations University Report, “Agriculture for Peace.” “If you want to create peace and stability in developing countries, you need to secure food.”
November 20, 2013
In a Slate Future Tense article, Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Brad Allenby writes how today’s technology is masking civilians’ understanding of war. Technologies like biotechnology, nanotechnology, drones, and communications are steadily increasing the gap between civilians and military professionals and making war more “socially acceptable.”
“This is a dangerous complacency in a society where class cleavage and political divisiveness is going stronger, where fewer and fewer institutions provide opportunities that cut across self-selected communities of interest and ideology, and where the divide between civilian and military cultures is already dangerous and growing wider,” writes Allenby, also a Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics and Founding Chair of the Consortium on Emerging Technologies, Military Operations, and National Security.
To compensate for the dangerous gap between experienced military personnel and volunteers, Allenby suggests reinstating the draft. A draft would also improve the public’s understanding of battle practices, policies, and methods.
November 18, 2013
School of Sustainability students, faculty, and staff are welcome to attend this Thursday’s Study Abroad Fair from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Memorial Union, Arizona and Ventana rooms on the ASU Tempe campus. Study abroad program experts will be on hand to answer any questions regarding ASU’s 250 study abroad opportunities. Also get a first-person point of view and advice from students who traveled abroad last year.
New 2014 programs include faculty-directed trips organized by the Global Institute of Sustainability.
“Students who study abroad tell us that they, on average, have an easier time securing a job upon graduation because they have a ‘stand out’ academic experience on their resume,” says Adam Henry, ASU’s Study Abroad Office interim director. “Students indicate that they gain new knowledge and expertise, independence, cultural understanding, the opportunity to discover new places, and a competitive edge upon graduation … while at the same time receiving ASU course credit.”
November 16, 2013
Arizona State University is the 2014 location for the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) Annual Meeting taking place on March 21-23 on the Tempe campus. CGI U promotes and encourages the millennial generation’s motivation towards positive change and impactful entrepreneurship by funding student-created projects and initiatives.
“This conference is building upon the worldwide movement for social entrepreneurship and change that’s at the core of the millennial generation,” said Kaitlin Fitzgerald, student director of Changemaker Central. ”ASU is a great place for that because we are a university that prides itself on showing students how to take the resources and opportunities at their disposal and apply them to real-world challenges.”
School of Sustainability students are encouraged to apply by Nov. 22 with ideas related to one of five focus areas: education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, and public health. For questions, email email@example.com.
November 13, 2013
On Oct. 29-30, ASU hosted 10 members of the senior Vietnamese government and industry officials from the Vinh Phuc Province to collaborate on future projects that will ensure the sustainability of Vinh Phuc. The province is quickly becoming the go-to for manufacturing and foreign investment.
“As part of our province’s growth plan, we are looking for partners in development, especially in the United States,” says Phung Quang Hung, chairman of the Vinh Phuc People’s Committee. “We greatly appreciate the goodwill and assistance the leadership and staff at Arizona State University has accorded to our delegation. We look forward to working with ASU and the Vietnam Higher Engineering Education Alliance in drawing up a cooperation plan in the field of education and training and other areas of development.”
The memorandum of understanding will first bring about collaboration on sustainability efforts then move on to biomedical engineering, public policy training, and sustainable tourism.
November 12, 2013
Peter Byck, director and producer of “Carbon Nation” and a new professor of practice for the School of Sustainability and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is currently teaching students sustainability concepts through documentary-making.
“It’s about solutions and changing students’ careers,” says Byck. “It was a beautiful fit for my next project.”
Students from both schools are divided into three teams investigating solar issues in Arizona. The students will then showcase their documentaries to a live audience at the end of the semester. Byck is also partnering with ASU to create a follow-up to “Carbon Nation” called “Carbon Nation Mach 2.”
November 9, 2013
Dragica Vasileska, also a professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, is leading a research team developing stronger and more reliable photovoltaic solar cells. Funded by the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, Vasileska’s team will receive $1.8 million over three years.
Vasileka says heat, cold, moisture, humidity, and other environmental extremes wear down photovoltaic solar systems. In order to be truly sustainable, systems must be able to weather all kinds of climates. Her team will investigate what exactly causes the degradation of the cells, then develop prevention methods.