Global Institute of Sustainability News

International Authority on Sustainable Engineering

July 29, 2009

Q&A with Brad Allenby

Dr. Brad Allenby

Notion of a controllable insect for surveillance

Allenby and students discuss a case study about population densities

Dr. Brad Allenby is Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics, Professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, and Professor of Law. He is also Founding Director of the Center for Earth Systems Engineering and Management and an affiliated faculty member of the School of Sustainability. In 2008 he was named a Carnegie Foundation U.S. Professor of the Year. His research addresses Earth systems engineering and the ethical and social issues of emerging technologies.

How did your early career lead you to “sustainability” as a field of work?

More than 15 years ago, a few of us at AT&T and elsewhere began working on the ideas of industrial ecology and design for environment. From there, it was a natural extension to address sustainability issues because industrial ecology techniques provided a bridge between the practical worlds of business and engineering and the more theoretical frameworks of sustainability.

What is the most important sustainability-related research project you are currently working on?

First, I’m working with the IEEE (formerly known as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), the world’s leading professional association for the advancement of technology, to focus on sustainability issues related to technology and technology systems, areas seldom addressed elsewhere. Second, I have recently been appointed a Stockdale Fellow by the U.S. Naval Academy, where I will be exploring the ethical and sustainability implications of emerging technologies in the military, such as robotics, controllable insects, and miniaturized surveillance mechanisms. This work is particularly important because so many technological breakthroughs with significant social implications occur in a military context.

How can your sustainability-related research affect policy?

My work with the IEEE and with emerging technologies for the military has the potential to affect many far-reaching policy decisions. Overall, however, I think the challenge is not to focus on the impact of individuals, but on the slow transformation of institutional and cultural frameworks.

What is the world sustainability challenge that concerns you most?

Emerging technology and national security are often overlooked as sustainability threats, but when you weigh their potential for significant disruption of cultural, social, economic, and environmental systems, they are probably more important than anything else – including climate change.

What has your work in sustainability taught you?

We sometimes get the idea that we know what we’re talking about — that we can control current trends and plan future social and environmental states. This is a serious overestimation of our capabilities. A little more intellectual humility and less ideology would help our thinking considerably in this area.

July 29, 2009

ASU Named One of Nation's 'Greenest' Universities

July 27, 2009

Arizona State University has been named one of the nation’s "greenest" universities by The Princeton Review in its second annual rating of environmentally-friendly institutions. This is the second year in a row that ASU made the list.

The Princeton Review named 15 colleges to its "2010 Green Rating Honor Roll" – a list that salutes the institutions that received the highest possible score – 99 – in this year’s rating tallies.

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ASU and the U of AR Work with Walmart on Developing Sustainable Product Index

July 16, 2009

Consortium of universities will collaborate with businesses, NGOs and governmental agencies to develop global database of information on the lifecycle of products

TEMPE, Ariz., FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Walmart, a world leader in sustainability announced today an investment that reaffirms its commitment to incorporating sustainable business practices throughout the entire consumer business supply chain. Through a revolutionary move, Walmart is helping create a consortium of universities, jointly administered by Arizona State University (ASU) and the University of Arkansas (UA).

Walmart’s initial investment will be dispersed equally to Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas; this partnership will conduct the development of a science-based, open source, product lifecycle assessment that will provide scientific innovations that lead to a new generation of sustainable products, materials, and technologies.

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Explosive Growth of Life Fueled by Early Greening of Earth

July 14, 2009

Earth’s 4.5-billion-year history is filled with several turning points when temperatures changed dramatically, asteroids bombarded the planet and life forms came and disappeared. But one of the biggest moments in Earth’s lifetime is the Cambrian explosion of life, roughly 540 million years ago, when complex, multi-cellular life burst out all over the planet.

While scientists can pinpoint this pivotal period as leading to life as we know it today, it is not completely understood what caused the Cambrian explosion of life. Now, researchers led by Arizona State University geologist L. Paul Knauth believe they have found the trigger for the Cambrian explosion.

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New Program Helps Sun to SET on Waste

July 13, 2009

Let’s say that your office has 300 white binders with the ASU logo on the front. They were leftover from a conference, and you’re not planning another conference for a long time to come.

You don’t want to throw them away, but they can’t be recycled. So what should you do with them?

Put them on ASU’s newly debuted version of “Craigslist” – SunSET.

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Sustainable Cities Network receives $60,000 grant from Sam's Club®

Institute Press Releases

July 8, 2009

Partnership between ASU and city, county, and tribal leaders strengthens regional sustainability efforts.

As part of Sam’s Club’s commitment to give back to the communities it serves, company executives presented Arizona State University with a $60,000 grant for its Sustainable Cities Network. The contribution is a market grant, with money pooled from 13 Sam’s Club stores in the Phoenix-Tucson-Prescott area.

“The Sustainable Cities Network represents the cities we serve, and it works to promote sustainability, which is one of the major focuses of our grants,” said Keith Lowe, club manager for the Gilbert store.

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Global Leader in Land Change Science

June 30, 2009

Q&A with B. L. Turner II

Turner (left) and student setting up a transect to examine deforestation in southern Yucatan.

Agriculture-related deforestation

Addressing sustainability of local agriculture

Dr. Billie Lee Turner is the Gilbert F. White Chair of Environment and Society in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His research addresses climate change by examining the interactions between humans and the environment that lead to deforestation and desertification.

How were you introduced to the term “sustainability”?

In 1987 while I was at Clark University, I became involved with an activity that led to the landmark volume, The Earth as Transformed by Human Action, which I edited along with Bob Kates, Bill Clark and others. Later I was involved with the Global Land Project and other efforts tied to global change and sustainability, and I played a bit role in developing Our Common Journey, the 1999 National Academy of Science report that staked out sustainability science.

What is the most important sustainability-related research project you are currently working on?

The Southern Yucatan Peninsular Region (SYPR) project is an interdisciplinary study of tropical forest change resulting from human-environment interactions. Begun in 1997, this project helped establish what is now known as “land change science.” A special feature on this sustainability subfield in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recently won an award from the Ecological Society of America for the best contribution to sustainability in 2008.

How do you think your research affects policy or other decisions in the “real world”?

The SYPR project, which is intended to be independent so as to maintain legitimacy among the many stakeholders in the region, nevertheless has provided the science used by NGOs and various state and federal agencies to address policy decisions. I am also currently working to create a sustainable land architecture model that is designed to be decision-maker friendly. That work is in conjunction with ASU’s Central Arizona – Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research project and Decision Center for a Desert City.

What is the world sustainability challenge that concerns you most?

My largest concern is over the ideologies involved in the interpretations of the subject, especially the proliferation of extreme, polarizing views about the condition of the earth, the role of humans, and where we should go from here. These views interfere with our understanding of the dynamics in question.

June 30, 2009

ASU Art Museum Becomes Catalyst for Sustainability Dialogue

June 30, 2009

August 27, 2009 – February 20, 2010

Surprising. Invigorating. Thought provoking. The Arizona State University Art Museum continues to present the best in contemporary art with exhibitions in all media by regional and international, emerging and established artists. The ASU Art Museum organizes these outstanding contemporary art exhibitions – which often receive national and international attention – and presents them in innovative ways for students and visitors. 

> Read more and see schedule

Water Webs Connect Spiders, Residents in Southwest

June 25, 2009

If you are a cricket and it is a dry season on the San Pedro River in Arizona, on your nighttime ramblings to eat leaves, you are more likely to be ambushed by thirsty wolf spiders, or so a June 19 study suggests, published in the journal Ecology, and featured in the journal Science.

A potential horror story for any cricket. However, it is also a tale of water limitation that looks beyond how most ecosystem studies are considered. Much current work about the relationships between predators and prey is based on nutrients or energy limitation – via a food web.

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Outsmarting Swine Flu Pandemic

June 23, 2009

North American Researchers Gather at ASU to Put 21st Century Science and Technology to the Test

Mathematicians, biostaticians and public health officials from Canada, Mexico and the United States will gather at Arizona State University this week to focus on understanding, possibly mitigating the spread of the H1N1 flu virus. They are planning to take up the challenge of proposing science-based strategies that can slow the spread of pandemic flu.

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ASU Researcher is Among Authors of New U.S. Global Climate Change Report

June 17, 2009

Arizona State University professor Nancy Grimm is one of the authors of a new and authoritative federal study assessing the current and anticipated domestic impacts of climate change. The report, “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States,” was released June 16 by the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy, which advises the President on the effects of science and technology on domestic and international affairs.

The main message in the report is that climate change is already having visible impacts in the United States, and, the choices that are made now will determine the severity of its impacts in the future.

The report compiles years of scientific research and takes into account new data not available during the preparation of previous large national and global assessments. It was produced by a consortium of experts from 13 U.S. government science agencies and from several major research institutes and universities, including Arizona State University.

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Students solve challenges through sustainable research and development

June 8, 2009

GlobalResolve, a social entrepreneurship program at Arizona State University, helps communities around the world solve challenges through sustainable research and development.

Pioneer in Renewable Energy Research

May 29, 2009

Q&A with Devens Gust

Dr. Devens Gust

Student working in Gust’s lab

Computer model of an artificial photosynthetic reaction center molecule

Dr. Devens Gust is Foundation Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry. His research seeks to mimic the key processes of photosynthesis to create usable fuel from the sun.

At what point did “sustainability” become part of your research vocabulary?

The 1970s oil embargo made it obvious that we had to develop a more sustainable energy policy and I thought I could contribute through my expertise in organic and photochemistry. I have been working in the area ever since.

What is the most important sustainability-related research project you are currently working on?

I am director of the new ASU Energy Frontier Research Center for Bio-inspired Solar Fuel Production, funded by the Department of Energy. Our goal is to use the basic science underlying natural photosynthesis to find new approaches for producing renewable fuel such as hydrogen, which is a good medium for storing solar energy. The $14 million project involves 11 faculty members from different disciplines and will also employ and train undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral associates in renewable energy science.

How do you think your research will affect decisions in the “real world”?

We depend ultimately on the sun for almost all of the energy we use today — even fossil fuels are the product of ancient photosynthetic energy conversion. Producing useful energy from sunlight is technologically feasible, but current approaches are still too expensive to compete. Our research is devoted to developing the science behind new technologies that will be cheap and efficient. If we are successful, new energy industries and government policies will follow.

What is the world sustainability challenge that concerns you most?

Humanity badly needs a source of energy that is abundant, renewable, inexpensive, clean, and local. The sun is currently the only source that can produce such energy in sufficient quantities, but to make it usable requires not only new technologies, but new fundamental scientific discoveries. We must meet this challenge very soon because our environment, geopolitical situation, and quality of life depend on it.

May 29, 2009

Thirteen Sustainability Graduates Represent Milestone for Arizona State University

May 13, 2009

ASU celebrates its first class of graduates from the nation’s first School of Sustainability

President Barack Obama’s message of change parallels the vision Arizona State University has been pursuing since Michael Crow became its 16th president in 2002.

“The President’s emphasis on building the next generation of leaders in science, technology, and sustainability, as well as the arts, mirrors ASU’s mission as a New American University,” said Crow. “His advocacy for representation of women and people of color, engaging a broader spectrum of leadership, models significantly for others at the highest level.”

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ASU Collects Donations During Year-End Move-Out

May 5, 2009

On May 07, 2009 and May 11, 2009
from 12:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Every year as students rush to move out, residence hall dumpsters fill up with things that could be reused or recycled. What if there was a way to reduce this needless waste and benefit a local charity, too? Arizona State University is doing just that.

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DOE Funds Bio-Inspired Solar Fuel Center at ASU

April 30, 2009

ASU center will focus on using fundamentals of photosynthesis to unlock new sources of energy

TEMPE Ariz. — Arizona State University will be home to a new Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) announced by the White House in conjunction with a speech delivered by President Barack Obama.

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ASU Energizes West Campus with Large Solar Project

April 29, 2009

TEMPE, Ariz.—Arizona State University has begun an ambitious project to install 3.3 MW of renewable energy capacity via solar cells on its West campus.

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Experts Issue Report on Adapting to Climate Change in Desert and Coastal Cities

April 29, 2009

In January 2009, a group of 31 experts with diverse backgrounds convened at Arizona State University’s Decision Theater for a two-day workshop. Participants identified management needs, research gaps, and adaptation solutions relating to the impacts of climate change in coastal and arid urban environments.

Planning Integrated Research for Decision Support for Climate Adaptation and Water Management: A Focus on Desert and Coastal Cities was co-sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Arizona State University. Findings from the workshop are documented in the formal report (1.02 MB PDF).

School of Sustainability Graduate Opens Pathway Toward Climate-Friendly Parking and Transit

April 28, 2009

Graduating senior Andrew Krause has been studying how to reduce ASU greenhouse gas emissions in an area that is often overlooked — the conference room. His capstone project for a degree from ASU’s School of Sustainability uses computer modeling to investigate how Parking and Transportation decisions affect ASU’s carbon footprint.

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ASU Student Designs New Container to End Food Packaging Waste

April 28, 2009

You probably know that buying in bulk is a great way to reduce packaging and get a rock bottom price. Another perk is that it keeps spoiled food and dollars from going down the drain — that’s because bulk bins allow you to select only the amount you need.

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