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Sustainability News

Wednesday: Teaching in the Wake of Racial Violence with Carol Anderson

August 11, 2020

All are invited to attend an August 12 conversation with acclaimed historian Carol Anderson, human and civil rights advocate, expert on African American history and 20th-century politics and the author of the critically-acclaimed "White Rage." The event is sponsored by ASU's Institute for Humanities Research.

Anderson will be interviewed by Ayanna Thompson, director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies and professor in the ASU Department of English, and Mako Ward, faculty head and clinical assistant professor in the ASU School of Social Transformation.

This free event is an ASU Humanities, Social Sciences and Institute for Humanities Research collaboration. It is free and open to the public. Register online.

Chester comments on climate change and our already-taxed infrastructure

August 11, 2020

Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington PostSustainability scientist Mikhail Chester is interviewed in the August 8 Washington Post article, Why climate change is about to make your bad commute worse. According to the article, while most motorists are familiar with many reasons for bad traffic, such as construction, inadequate mass transit and crashes, a culprit that must increasingly be considered is climate change.

"We need to fundamentally reassess what our systems need to be able to deliver, and under what conditions," said Mikhail Chester, associate professor of civil, environmental and sustainable engineering at Arizona State University and co-leader of the Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network. "And those conditions, it looks like, are going to be changing faster and faster in the future."

"Climate change is an additional stressor on already taxed infrastructure," Chester said. The situation’s silver lining, he added, is consensus: "Everyone is in agreement that we should do something about infrastructure."

August 19: Convergence Lab: Social Cohesion in a Time of Crisis

ASU Events | August 11, 2020

Sometimes crises bring out the strength of a community. People pitch in to help each other after a flood or earthquake. While dealing with the COVID-19 crisis similarly demands strong social cohesion, necessary public health measures like social distancing and the disruption of business and public spaces seem to undermine our underlying sense of community. Moreover, the pandemic lays bare pre-existing inequalities, the weakness of social institutions and other challenges to social cohesion.

How do we beat the crisis, and how can we rebuild to have stronger societies in the future?

RSVP to join ASU's Convergence Lab for a binational discussion featuring Alexandra Zapata — researcher, activist and former deputy director general of el Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad, and Craig Calhoun — ASU's university professor of social sciences and former director and president of the London School of Economics and Political Science. The conversation will be held in English.

Meet Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership alum Jessica Lerner

August 11, 2020

Woman with brown hair wearing blue dress smiles on the beachJessica Lerner, a recent graduate of the Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership (EMSL), sees sustainability as starting on an individual level and expanding outward.

“Global issues...can feel overwhelming, but things will only change when we begin to open our eyes and decide to do something about it,” she says.

In the following Q&A, learn more about Lerner’s experience in the EMSL and how the program impacted her career.

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Moore receives Department of Energy Career Award

ASU Now | August 7, 2020

Gary F. Moore, assistant professor in Arizona State University's School of Molecular Sciences and scientist in the ASU Biodesign Institute Center for Applied Structural Discovery, was awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science’s Early Career Research Program.

Moore’s research group at ASU studies the fundamental science of energy conversion processes, including those required to use solar energy for producing fuels and other value-added chemical products. The research Moore and his team performs aims to unleash sustainable-chemistry and renewable-energy technologies that address global-scale demands. Biological energy transducing systems perform several related chemical processes at large scales. For example, photosynthesis uses sunlight to drive a series of complex chemical transformations that power our biosphere and ultimately provide the fossil fuels our modern societies rely on.

“Nature provides inspiration and design considerations for the constructs we build and the chemistries we develop,” Moore said. Read the full story on ASU Now.

Preparing valley schools for heat readiness

August 6, 2020

Adora Shortridge is a Masters of Arts in the School of Sustainability conducting a research project on urban heat islands and how to prepare schools for it. The Urban Heat Island Effect has affected public health, safety, climate change, weather, and many other environmental issues. Adora seeks to solve these issues by understanding its effects on schools.

“As cities continuously morph and grow, it becomes more critical to design our communities to be resilient, diverse and inclusive, more livable, and natural. Educating all levels of the public and stakeholders is crucial to the effectiveness of strategies mentioned above, as well as to the future of our soon-to-be sweltering cities.”

Read more from Shortridge in her Q&A.

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If “the economy” is collapsing, how do people survive?

Medium | August 6, 2020

busy marketOur latest Medium article, written by the Human Economies Working Group at the ASU Global Futures Laboratory, explores the relationship between the formal and informal economy, particularly in this period of crisis. The authors write: "A growing number of innovative economists and other scholars...are challenging us to reevaluate our profit- and growth-driven economy on the basis of an ethics of inclusion and sustainability. We need an understanding of economic activity that reflects its complexity and is centered on the long-term well-being of humans and the rest of the planet."

You can read the piece on Medium. To ensure you don’t miss any Global Futures Laboratory Medium posts, follow our Medium channel directly, or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn where we announce all new posts.

DOE establishes new EFRC at ASU

ASU Now | August 4, 2020

powering-tomorrow-energy-reportA U.S. Department of Energy award is empowering a new center at Arizona State University to create a more resilient and sustainable electricity grid with the use of next-generation materials.

The four-year, $12.4 million award from the DOE’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences establishes an Energy Frontier Research Center headquartered at ASU called Ultra Materials for a Resilient, Smart Electricity Grid, or Ultra EFRC. While ASU will lead Ultra EFRC, researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of California Riverside, Cornell University, Michigan State University, Sandia National Laboratories, Stanford University and the University of Bristol will work within its framework.

Headed by Regents Professor of physics Robert Nemanich and Professor of electrical engineering Stephen M. Goodnick, Ultra EFRC will investigate fundamental questions about wide band gap semiconductors. Goodnick is a senior sustainability scientist and deputy director of LightWorks.

Bertoni, Christen named Fulton Entrepreneurial Professors fellows

ASU Now | July 30, 2020

Sustainability scientist Mariana Bertoni and colleague Jennifer Blain Christen – both associate professors in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering and co-founders of technology startups extending from their research at ASU – are receiving high-profile support from the Fulton Entrepreneurial Professors program as its two newest fellows.

These two-year fellowships provide tenured or tenure-track engineering faculty members with the equivalent of $200,000 in time and resources to accelerate their nascent ventures toward successful commercialization. They do so by reassigning teaching responsibilities and supplying research staff to manage laboratory groups. With freedom from these responsibilities, fellows can apply themselves to pursuing small business training and seed funding, working with patent lawyers, meeting with potential equity investors and consulting with industry advisers.

Bertoni will use her forthcoming Fulton Entrepreneurial Professors fellowship experience to advance Crystal Sonic, the technology company she co-founded two years ago to improve the efficiency and lower the cost of next-generation semiconductor manufacturing.

Call for proposals: Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education

July 27, 2020

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education's (AASHE's) virtual Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education is the largest stage to exchange effective models, policies, research, collaborations and transformative actions that advance sustainability in higher education and surrounding communities.

Humanity faces a series of intensifying and interrelated social and ecological crises. Solving these crises requires a holistic transformation: a shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy. With a theme of "Mobilizing for a Just Transition," this year's Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education will be held October 20-22 and will focus on centering justice within this transformation and ensuring that it leaves no one behind.

Higher education has changed dramatically since AASHE closed its original call for proposals in early March. AASHE has opened a supplementary Emerging Issues Call for Proposals; proposals are due August 14.

Become a presenter and have your voice heard on vital topics such as the global pandemic, widespread protests against racism and the upcoming 2020 U.S. Election. Submit your proposal by August 14 to participate in AASHE's first virtual conference!

NAS establishes James Prize to recognize interdisciplinary work

July 27, 2020

National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has received a $2,000,000 gift to establish the James Prize in Science and Technology Integration. The prize was made possible through a generous donation from Robert “Bob” James.

This prize will recognize outstanding contributions made by researchers who are able to adopt or adapt information or techniques from outside their own fields, and thus integrate knowledge from two or more disciplines in order to solve a major contemporary challenge not addressable from a single disciplinary perspective. Nominations for the inaugural prize will be accepted through Monday, October 5, 2020.

More information on how to submit a nomination, including FAQs, can be found here.

Skysong Innovations translates ASU research into tangible, scalable solutions

ASU Now | July 27, 2020

Skysong Innovations is ASU's intellectual property management company. Its goal is the rapid and wide dissemination of ASU discoveries and inventions into the marketplace, and so was created as a separate corporate entity to act as a proxy for ASU, which substantially increases flexibility and speed in deal-making and venturing activities. A recent article in ASU Now features the work of several sustainability scientists.

Zero Mass Water, led by sustainability scientist Cody Friesen, a professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, creates SOURCE Hydropanels that use solar energy to pull moisture from the air, bringing clean drinking water to communities and residences well off the grid.

Skysong Innovations team identified and pushed forward 20 COVID-19 technologies: four vaccines, two therapeutics, three diagnostic tools, seven sterilization- and PPE-related pieces of equipment and four software technologies. Sustainability scientists have led several of these.

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Meet sustainability student and researcher Caitlyn Finnegan

July 27, 2020

Caitlyn Finnegan is a junior in the School of Sustainability who has spent her summer conducting research on fisheries with Assistant Professor Kailin Kroetz. Fisheries have always been a model for sustainable management, challenges, and discipline. They represent a relationship between humans and marine ecosystems.

“My interest in aquatic ecosystems and how anthropogenic activities interfere with their success drew me to assist Dr. Kailin Kroetz with her fisheries research. Fishery research is impactful because it represents a natural resource that continues to be negatively disrupted by human behavior globally.”

Read more from Finnegan in her Q&A. 

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Center for Global Health research focuses on food insecurity during crisis

ASU Now | July 23, 2020

The world is experiencing changes in food and sharing during the pandemic. Food shortages in the spring and being confined together have spurred changes. Sustainability scientist Alexandra Brewis-Slade saw COVID-19 as an obvious point to jump in on questions of how illness and other crises worsen food insecurity.

The founding director of the Center for Global Health and a President’s Professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change said the center identifies a key theme each year, one that they believe can reinvent and reimagine global health. “This year it was a focus on the human experience of food insecurity, working with nutritionist and food security expert Meg Bruening in the College of Health Solutions,” Brewis-Slade said.

Brewis-Slade and Amber Wutich, director of the Center for Global Health and also a President’s Professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, were doing research with partners in Puerto Rico to understand how people were working together within communities, as part of work with the international Household Water Insecurity Experiences research collaboration, for which the Center for Global Health is a key partner. Bruening and Wutich are both sustainability scientists.

Event: The overlooked role of tech in the sustainability movement

July 16, 2020

Background vector created by starline - www.freepik.comASU's Metis Center for Infrastructure and Sustainable Engineering invites faculty to participate in a webinar discussion of a pedagogical framework for engineering education. The August 11 event will feature a presentation by sustainability scientists Braden Allenby and T. Agami Reddy; sustainability scientist Mikhail Chester will moderate.

Engineers today are increasingly asked to produce sustainable designs, products, and infrastructure. But what is meant by sustainability and sustainable development, and what is the role of the engineer in this domain which increasingly pervades all facets of human endeavor? This webinar, meant to provide a pedagogical framework for engineering education, will make the case that sustainability and sustainable development should evolve beyond its environmental and social origins.

Read more and register here.

Hsueh awarded AAUW American Fellowship

July 16, 2020

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has awarded its 2020–21 American Fellowship to Dr. Lily Hsueh, an assistant professor and senior sustainability scientist at Arizona State University, to work on her book-in-progress. Her book, under contract at MIT Press, examines the demand for, and supply of, global businesses’ climate action, across levels of governance, sectors, and in developed and developing countries.

“I am delighted to be a recipient of the 2020-21 AAUW American Fellowship,” said Hsueh. “It is a privilege to join prominent women across the arts, sciences, and the social sciences throughout history in receiving this award.”

“The AAUW fellowship allows me to complete my book, which combines large-N statistical analyses with illustrative company case studies to tell a larger narrative about the economic and political forces that motivate or dissuade private and public actors, such as corporations and governments, to combat global climate change.”

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Call for projects: Project Cities seeks solutions-focused class projects

July 15, 2020

Cities and towns face unprecedented challenges, even moreso now during to the COVID-19 pandemic. The unique issues local government agencies deal with demand a research-backed, multidisciplinary response. Leverage your classroom activity to add a meaningful applied learning experience for students that also makes a difference for local communities.

ASU's Project Cities manages contracts and relationships with city partners, facilitates site visits with stakeholders, offers a small budget and technology resources, and publishes project summary reports. Learn more and see the current project topic list.

Planned and continuing municipal sustainability projects incorporate some component of sustainability; economic, social, environmental, or a combination of the three. Many span multiple semesters and groups of students, allowing projects to take on big-picture, multi-disciplinary challenges. In addition, community partners seek assistance on applied projects centered around COVID-19, that examine local responses to the pandemic.

Project Cities' community partners will consider all ideas. Pitch projects via email to

Strengthening supply chain in Africa

W. P. Carey News | July 14, 2020

In many places around the world supply chain gaps prevent goods from reaching their intended market and the people who need and rely on them. Supply chains include the system of organizations, resources, and activities that move goods to consumers and gaps can create stresses for producers and consumers alike. When these goods are food and medicine, the results can be devastating — even deadly. A large body of research shows that efficient supply chains are crucial to local, regional, and national economic development.

That’s why the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), invested in this new project, via the Building Research and Innovation for Development: Generating Evidence and Training (BRIDGE-Train) program: to advance research, translation – quickly moving research findings into practice with practical solutions – and training in supply chain management (SCM).

With a $15 million investment from USAID, Arizona State University (ASU) is embarking on a catalytic partnership with the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), and multiple public and private sector partners to establish the Center for Applied Research and Innovation in Supply Chain-Africa (CARISCA). The project brings together faculty expertise in the Department of Supply Chain Management in ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business and the KNUST School of Business. It’s the largest award in W. P. Carey’s history.

New paper: Modest water policy implementation could offset 30 percent of outdoor demand

July 14, 2020

A new paper in Sustainability Science finds that the use of alternative water supplies, such as rainwater harvesting and greywater use, could offset up to 30 percent of total outdoor water demand for the Phoenix Metropolitan Area under modest implantation of these policies.

The paper, Simulating alternative sustainable water futures, is the work of sustainability scientists David Sampson and Nancy Grimm, sustainability fellow David Iwaniac, UREX affiliate Elizabeth Cook and CAP LTER affiliate Melissa Davidson. The authors adapted ASU’s WaterSim tool to explore differences in water demand and supply, as influenced by runoff, rainfall, changes in land use and land cover, population growth and improvements in water use efficiency.

The abstract follows.

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Peace Corps, ASU partner to provide digital libraries across the globe

ASU Now | July 13, 2020

Fijian students pose with ASU faculty and studentsA new strategic partnership agreement will advance a shared interest in meeting the needs of learners in remote, offline communities globally by leveraging ASU’s innovative technology, SolarSPELL, a tool to build information literacy and to advance high-quality education. SolarSPELL is directed by ASU Sustainability Scientist Laura Hosman, Associate Professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society.

The Peace Corps and ASU have been working together since 2015 to pair SolarSPELL’s digital library with locally-based trainers, Peace Corps Volunteers and their resident teacher counterparts. ASU provides the tools and the training that empowers volunteers and local teachers to utilize SolarSPELL libraries in their schools and communities.

Through this new agreement, Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) will advise on content specific to the locations of their postings. The PCVs are ideal liaisons because they spend two years at a posting, often in small, remote villages. The library content is hyper-localized, so having advocates embedded in the field can help determine the kind of information that is most helpful.

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