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Sustainability News

Nat Geo spotlights company co-founded by sustainability grad

Board Letter School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

October 6, 2015

Bin of green charcoal in HaitiCarbon Roots International - a company co-founded by School of Sustainability graduate and Founders’ Day Award recipient, Ryan Delaney - was highlighted in the October issue of National Geographic magazine with the headline "Bright Ideas can Change the World."

Launched in 2010, CRI uses sustainability principles to help rural farmers in Haiti develop more efficient agricultural practices. It trains farmers on the production of a renewable fuel known as “green charcoal,” which allows them to convert crop waste into a fuel source that can be used in cooking and to improve soil fertility.

CRI is one of 29 projects to receive a grant from the "Great Energy Challenge," an initiative of National Geographic in partnership with Shell that recognizes innovative energy solutions.


Leah Sunna: Connecting people to sustainability

School of Sustainability News Alumni News Alumni and Student Spotlights

October 5, 2015

Leah-Sunna-smilingLeah Sunna is a Tempe native, School of Sustainability alum and a true advocate for helping people find connections to the environment and world around them.

Sunna recalls, at a young age, opening Sierra Magazines on her mother’s coffee table and being interested in the environment. From then on, she always identified as a “nature-lover” with a passion for community involvement.

Though interested in the environment, the “feel-good” aspect of sustainability also appealed to Sunna. At the end of the day, she wanted to do something that mattered – something that made her feel like she was making a difference.

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Sustainability scientist honored for energy contributions

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News

September 29, 2015

Mike Pasqualetti speaking about energyMartin “Mike” Pasqualetti — an ASU sustainability scientist, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning professor and energy expert — will be awarded the 2015 Alexander and Ilse Melamid Memorial Medal by the American Geographical Society at its annual fall symposium. The medal is conferred on scholars who have done outstanding work on the dynamic relationship between human culture and natural resources.

Pasqualetti has conducted research concerned with energy education, the nexus of energy and society, energy security, the social acceptance of renewable energy, and the recognition and remediation of energy landscapes for more than 40 years. According to AGS Honors and Awards Committee Chairperson Douglas Sherman, Pasqualetti was cited for substantial and sustained contributions to our understanding of the geography of energy.

"While the medal may be in recognition of my individual contributions to the geographical study of energy," says Pasqualetti, "much of my work would have been impossible — and certainly not as pleasant — without the enthusiasm of my students, the camaraderie of my colleagues or the leadership of Gary Dirks, director of GIOS®, and ASU President Michael Crow. I am therefore particularly pleased to be able to say that I am associated with ASU, my academic home since 1977.”


Weather extremes could hinder human food production

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News

September 28, 2015

Scientist studies effects of extreme weather on grasslandsToday's online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences featured the findings of a six-year study conducted by ASU researchers. The study, which measured the effects of climatic variability like droughts and floods on desert grassland, revealed that  overall ecosystem productivity declines. This is because grasses - an important component of the human food system - tend to diminish while shrubs flourish.

“We found that not all species could respond effectively to extreme weather events including both dry and wet conditions,” said Osvaldo Sala, a distinguished sustainability scientist and professor in ASU's School of Life Sciences. “Grasses don’t fare as well as shrubs, which is really important to know because cattle ranchers depend on grasslands to graze their herds. Humans could see a reduction in the production of food — mostly cattle for meat — as the provision of ecosystem services like this one change.”


Sustainability scientist named to Popular Science's Brilliant 10

Uncategorized Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News

September 23, 2015

Cease smiling and holding a locustEach year, Popular Science accepts nominations for the brightest young minds in science and engineering, then identifies what it refers to as the "Brilliant 10." Among those in its just-released 2015 cohort is Arianne Cease, a sustainability scientist and assistant professor in ASU’s School of Sustainability.

Cease is cited for her investigations into what transforms individual locusts into ravenous swarms that devastate crops and threaten livelihoods, and her work identifying strategies to stop the insects from swarming.

“We are working to address the age-old challenge of locusts and locust plagues, which are a problem around the world for food security,” said Cease. “We are working to understand what causes plagues so that we can address the problem in a new way, by incorporating local farmers and human communities into the equation.”


Smart city designs earn ASU sustainability students Verizon grants

Board Letter School of Sustainability News

September 18, 2015

Aerial view of Uptown PhoenixLast fall, ASU’s School of Sustainability teamed up with Verizon to offer a groundbreaking new course — the Smart City and Technology Innovation Challenge. Students spent the semester learning about the latest in smart technologies, and brainstorming how they could be applied to cities for the benefit of urbanites. They molded their ideas into business propositions, which were carefully considered for generous grants from Verizon.

Now, the challenge’s three winners have been announced. First-place winner Alex Slaymaker's waste-reducing proposition, PHXflow, is a vibrant online waste networking platform created for small- and medium-sized businesses interested in selling, donating, purchasing or exchanging unwanted materials with other businesses in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Christopher Frettoloso, the second-place recipient of $2,000, conceived BetR-block, LLC — a manufacturer of sustainable, low-cost building materials from recycled paper and other cellulosic materials. Alex Cano is the challenge’s third-place recipient of $1,000 and the innovative mind behind BISTEG-USA. His proposition tackles the aesthetic concerns associated with current solar technologies, which are often relegated to out-of-sight places like rooftops.


Fiction contest invites writers to imagine climate futures

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News

September 18, 2015

Students seated in a classroomThe Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University, in partnership with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Council, invites writers to submit short stories that explore climate change, science and human futures in its first Climate Fiction Short Story Contest.

Speculative fiction stories have the power to take policy debates and obscure scientific jargon and turn them into gripping, visceral tales. The emerging subgenre of climate fiction helps us to imagine futures shaped by climate change - a gradual process that can be difficult for people to comprehend.

"Merging climate science and deeply human storytelling, climate fiction can be a powerful learning tool,” said Manjana Milkoreit, a postdoctoral research fellow with the Walton Initiatives. “Taking the reader into a possible future, a story can turn modeling scenarios and temperature graphs into meaning and emotion. It can help us make sense of and respond to this incredibly complex problem."

The submission deadline is Jan. 15, 2016, and contest entry is free.


ASU receives two top sustainability awards from Arizona Forward

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News

September 18, 2015

Men tending to a flower bed at ASUAt Arizona Forward's 35th Environmental Excellence Awards gala, ASU was recognized for projects focused on improving sustainability in Arizona. This year’s gala featured eight awards categories that included more than 120 entries from across the state. ASU took home two of the 17 first-place Crescordia awards and one of the 31 Awards of Merit.

ASU’s redevelopment of College Avenue on the Tempe campus took top honors in the site-development category, while ASU Facilities Management Grounds/Recycling received the SRP Award for Environmental Stewardship. The Downtown Phoenix Sun Devil Fitness Complex also received an award of merit in the buildings and structures category.


Compromise may be part of a sustainable solution to whale hunting

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News Biodiversity News

September 18, 2015

Leah and grad student examine a sampleThe past 30 years of the International Whaling Commission’s conversation has been stalled by disagreement on the ethics of killing whales, according to sustainability scientist Leah Gerber. Gerber, who is founding director of ASU’s Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, floated the idea of a compromise with whaling nations in the September issue of scientific journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Changing course and allowing Iceland, Japan and Norway to legally hunt under regulations and monitoring might break the current stalemate. Currently, Japan whales under a loophole allowing for scientific research. The other two countries hunt whales commercially in protest of the ban.

“If our common goal is a healthy and sustainable population of whales, let’s find a way to develop strategies that achieve that,” Gerber said. “That may involve agreeing to a small level of take. That would certainly be a reduced take to what’s happening now.”


Distinguished sustainability scientist awarded prestigious Hull Prize

ASU Sustainability News

September 17, 2015

Headshot of MaienscheinThe International Society for History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology has given its top award, the David L. Hull Prize, to ASU Regents' Professor and Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Jane Maienschein. The prize honors an extraordinary contribution to scholarship and service, and promotes interdisciplinary connections between history, philosophy, social studies and biology.

Maienschein’s contributions to the fields of history and philosophy of science include serving as the founding president of the International Society for History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology; on the governing board of the Philosophy of Science Association; and as vice president and president of the History of Science Society. Maienschein is the current director of ASU’s Center for Biology and Society.


ASU LightWorks commits to brighter future in Ethiopia

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News

September 17, 2015

Yellow solar tulip among upturned solar panelsWith the aim of transforming Ethiopia into a carbon-neutral middle-income country by 2025, ASU LightWorks, Addis Ababa Science and Technology University, and Adama Science and Technology University have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with AORA Solar - a leading developer of solar-biogas hybrid power technology.

The memorandum seeks to expand the three academic institutions’ common interest in promoting mutual cooperation in the area of education and research. In this instance, the goal is to promote academic cooperation for the development and advancement of renewable energy technologies to support the implementation of Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy Strategy.

Collaboration will include joint activities for research park development, in addition to the development and strengthening of renewable energy curricula for solar electric, solar thermal, photovoltaics, wind and sustainable fuel technologies


Hawai'i teachers participate in national sustainability academy

ASU Wrigley Institute News

September 17, 2015

First National Sustainability Teachers' Academy cohort convene at Arizona State University.
Teachers across the U.S. participate in the first National Sustainability Teachers' Academy at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ.

Kamehameha Schools teachers Rod Floro and Brendan Courtot hope to empower Hawai’i’s youth through culture and sustainability. Floro, a sixth-grade science teacher, and Courtot, a vocational technology and applied math teacher, were selected through a competitive application process to participate in the first ever National Sustainability Teachers’ Academy in June 2015 at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. The Teachers’ Academy was established through the generosity of the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives.

Rod Floro, sixth grade science teacher for Kamehameha Schools , presents ideas for a sustainability curriculum.
Rod Floro, sixth-grade science teacher for Kamehameha Schools , presents ideas for a sustainability curriculum.

The National Sustainability Teachers’ Academy equips passionate kindergarten through 12th-grade educators like Floro and Courtot with the knowledge and skills to inspire and motivate future leaders to create and implement solutions for the economic, social and environmental challenges of our world. The solutions-based curriculum emphasizes real-world learning by integrating knowledge with practice and capitalizing on the cutting-edge research made available to the Teachers’ Academy by ASU.

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UH-Hilo and ASU partner on sustainability energy certificate

ASU Wrigley Institute News

September 17, 2015

Hawai'i Green Growth aims for 70 percent clean energy (40 percent from renewables & 30 percent from efficiency) by 2030. Photo Courtesy of John DeFries.

Affordable energy is vital for a community to thrive, and the proposed merger of NextEra Energy Inc. and Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. is on everyone’s mind in Hawai’i. Kris Mayes, founding faculty director of the Program on Law and Sustainability at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, is providing support to the County of Hawai'i in research and analysis related to the proposed acquisition. Filings have been submitted with the Hawai'i Public Utilities Commission, where NextEra has agreed to accelerate the state’s goal of getting all of its power from renewable resources.

Mayes was the chair of the Arizona Corporation Commission (equivalent to the Hawai'i Public Utilities Commission) from 2003-2010. She and Senior Sustainability Scholar Paul Hirt will deliver classes as part of UH-Hilo’s new energy certificate in summer 2016. The 15-credit interdisciplinary certificate examines the current affairs of energy and sustainability, including: how energy affects peoples’ lives, energy policy options, the science of energy and energy generation for today’s society. More information can be found here.

Hawaii to host IUCN World Conservation Congress in 2016

ASU Wrigley Institute News

September 17, 2015

The International Union for Conservation of Nature Council has selected Hawaii as the host of the September 1-10, 2016, IUCN World Conservation Congress – the world’s largest conservation event. Held every four years, the congress brings together leaders from government, the public sector, non-governmental organizations, business, U.N. agencies, and indigenous and grass-roots organizations to discuss and decide on solutions to the world’s most pressing environment and development challenges. This is the first time the congress has been held in the U.S.

Conservation efforts help the ‘i‘iwi, a honeycreeper native to Hawai‘i, to someday thrive in the wild. Photo courtesy of Kamehameha Schools.

Former IUCN Director General and board member of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability Julia Marton-Lefèvre, said, “I have every confidence that Hawai'i - with its outstanding facilities, rich biological diversity, vibrant indigenous culture, ‘aloha spirit’ and strong commitment to conservation and sustainable development - will provide an outstanding setting for our 2016 congress.”

More information can be found here.

Seeing the full picture: save nature, live better

Thought Leader Series ASU Wrigley Institute News

September 16, 2015

A Thought Leader Series Piece

By M. Sanjayan

M. Sanjayan wearing an orange jacketNote: M. Sanjayan is a leading ecologist, speaker, writer and Emmy-nominated news contributor focused on the role of conservation in improving human well-being, wildlife and the environment. He serves on Conservation International’s senior leadership team as executive vice president and senior scientist, and is the host of the 2015 PBS TV series, Earth – A New Wild.

When asked to visualize nature, we tend to picture a rain forest, coral reef or African savannah – a place busy with countless plant and animal species. But there’s something missing from that picture, something that profoundly influences every one of those scenes. The missing piece is people.

What does the real picture of nature look like? In my recent PBS project EARTH: A New Wild, we took what was essentially a natural history series and deliberately brought people into the frame. The point was to help show the essential connections between nature and the people who live with it.

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City managers trying to reduce emissions should think small

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News

September 14, 2015

Cars on a highway at duskIn a recent commentary published in Nature, ASU sustainability scientists Kevin Gurney and Nancy Grimm, both with ASU's School of Life Sciences, along with the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering’s Mikhail Chester, state that cutting carbon emissions by putting more electric cars on the road or generating more clean energy only fixes a small percentage of global urban CO2 emissions.

Instead, the researchers say, city managers should handle emissions the same way they handle regional development, transport planning and waste disposal — at the scale of a house or road. Doing so would make it much easier to see where a city’s “carbon hot spots” are, allowing city officials to focus their efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions on areas that are contributing most to the problem.


ASU named nation's most innovative campus in annual rankings

ASU Sustainability News

September 8, 2015

ASU sign with Wrigley Hall in the backgroundIn its newly-released college rankings for 2016, which compare more than 1,500 institutions on a variety of metrics, U.S. News and World Report listed Arizona State University at the top of its “most innovative schools” list.

The category is new to the news magazine's widely-touted rankings, and the front-runners were determined through a survey of college presidents, provosts and admissions deans throughout the country. These peers nominated up to 10 colleges or universities based on what they perceive to be the most innovative improvements to curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology or facilities.

Following ASU on the list were Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Maryland – Baltimore County and Georgia State.


Study examines risk of Himalayan glacial lake outburst

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News

September 1, 2015

Imja Lake Milan Shrestha, an ASU anthropologist and School of Sustainability lecturer, has joined a team of scientists analyzing the risk posed by a lake in the high Himalaya. A melting glacier has engorged the lake, which is positioned above five villages that are more than 300 years old.  An event like an avalanche or rockslide could burst the natural dam containing the lake and devastate the settlements downstream.

The interdisciplinary team is made up of water-resource engineers, a glaciologist, an anthropologist and a mountain geographer. During the three-year study, which is funded by a recent $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation, Shrestha will act as a liaison between the earth scientists and the Sherpa.

“Our job is to study what (the Sherpa) want,” Shrestha says. “That’s why they asked an anthropologist to be a part of this.”


Nature magazine highlights urban ecology at ASU

ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 26, 2015

Building in BaltimoreAccording to a recent article in Nature magazine, urban ecology - which approaches cities and the organisms within them as ecosystems - is a field gaining in both acceptance and interest. At the most recent annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America, for example, there were around 450 presentations, posters and events that touched on urban issues - roughly 10% of the conference total.

The article quotes CAP LTER Director Nancy Grimm, who told conference attendees that urban ecology's findings are becoming increasingly important as the world's growing population urbanizes, and as cities seek resilience to the effects of climate change.

It goes on to highlight the Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network, a project headed by Grimm and supported with a $12-million grant from the National Science Foundation.


ASU offers dual masters of journalism and sustainability

School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 26, 2015

Wind Turbine and Blue SkyThe Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the School of Sustainability have partnered to offer a Master of Mass Communications and a Master of Sustainable Solutions. The offering caters to students interested in careers reporting on environmental issues and alternative energy - as well as to those working in sustainability sciences who communicate with journalists - allowing them to pursue the separate degrees in less time through streamlined admissions procedures and course requirements.

“One of the critical aspects of moving toward a sustainable future is helping people understand why and how sustainability is relevant to their lives, and how best to communicate those ideas,” said Christopher Boone, dean of ASU’s School of Sustainability. “This dual-degree opportunity with the Cronkite School will provide our School of Sustainability students with a versatile skill set to effectively reach and engage a broad audience on the very best solutions for building a sustainable future.”

The partnership marks the fifth dual-degree offering of the School of Sustainability.