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Sustainability News

Vegetation shifts can outweigh climate change in desert rangelands

ASU Now | May 18, 2020

Grasslands across the globe, which support the majority of the world’s grazing animals, have been transitioning to shrub lands in a process that scientists call “woody plant encroachment.”

Managed grazing of drylands is the most extensive form of land use on the planet, which has led to widespread efforts to reverse this trend and restore grass cover.

Until now, researchers have thought that because woody plants like trees and shrubs have deeper roots than grass, woody plant encroachment resulted in less water entering streams and groundwater aquifers. This was because scientists typically studied the effect the grassland shift toward shrubs has on water resources on flat ground.

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Byck documentary series Carbon Cowboys hits the web

May 15, 2020

In many parts of the U.S., the farming industry has been forced to waste food due to supply chain interruptions from COVID-19. But the Carbon Cowboys featured in Peter Byck's 10-part documentary series say sales are soaring.

In his series, Byck details the farming technique known as regenerative grazing, which involves quickly rotating cattle from pasture to pasture, before they can damage the land — similar to how bison herds move across The Great Plains. The practice, which does not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides, builds soils that are richer in carbon, which in turn boosts crop and livestock yields.

The series, directed by Peter Byck, was filmed over six years in various rural communities across the U.S., Canada and the U.K. View it online at CarbonCowboys.org.

Street smarts required in heat mitigation

ASU Now | May 12, 2020

Anyone that’s ever been out walking on a hot summer day has probably experienced an uncomfortable phenomenon: sometimes, the heat radiated from the pavement below is just as hot as that coming from the sunlight above. In a quest to cool city streets, the Los Angeles Bureau of Street Surfaces has pioneered the use of solar reflective coatings with the idea that coating streets with a lighter color will lower the surrounding temperatures. It’s an interesting theory, and one that has attracted the attention of researcher and urban climatologist Ariane Middel.

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Meet Master of Sustainability Leadership alumnus David Ginn

May 8, 2020

One of the many changes David Ginn experienced as he moved from rural Pennsylvania to metropolitan Phoenix was the increase in his concern for the growing climate crisis. Motivated to do something about it, he decided to enroll in the Master of Sustainability Leadership program at Arizona State University.

“The focus on global and strategic perspectives in sustainability seemed like a great trajectory for the program, and the subject matter of the curricula for each course seemed very interesting to me,” Ginn said. “I was not from a traditional sustainability background for my undergrad studies, so this seemed like the perfect bridge into the field.”

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Societal planetary boundaries: When global society endangers the future of our planet

Medium | May 8, 2020

people walking in crowdIn the latest thought leader piece from the Global Futures Laboratory, "Societal Planetary Boundaries: When Global Society Endangers the Future of Our Planet," Sander van der Leeuw, Manfred Laubichler and Peter Schlosser discuss the unstable state of our global societal systems and how we can change. "We are challenged to find and establish a completely new structure for current societal dynamics, and to do so within the Environmental and Societal Planetary Boundaries," the authors write.

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.

Meet Master of Sustainability Leadership alumna Laura Friedman

May 6, 2020

Overworked and experiencing health issues, Laura Friedman knew she needed to make major life changes. So, when her son recommended she go to college, she didn’t hesitate.

“I researched online graduate school degrees and learned that Arizona State University was ranked No. 1 in the country for innovation,” Friedman said. “I found the Master of Sustainability Leadership program and I believed combining and expanding the sustainability leadership themes with my technology career would enable me to make a valuable career shift.”

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Meet Master of Sustainability Leadership alumnus Joseph Aubert

May 4, 2020

Joseph Aubert was looking to make a career change when he discovered corporate sustainability. Excited by the opportunity, he applied to Arizona State University’s Master of Sustainability Leadership (MSL) program.

“My impression of the MSL was that it flipped that paradigm, and was much more 'macro' in scale, focusing on the big picture instead of the day-to-day management,” Aubert said. “A culture of sustainability needs to start at the top, which is where I want to be.”

This May 2020, Aubert is graduating from the program and will continue his journey to help bring about meaningful change in the world. In the following Q&A, get acquainted with Aubert and his future plans.

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Meet Executive Master of Sustainable Leadership alumnus Dan Colton

May 4, 2020

Although he had been taught to live sustainably before he even knew the meaning of the word, Dan Colton’s interest in sustainability wasn’t sparked until he got to — of all places — law school.

“I was in law school taking classes such as Environmental Law, Water Law, and a newly formed class called Sustainability," Colton said. "I realized then that there are some incredibly powerful tools in our society that can help us responsibly use the world's resources in a way that protects them and makes them available for future generations. From that point on, I was always looking for ways to tie my profession back in to my interest in sustainability.”

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ASU faculty and staff work to increase Latino representation

April 28, 2020

Alycia de Mesa is elated.

An instructor in the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University, she and her colleague Maria Coca Ascencio, a graduate of the Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership program, have recently been voted on to the executive board of the ASU Chicano/Latino Faculty & Staff Association (CLFSA) for leadership positions. De Mesa is serving as president-elect and Coca Ascencio is secretary of the association.

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Meet sustainability alumna Taylor Reimann

April 28, 2020

Inspired by her love for nature but dismayed by its degradation, Taylor Reimann was determined to pursue sustainability from an early age.

“Growing up, my family continued to frequent our favorite Arizona gems, but over time things began to look different,” Reimann said. “These things were hard for me to see, and as I got older I realized that it wasn’t just my home that was suffering, this was happening in a lot of people’s  backyards. When it came time to decide on a career path, there was nothing I felt stronger about than sustainability.”

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Human activities kickstarted the decline in Caribbean coral reefs

ASU Now | April 25, 2020

Fish swimming in coral reefAccording to researchers, about half of Caribbean coral reefs have died since the 1970s, with the iconic elkhorn and staghorn corals being the hardest hit. However, climate change does not completely explain the loss of the reefs. So, in order to get a better picture of the drastic coral loss, Arizona State University researcher Katie Cramer has published a new paper in Science Advances.

"I am interested in going back to the scene of the crime when humans first began to significantly impact coral reefs centuries ago, to understand when, why and how much reefs have been altered by humans,” said Cramer, an assistant research professor at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and an Ocean Science Fellow at the Center for Oceans at Conservation International.

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ASU expert proposes a biodiversity-focused solution to prevent zoonotic diseases

ASU Now | April 24, 2020

Barbary ApeCOVID-19 may have jumped from a wild animal market in Wuhan, China, to people. If so, it’s not the first deadly disease to spring from nature. Middle East respiratory syndrome is said to have a source at a camel market in Saudi Arabia. In the United States, the H1N1 swine flu originated in factory farms where animals are held in extreme confinement. And Ebola likely had its start in a chimpanzee habitat in West Africa.

A rising chorus is calling for wildlife markets to be shut down across the globe.

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ASU Environmental Humanities Initiative is partner in Global Humanities Institute grant

ASU Now | April 23, 2020

The Environmental Humanities Initiative of the Institute for Humanities Research at Arizona State University is collaborating with the University of Texas Humanities Institute in a grant awarded by the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI), located at the University of Wisconsin System. The grant, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is for the purpose of conducting a Global Humanities Institute (GHI) in summer 2021 on the theme “Climate Justice and Problems of Scale.” This will be the fifth GHI funded through the CHCI-Mellon partnership.

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New KEDtalk: Swimming in plastic

April 23, 2020

An unfathomable amount of plastic has made its way into our oceans, but Charlie Rolsky believes we can make small changes in our lives to turn the tide of plastic pollution for a cleaner world and healthier ecosystems. Rolsky is a PhD candidate in the Biodesign Institute's Center for Environmental Health Engineering.

Rolsky's talk is part of the ASU KEDtalks series. Short for Knowledge Enterprise Development talks, KEDtalks aim to spark ideas, indulge curiosity and inspire action by highlighting ASU scientists, humanists, social scientists and artists who are driven to find solutions to the universe’s grandest challenges. Tune in to research.asu.edu/kedtalks to discover more.

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School of Sustainability alumna provides tips on reducing food waste

Phoenix New Times | April 23, 2020

As we try to tackle the wicked problem of climate change, one of the biggest and most important hurdles is the transformation of our food systems. While that may sound like a daunting task, the good news is there are little changes we can make each day to bring us closer to that transformation. One of these changes is reducing food waste, a concept that has found a passionate advocate in sustainable restauranteur Danielle Leoni.

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ASU ranked top in US, 5th in world pursuit of UN sustainability goals

ASU Now | April 22, 2020

Arizona State University ranks top in the U.S. and fifth in the world out of 766 institutions in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The global ranking is a jump from last year’s 35th place.

In the annual rankings published by Times Higher Education magazine, ASU scored 96.3 out of 100 points. It was the top American university in the rankings. Only three American universities placed in the top 100. ASU beat the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Penn State.

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Zero greenhouse gas emissions earns ASU the AASHE Platinum rating

ASU Now | April 22, 2020

Thirteen years ago, Arizona State University made the pioneering promise to completely eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from its campus operations by the year 2025. But on June 30, 2019, the university accomplished that goal, six years ahead of schedule. This remarkable achievement—completed even as ASU’s student population ballooned—was one of many initiatives that earned the university the prestigious STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System) Platinum sustainability rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

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After 50 years of Earth Day, ASU environmental experts see shift to grassroots activism

ASU Now | April 21, 2020

Since the first Earth Day in 1970, attitudes in the United States concerning environmentalism have gradually evolved from a focus on addressing pollution to a focus on protecting and nurturing our ecosystems. And as that transformation has taken place over the decades, two Arizona State University professors have been there to witness it all.

Joni Adamson, the President's Professor of Environmental Humanities in the Department of English and director of the Environmental Humanities Initiative at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, and Paul Hirt, a professor of history specializing in the American West, environmental history and policy and sustainability studies, shared their thoughts on how the country’s attitude toward saving the planet changed in an interview with ASU Now. Both Adamson and Hirt acknowledged that there’s been a shift in focus each decade, including in Arizona:

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Exploring sustainability literacy through nature journaling in school gardens

April 20, 2020

Dedicated to fostering sustainable change through education, School of Sustainability master's student Julia Colbert helped implement nature journaling in local elementary school classrooms.

“Education has always been a significant part of my life. No matter where I go, what I do, and who I spend time with, I find myself gravitating towards education spaces,” Colbert said. Read more from Colbert in her Q&A.

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Meet Master of Sustainability Solutions alumnus Garr Punnett

April 14, 2020

Garr Punnett had been working in television production when he realized he wanted something more. Inspired by the environmentally conscious fashion brands he had recently discovered, he decided to obtain a degree in sustainability.

"A sustainability degree has provided me a different lens through which to view the world," said Punnett, who graduated with a Master of Sustainability Solutions. "I believe there is a lack of social and environmental empathy when constructing business models and my degree allow me to act with a better degree of certainty what I believe our future economy should look like."

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