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Sustainability News

Bringing stable power to the most remote communities

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News

February 22, 2018

As many as 1.3 billion people lack access to electrical power, according to Senior Sustainability Scientist Nathan Johnson. That's why the ASU engineer – who directs the Laboratory for Energy And Power Solutions – is advancing technologies for electrical-grid modernization and off-grid electrification.

One of these solutions is the microgrid, which provides independent power generation and storage. Johnson and the LEAPS team are developing microgrids that are more technically and economically viable – easier to design, scale and transport. On top of providing the world's poorest and most remote communities with stable power, this technology can improve scenarios like disaster relief and medical care.

Johnson’s approach to military microgrids won a TechConnect Defense Innovation Award at the Defense Innovation Technology Acceleration Challenges Summit.

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ASU, Major League Baseball partner for sustainability

Board Letter School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

February 21, 2018

Major League Baseball has announced it will partner with ASU's School of Sustainability on a zero waste initiative during parts of the 2018 Cactus League schedule. ASU sustainability students will engage with baseball fans and help Salt River Fields – spring training home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies – to minimize and manage their waste.

"We want do our part to ensure that future generations of D-backs fans can appreciate the beautiful Arizona landscape and will continue to focus on improving sustainability efforts throughout Spring Training and all season long at Chase Field," says Arizona Diamondbacks President and CEO Derrick Hall.

According to Christopher Boone, dean of the School of Sustainability, the partnership is a perfect fit for the school. "We are thrilled to be able to let our faculty and students apply their classroom knowledge in a real-world setting and help the Cactus League aim for the ambitious goal of zero waste," Boone said.

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Slum residents make themselves count

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

February 20, 2018

If cities in developing nations don’t address their burgeoning slums, poverty will increase, political instability will heighten and human misery will continue.

That's according to Senior Sustainability Scientist José Lobo, one of the authors of a 2018 report presented at the World Urban Forum. The report detailed the efforts of Know Your City, an initiative that organized slum residents in 103 cities to profile, enumerate and map their communities.

“The central premise of community data collection is that the data collected becomes an instrument to foster a dialogue among the many different parties (communities, public agencies, governments, NGOs, international funding agencies) about the design and implementation of effective solutions,” Lobo said.

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Largest community of ecologists names ASU scientist its 2019 president

ASU Wrigley Institute News Global Drylands News

February 7, 2018

Osvaldo-Sala-Blue-Shirt The members of the Ecological Society of America have elected Osvaldo Sala – founding director of Arizona State University's Global Drylands Center – to a three-year term on the ESA governing board. Sala will assume the role of president elect in August 2018, president in 2019 and past president in 2020.

Sala is a professor in the School of Life Sciences and the Julie A. Wrigley Chair in Life Sciences and Sustainability in the School of Sustainability. He founded the Global Drylands Center in 2017 to engage key stakeholders in dryland stewardship and develop solutions for arid ecosystems around the world. Of over 100 previous ESA presidents, Sala will be the first Hispanic person to hold the position.

Founded in 1915, the ESA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit community of more than 9,000 scientists, researchers, decision makers, policy managers and educators who are dedicated to understanding life on Earth. It is the largest community of ecologists in the world.

ASU hosts Environmental Humanities workshop

ASU Wrigley Institute News Environmental Humanities

February 7, 2018

In January 2018, over 40 participants from universities around the world gathered at ASU for a workshop co-sponsored by the Environmental Humanities Initiative and the PLuS Alliance.

The workshop focused on the ways that humanities methodologies are contributing to interdisciplinary collaboration and participatory engagement on climate change and energy transition. Participants also explored how better assessment of impact might be piloted through modes of inquiry that include narrative, story, metaphor, imagery and representations that convey the cultural knowledge behind decision making.

Mike Hulme, Professor of Human Geography at the University of Cambridge, kicked off the workshop with a 2018 EHI lecture titled “The Cultural Functions of Climate.” Workshop sessions were keynoted by leading international cultural geographers, humanists and philosophers, including Giovanna Di Chiro of Swarthmore College and Kyle Powys Whyte of Michigan State University.

We followed up with Joni Adamson – English and Environmental Humanities Professor, Senior Sustainability Scholar & Director of the Environmental Humanities Initiative – to tell us more about the workshop and EHI:

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Retailers rise with the tide of responsible products

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

February 1, 2018

$200 billion worth of consumer products are now managed using tools created by The Sustainability Consortium – an organization run by ASU and the University of Arkansas – according to the consortium's 2017 impact report.

TSC helps companies define, develop and deliver more sustainable products by providing them with science-based tools. Its members – which exceed 100 and include brands like Walmart, Amazon and Walgreens – have access to research insights in almost 130 product categories. To date, 85 percent of consumer goods are covered.

“We are now seeing the tide changing in the number of companies committing to creating sustainable products for a more sustainable planet,” said TSC Chief Executive Euan Murray.

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Housing is critical to equitable and inclusive cities

Thought Leader Series ASU Wrigley Institute News

January 30, 2018

A Thought Leader Series Piece

by Jonathan Reckford

Note: Habitat for Humanity CEO Jonathan Reckford gave a Wrigley Lecture titled "Housing for Inclusive and Equitable Cities" in January 2018.

With 60 percent of people worldwide projected to be concentrated in urban areas by 2030, developing sustainable communities that are inclusive and equitable for all will require creating affordable housing located near job opportunities. Some of the most promising ideas emerging in both developed and developing economies involve combining mixed-income housing with transit-oriented developments.

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Survival strategies for the 21st century city

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

January 29, 2018

When Senior Sustainability Scientist Shade Shutters approached communities and economic developers in Arizona with tools to create green economies, they initially dismissed him. The mindset was, "put food on the table first, then you can think about the long term," and they wanted to prioritize jobs.

Shutters was eventually able to garner interest by rebranding 'green decision tools' as 'innovation and creative economy tools,' insight he shared at a Jan. 23 Future Tense event co-hosted by ASU and COMEXI – Mexico’s influential foreign affairs think tank.

Titled “Will our Cities Survive the 21st Century?," the event convened reporters, experts and resilience officers from around the world. Participants agreed that the successful future of cities relies on involving all communities when communicating threats, setting priorities and making decisions about mitigation and adaptation.

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Professor says crisis should serve as 'wakeup call'

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News DCDC News

January 29, 2018

As Cape Town, South Africa nears “Day Zero” when authorities turn off the taps — expected in the first half of April 2018 — Senior Sustainability Scientist Dave White expresses the pressing need to adapt urban water systems to stresses like climate change.

White, who directs ASU's Decision Center for a Desert City, says that the causes of Cape Town's water crisis are familiar to water managers in water-scarce cities around the world – like Phoenix. These include limited supplies, dramatic population growth, aging and inefficient infrastructure, persistent drought, inadequate reservoir storage and climate change impacts.

Luckily, White provides a number of ways to improve water resilience. Among them are greater public engagement in water management planning and decision making, public and private investment in technology and infrastructure, rainwater harvesting, enhanced recycling and reuse of wastewater, cross-sector conservation and demand management, and development of new renewable supplies where feasible.

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EMSL graduate hired as executive director

School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Alumni News Alumni and Student Spotlights

January 27, 2018

Jessica Morrison, a School of Sustainability graduate who earned an Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership degree, has been chosen as Resource Conservation Partners's new executive director. 

Resource Conservation Partners is a nonprofit organization that works to protect and restore natural habitats through cross-sector collaboration in Ventura County. In her new position, Morrison hopes to increase stakeholder and community engagement through local restoration and conservation projects.

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Pioneering planetary management

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

January 23, 2018

With the goal of harnessing the innovative capacity of academia and developing options for the sound management of our planet, ASU President Michael Crow announced the launch of the Global Futures Initiative in January 2018.

Global Futures will take the pieces ASU already has and fuse them together more tightly while breaking intellectual ground. It will build new and bigger collaborations; find untapped opportunities that lie between disciplines, schools and existing projects; and amplify ASU’s global impact.

That's according to Peter Schlosser, Vice President and Vice Provost of Global Futures, who was recruited from Columbia University to lead the effort.

“Global Futures is a platform from which to take a broad look at the trajectory of our planet and the role of global society in shaping it," said Schlosser, "to gather and synthesize knowledge from many frameworks and to fundamentally alter how we manage the planet in ways that achieve sustained habitability.”

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Glendale Becomes First in Arizona to Replace Streetlights with LED Bulbs

ASU Wrigley Institute News SCN News

January 18, 2018

It isn’t every day a city council gets a treat like the one Glendale enjoyed Tuesday night.

The city was honored for its work to change out all of their old energy draining high-pressure sodium arc lights with efficient LED replacements.

The project was achieved with help from Arizona State University’s Sustainable Cities Network. As a founding member of the network, Glendale has worked with the university and other member cities to reduce energy use, carbon footprint, recycling and other efforts.

According to the network’s director Anne Reichman, Glendale and Phoenix worked closely as Phoenix started to negotiate to replace its 92,000 streetlights.

“As part of this LED purchase, Glendale was able to piggyback the city of Phoenix originated for their LED streetlight replacement,” she said.

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Illuminating gender inequality in Mexican aquaculture

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

January 12, 2018

Amid cartel-related chaos, female shrimp traders in Sinaloa, Mexico shed literal blood, sweat and tears to carve their niche in the historically male-dominated industry. Ultimately, these women managed to achieve economic independence and secure hope for future generations.

That’s why Maria Cruz Torres, an anthropologist and senior sustainability scientist at ASU, has worked tirelessly for twenty years to make their efforts visible – even despite the threat of personal violence. She tells the stories of 52 women in her most recent book, “Voices Throughout Time: Testimonies of Women Shrimp Traders in Sinaloa, Mexico.”

Cruz Torres’ work illuminates the interrelations of gender, labor and resource management in aquaculture, as well as the industry’s effects on the political ecology and economy of the U.S.-Mexico transborder region. She was elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2017.

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Getting to the source of poor water management

ASU Wrigley Institute News

January 12, 2018

We often think of the impacts of extreme events, like the flooding in Houston or the damage from the earthquake this year in Mexico City, as resulting from some anomalous “Act of God” or natural hazard.

Vulnerability researchers, however, know that the damage and loss experienced in any city is also the result of human decision-making and actions. Over years, decades and centuries, these decisions define the built environment and the vulnerability of urban residents to hazards.

A team of ASU sustainability scientists and researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) pulled reviewed historians' accounts of 600 years of water-related hazards in Mexico City, from the time of the city’s founding in 1325 to the present. They documented how key decisions made by city leaders to control flooding or address water scarcity for the city’s residents evolved over time into new hazards, or exacerbated the very hazards they were aiming to manage.

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Assessing the value of urban agriculture

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

January 10, 2018

The benefits of urban agriculture may seem local and limited, but – according to a team of researchers led by ASU and Google – the collective environmental impact is significant.

The team – which includes Senior Sustainability Scientist Matei Georgescu – analyzed global population, urban, meteorological, terrain and Food and Agricultural Organization data sets in Google Earth Engine to come to their global scale estimates. They then aggregated them by country.

“Our estimates of ecosystem services show potential for millions of tons of food production, thousands of tons of nitrogen sequestration, billions of kilowatt hours of energy savings and billions of cubic meters of avoided storm runoff from agriculture in urban areas,” Georgescu said.

The team reported its findings in Earth’s Future.

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Biodegradable plastics made from bacteria

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News

January 9, 2018

By employing cyanobacteria – a photosynthesis-happy bug – Senior Sustainability Scientist Taylor Weiss is making environmentally-friendly bioplastics that dissolve in a matter of months.

Weiss achieves this by creating a symbiotic partnership between two bacteria, each specializing in a specific task. He recently joined ASU’s Polytechnic campus, where he is scaling up the process at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation.

"Bringing all these elements together and in real-world conditions at large scales needs to be done," Weiss said. "Fortunately, we have a one-of-a-kind academic test bed facility here at AzCATI that is uniquely suited to answer the remaining production questions and push development of the technology."

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Linked food systems affect global governance

School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

January 4, 2018

School of Sustainability Associate Professor Hallie Eakin is the lead author of a new article in the Ecology and Society journal. The article, titled "Transforming governance in telecoupled food systems," uses case studies to analyze how the linking of food systems around the world affects their governance and the actors within them.

The authors conclude that telecoupling has the potential to positively change the governance of food systems. This may alleviate the conflict generated among actors within food systems who have opposing values and interests.

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Water management in Brazil

ASU Wrigley Institute News DCDC News

December 31, 2017

One of the most pressing global challenges for sustainable development in the era of the Anthropocene is freshwater management. Water is a fundamental human necessity and essential to improve social equity, promote broad economic development and protect the functioning of the earth system.

That’s why ASU’s Decision Center for a Desert City collaborated with scientists, managers, policymakers and other stakeholders in Pernambuco, Brazil – to build local capacity to manage existing and future water resources efficiently, sustainably and equitably. Together, the team developed modeling tools and a decision support system that prepares users for whatever water scenarios come their way.

British diplomat examines US stance on climate change

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

December 12, 2017

In December 2017, two years after the Paris climate agreement was signed, the One Planet summit explored ways to meet climate goals without the support of the United States government.

On that note,  Distinguished Sustainability Fellow Sir Crispin Tickell – an ASU Wrigley Institute board member – gave ASU Now his prescription for the denial of climate change science in the U.S.

"We need a bit of political leadership. We had it originally in Britain from Margaret Thatcher, with whom I used to work quite closely," Tickell said. "I think politicians should take a grip and explain clearly to people in language they can understand what is happening and what has to be done about it, and what it will be necessary to do if nothing is done sooner rather than later."

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Supporting science to sustain our planet

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News

December 11, 2017

In a December 2017 interview with Juli Staiano, Chief Philanthropy Officer for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, ASU Wrigley Institute board member Robert Litterman gave his reasons for giving back to the field.

"To me, science has always been the sort of North Star. It’s the facts in which we ground our behavior," Litterman told Staiano. "And so, when I see it come under attack and see the damage that that does – particularly in the context of climate – to rational decision making, I feel like I need to support the institution that represents the scientific community. It’s pretty simple."

Coming from a risk management background, Litterman is passionate about the topic of climate risk.

"I think this problem – with respect to climate – is clearly driven by economic interests of those who would be negatively impacted by an appropriate response," Litterman said. "It’s a risk management problem. Everyone understands what we need to do is to price the risk appropriately."

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