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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.


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.”


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.


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.”


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


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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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 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.


Arizona needs sustainability now, writes institute directorate

ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 25, 2015

Downtown Phoenix SkylineIn a recent opinion piece in the Arizona Republic titled "Our Turn: Hotter Arizona must find sustainability," the directorate of the ASU Wrigley Institute - Rob Melnick, Gary Dirks and Christopher Boone - discusses the global rise of sustainability and its significance for our collective future.

Highlighting unsettling trends such as the rapid warming of our planet, acidification of our oceans and depletion of our natural resources, the authors stress that the time for action is now - particularly in a climate like central Arizona - if we are to prosper.

The authors go on to emphasize the role of universities in producing solutions to the sustainability challenges we face. They point to the impressive employment rates of ASU School of Sustainability graduates as evidence that business owners also recognize the need for solutions.

The piece concludes, "ASU is applying its talent and its resources to helping Arizona cities, businesses and communities understand, become resilient to and solve local and global sustainability challenges."


Carbon Nation director talks cows, soil and carbon capture

ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 24, 2015

Cows at PastureIn a recent GreenBiz article titled "The rise of the soil carbon cowboys," sustainability scientist and film director Peter Byck discusses the merits of adaptive multi-paddock (AMP) grazing -  a method that benefits the soil, animals and ranchers alike.

Byck explains how AMP contributes to climate change mitigation by sucking carbon dioxide from the air and sending it deep into the soil, where it can be stored for centuries. He contends that getting oil companies on board heightens this benefit.

"What if these oil companies used their money to help ranchers transition to AMP grazing, and then shared in the credits for the carbon being stored in the soil?," he writes. "What if those soil carbon storage credits were cost effective for the oil companies to buy, while that same soil carbon increase helped the ranchers reduce operating costs due to a more robust ecosystem on their land, where nature takes the place of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides?"

Byck and a whole systems science research team continue to explore the benefits of AMP grazing, particularly with regard to slowing climate change.


ASU Wrigley Institute offers improved experience to web visitors

Uncategorized ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 22, 2015

Homepage of new websiteOn August 21, 2015, the ASU Wrigley Institute launched the latest version of its website. The new site not only serves as a portal to all things sustainability at ASU, but offers an improved experience to visitors. This is most apparent in its flattened, streamlined navigation, which allows visitors to browse with ease; adaptable and mobile-friendly layout; and new expert search function.

Additionally, the new site provides greater visibility to the institute's numerous units and initiatives, as well as to its latest Prospectus and 2014 Sustainability Highlights magazine.

The site's launch coincides with that of multiple sub-sites, including Decision Center for a Desert City and the newly-established Living Wisdom: The Global Program for Traditional Knowledge and Sustainability. Such sub-sites will gain Google's favor through improved search engine optimization as a result.



DCDC to expand scope, impact of water research with NSF award

ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 21, 2015

hoover-dam-lake-meadThanks to a new $4.5 million National Science Foundation award, water managers and decision makers from cities in the Colorado River Basin can take greater advantage of Decision Center for a Desert City - a research unit of the ASU Wrigley Institute.

This four-year award, the third made to DCDC in its 10-year history, allows the center to expand the geographic scope of its work to cities in states like Colorado, Nevada and California. As a result, DCDC researchers can better explore the transformational changes necessary to sustain water supplies well into the future.

Given the mounting sustainability challenges we face - including long-term drought, a warming climate and large-scale land-use change - the grant comes at a critical time.

Says DCDC Director Dave White, “It comes with a greater sense of urgency and a greater sense of understanding of the scale and scope of the changes that are likely necessary to transition the cities and the region into a more sustainable state over the next several decades.”


Scientist's algorithm pairs cities with complementary industries

ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 11, 2015

Shade Shutters sitting on deskSustainability Scientist Shade Shutters - a former international finance professional with a doctorate in biology - has developed an algorithm that helps to determine which industries fit best in a particular city. This includes calculating whether a city has the right makeup to become a creative or “green” economic hub.

Shutters achieves this by comparing a city’s metrics to data associated with a particular industry, using ASU’s Decision Theater to visualize overlapping points. His biology background helps him to approach the city as he would an organism, looking at which industries work together and rely on one another to maintain the health of the overall ecosystem.

If a city lacks the infrastructure, complementary businesses and other systems to support a proposed plan, Shutters can pinpoint industries that would be more appropriate. Conversely, he can show an industry leader which locale is best suited for long-term success.


7 principles for building resilience, illustrated

ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 3, 2015

Hand drawing first principle of resilience-buildingMichael Schoon, a senior sustainability scientist and assistant professor in the School of Sustainability, is among the authors of a Cambridge publication titled “Principles for Building Resilience: Sustaining Ecosystem Services in Social-Ecological Systems." The book highlights seven primary principles, which are listed in this extended summary.

In a recent newsletter, the Stockholm Resilience Center debuted a video titled "How to apply resilience thinking," an approach it defines as an investigation into the interaction between people and nature and how it can best be managed. It then outlines the seven principles Schoon and his colleagues discuss in their book: maintaining diversity and redundancy, managing connectivity, managing slow variables and feedbacks, fostering complex adaptive systems thinking, encouraging learning, broadening participation and promoting polycentric governance.

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Sustainability scientists receive $12M to lead urban resilience network

ASU Wrigley Institute News

July 22, 2015

Ariel view of Indian Bend Wash in Arizona
The Indian Bend Wash in Scottsdale (pictured) is an example of safe-to-fail resilient infrastructure - the focus of the ASU UREx SRN. By contrast, the LA River is an example of fail-safe infrastructure. Image credit: Nancy Grimm.

Extreme weather events - like the rain and subsequent floods in the Phoenix metropolitan area in September 2014 - are occurring more frequently and can cripple crucial infrastructure that enables transit, electricity, water and other services. To tackle these challenges and change the way we think about urban infrastructure, the National Science Foundation awarded a transdisciplinary team of three ASU researchers $12 million to lead the international Urban Resilience to Extreme Weather-Related Events Sustainability Research Network (UREx SRN).

Anthropologist Charles Redman, ecologist Nancy Grimm and engineer Mikhail Chester will evaluate the social, ecological and technical systems related to infrastructure, recognizing the values of all stakeholders - from city decision-makers to the citizens who will use and be affected by infrastructure. They will also work to understand the natural environment in which infrastructure operates and evaluate available infrastructure technology. The result will be a suite of tools supporting the assessment and implementation of urban infrastructure that is resilient, tailored to a particular city and safe-to-fail - versus fail-safe, which can be a dangerous illusion.

“By bringing this all together, I think we may be able to really talk to people who build the future," says Redman. "From the first day of designing something like highways and power grids, we’re going to talk about how Earth’s systems work and how human institutions react. And we’re going to build for that. We’re going to build infrastructure to be more resilient and equitable and not just more efficient.”


Vows and Values: Our Sustainable Wedding Story

School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Alumni News

July 17, 2015

Smiling bride and groom on sunny spring day
Photo by: Leanne Young of Leanne Michelle Photography

by Katie Peige Baker

School of Sustainability Alumna

Roses are red,

violets are blue,

our wedding was green

and sustainable too!

Brad and I met at Green Drinks, a networking group for environmental professionals. We both graduated from ASU’s School of Sustainability but never met during our undergraduate studies. Now, we are both sustainability professionals; I work for the Decision Center for a Desert City as the education and community outreach coordinator and Brad works for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality as a hazardous waste compliance officer.

We wanted to practice what we preach, teach and enforce while making a green statement by having an Earth Month wedding. So we pledged to have as little impact on the environment as possible within our budget, which ended up actually saving us a bunch of green.

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City of Phoenix, Walton Initiatives partnership featured in Fortune

ASU Wrigley Institute News

July 17, 2015

Aerial view of the Phoenix RISN campusA recent article in Fortune magazine, titled "Phoenix's $13 million plan to turn trash into cash," highlighted the city's crucial partnership with ASU's Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives - known as the Resource Innovation and Solutions Network.

RISN was established between the City of Phoenix's Reimagine Phoenix initiative and the Walton Initiatives, and serves as a global network of public and private partners using collaboration, research, innovation and the application of technologies to create economic value while driving a sustainable circular economy.

“We don’t want to get to that point 50 years down when there is a problem,” John Trujillo, director of City of Phoenix Public Works, told Fortune. “Our population is projected to almost double by 2050 in this region. Our goal is to create this circular economy so instead of sending our garbage to the landfill and our recycling to China, we want to create our own economy right here. Why not ship it next door to the campus and create a product?”

According to Fortune, RISN will play a role in reaching the city's aim of a 40 percent diversion rate by 2020.


ASU partners with Leuphana University on global sustainability center

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

July 1, 2015

Researchers celebrate new sustainability center ASU and Leuphana University of Lüneburg in Germany are pioneering a path in international academic cooperation through the new Center for Global Sustainability and Cultural Transformation. The center will focus on inter- and transdisciplinary projects in both teaching and research with an emphasis on transforming society, fusing intellectual disciplines and engaging globally.

The two universities have already worked together on numerous projects, including research into current perceptions of sustainability and sustainable development conducted by three Leuphana faculty and Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Manfred Laubichler. Laubichler is also among the Center for Global Sustainability and Cultural Transformation’s founding members, along with School of Sustainability Dean Christopher Boone and sustainability scientists Sander van der Leeuw and Arnim Wiek.

The researchers will have the designation of permanent visiting scholar at the partner university.


ASU partners to improve Pakistan's energy production

ASU Wrigley Institute News

June 4, 2015

Solar Panel in SunOn June 3,  leaders from Arizona State University joined a ceremony in Islamabad to launch a five-year energy studies partnership with two leading Pakistani universities: National University of Science and Technology and the University of Engineering and Technology-Peshawar.

The $18-million project, known as the Partnership Center for Advanced Studies in Energy, was awarded to ASU by the U.S. Agency for International Development. It will work to improve power production in Pakistan, a nation that British economist Jim O’Neill said could be the 18th-largest economy in the world by 2050.

To achieve this, ASU staff will work with Pakistani counterparts on growing capacities in governance, curriculum, applied research, exchanges and scholarships, and institutional sustainability. The driving force will be graduate education and research.

Ultimately, project organizers envision a highly functioning center operating as seamlessly as possible between the two universities so they, in turn, can continue to find innovative and coordinated ways to boost Pakistan’s energy production.