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Sustainability News

A framework for fighting wicked water problems

Board Letter School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

July 13, 2016

Pipes hang into a dried and cracked riverbedIn a Christian Science Monitor contribution titled "Water management is a wicked problem, but not an unsolvable one," School of Sustainability alumnus Christa Brelsford untangles the web of water supply and demand.

Brelsford, a postdoctoral fellow of the Arizona State University-Santa Fe Institute Center for Biosocial Complex Systems, discusses the reality of water in the West, writing "There is no new water to allocate, and so the water management task now is to make the best possible use of the water resources that are available."

She goes on to say that water management – which lies at the intersection of economic, legal, political, hydrological, climatological, ecological, agricultural and engineered systems – can result in solutions when a complex systems perspective is applied.


A modern twist on the age-old concept of commons

Board Letter School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

July 13, 2016

Meadow with yellow flowers below blue sky with cloudsImagine a village that boasts an open meadow with tall grasses accessible to all.

A local farming family has grazed sheep there for years without issue. But when the rest of the town’s sheep farmers discover its lush pastures, it becomes over-grazed and unable to feed anyone’s sheep.

The commons – common-pool resources like the meadow – are no stranger to conflict and debate. But as two sustainability scientists at Arizona State University explain in the latest edition of their book, Sustaining the Commons, they are also not without solutions.

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Pioneers of environmental law to teach ASU course

Board Letter School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

June 29, 2016

Industry-SmokestackThroughout the 1970s, the “Golden Age” of environmental law, Congress developed some of the most influential and enduring legislation still effectual in environmental policy today.

In a two-week course this fall, ASU students will have the opportunity to earn credit while getting first-hand insight from two of the “Golden Age” influencers themselves, Leon G. Billings and Thomas C. Jorling – the two senior staff members who led the Senate environment subcommittee during the 1970s.

Students will review key environmental legislation, such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and Superfund. But more than just the laws themselves, students will learn about the behind-the-scenes political inner workings that made consensus possible, and will assess both the formal and multidimensional components of that process.

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Students study culture and sustainability in Morocco

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

June 27, 2016

Two scientists enjoying coffee outside a Moroccan cafeFor the fourth year in a row, the School of Sustainability sponsored a study abroad excursion to Morocco, where Arizona State University students studied the complexities of sustainable development.

Senior Sustainability Scientist Mary Jane Parmentier – who served as a member of the Peace Corps in Morocco in the 1980s and has maintained contacts there – led the program.  Students learned about the differing priorities among the unique cultures in this North African nation, then digested that knowledge during nightly meetings.

The study abroad program has evolved from year to year, becoming more culturally immersive and focused on evaluating sustainability solutions that are being implemented in host countries. For more updates from this excursion and others, visit the Global Sustainability Studies Program's blog.


Continuing a legacy of environmental ethics

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News

June 26, 2016

People sit on a stone wall in an outdoor setting, listening to a speakerAccording to Senior Sustainability Scientist Joan McGregor, Aldo Leopold – known as the father of wildlife management – is the person with whom any discussion about sustainability should start.

"He really was, at least in the West, one of the springboards for environmental ethics," she says.

To explore how modern concepts of sustainability relate to Leopold's work, ASU hosted its third Extending the Land Ethic Summer Institute in June of 2016. The four-week event combined classroom discussions with field trips to places like Arcosanti, Grand Canyon National Park and Homolovi State Park.

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Inaccurate emissions numbers weaken Clean Power Plan

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June 24, 2016

Illuminated power plant at night, its reflection in nearby waterAccording to an Arizona State University study led by Senior Sustainability Scientist Kevin Gurney, federal data on power-plant carbon dioxide emissions is significantly flawed.

Power plants are responsible for roughly 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions nationwide. Inaccurate data concerning these emissions undermines the federal Clean Power Plan, which is designed to strengthen the clean-energy trend by setting a national limit on the carbon pollution produced by power plants.

“This policy relies on the achievement of state-level CO2 emission-rate targets,” write the study's authors. “When examined at the state level, we find that one-third of the states have differences that exceed 10 percent of their assigned reduction amount. Such levels of uncertainty raise concerns about the ability of individual states to accurately quantify emission rates in order to meet the regulatory targets.”


ASU's Poly campus now offers degrees in sustainability

Board Letter School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

June 24, 2016

Student explaining project on water use To meet an increasing demand for sustainability education, ASU's School of Sustainability has made its offerings even more accessible. Now, students at ASU's Polytechnic campus can enroll in the school's popular undergraduate degree programs, like its Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in sustainability. Its 18-credit minor in sustainability is also available to Poly students, and makes a strong complement to virtually any major. Students attending a Maricopa County Community College may be eligible for MAPP.

Students at the School of Sustainability are reinventing the future of a world at risk. The school's programs introduce students to the concept of sustainability and how its application can transform the world for the better. This program is transdisciplinary, drawing from many academic fields. Students explore the interaction between societal, economic, and environmental factors and develop solutions to challenges at the local, regional and global levels.

A neighborly partnership for energy reform

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News

June 23, 2016

Beltrán stands at a podium with a black curtain behind himLeonardo Beltrán Rodríguez, undersecretary for planning and energy transition under Mexico’s Secretary of Energy, is managing the most significant reform of Mexico’s energy sector in more than 70 years – and ASU is helping him do it. In June 2016, Beltrán met with ASU leaders to formalize a relationship of future collaboration in energy research and education.

“ASU is one of the premier universities in the U.S. in terms of energy research, with nationally recognized centers...,” said Stephen Goodnick, deputy director of ASU LightWorks. “ASU also has strong partnerships within Mexico, with more than $35 million worth of projects related to Mexico either in partnership with Mexican entities or with a focus on Mexican topics, cultures or materials.”


HOAs influence water use, ASU study finds

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

June 5, 2016

Low-water landscaping in desert neighborhoodHomeowners associations are good for water conservation, according to a study led by Senior Sustainability Scientist Elizabeth Wentz.

Upon analyzing water-use records for properties throughout several neighborhoods in Goodyear, Arizona, Wentz and her research team found that houses in HOAs used significantly less water than those that were not. They also found that houses in HOAs had less vegetation overall, even when minimum vegetation requirements were listed among the HOAs' rules.

The team concluded that a sense of community, coupled with fines for non-conformers, make homes in HOAs more likely to observe an area’s social and environmental norms – even if those norms are never codified in law. If HOAs shaped their standards to reflect environmentally-friendly landscaping, they could save thousands of gallons of water per household every year.


Camels don't fly, deserts don't bloom

Board Letter School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

June 2, 2016

Tractor on a desert farmOne hundred miles west of Phoenix, a Saudi Arabian-owned farming operation called Almarai grows alfalfa for hay year-round. Why would a foreign company grow one of the most water-intensive crops in the desert of La Paz County, Arizona? And what does this mean for the future of water resources in the state?

"Camels don't fly, deserts don't bloom" is a 2016 documentary by a team of seven ASU students from five countries – three of whom are enrolled in the School of Sustainability. Under the guidance of sustainability scientist Peter Byck, director of Carbon Nation, the 15-minute film explores the questions raised by this agricultural anomaly.


Sustainability Highlights magazine covers a notable 2015

Board Letter School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

May 27, 2016

ASU sustainability professor Arianne Cease holds a locust on her hand and smiles2015 was another momentous year for the ASU Wrigley Institute, with multiple milestones in solutions, engagement, education and research. School of Sustainability professor Arianne Cease was named among the Popular Science Brilliant 10, the international Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network was established with a $12 million grant, and the Walton Global Sustainability Solutions Services presented a plan to green Albania's schools to the prime minister of that country.

Eight ASU sustainability scientists, scholars and fellows attended the historic U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference in Paris, School of Sustainability grad student Anna Bettis asked Democratic presidential candidates for their climate change commitments during a televised CNN debate, and household names Tom Friedman and M. Sanjayan joined our growing list of distinguished Wrigley Lecturers.

And that's just a sampling. For a more in-depth look at what we accomplished last year, flip through our newly-released 2015 Sustainability Highlights magazine.


ASU LightWorks director named clean air champion

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News

May 25, 2016

13250482_10208163534062855_577511014_nThe Valley of the Sun Clean Cities Coalition is one of 90 coalitions across the country designated by the U.S. Department of Energy to reduce the use of petroleum motor fuel. These efforts are directed under the Clean Air Act and Energy Policy Act to reduce air pollution and dependence on foreign oil.

Every two years, Valley of the Sun and Tucson Regional Coalitions stage a Legislative Breakfast, where legislators, staff and civic leaders are invited to learn the latest in the means of reducing the use of petroleum fuel. This event features key speakers and a comprehensive display of alternative fuel vehicles.

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Meeting emissions targets after Paris climate talks

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Professional Training and Custom Sustainability Education

May 19, 2016

Smokestacks billow emissions in front of a blue skyWithin months of the Paris climate talks, more than 20 city officials from around the world gathered in Washington, D.C. for a "how-to" on inventorying sources of greenhouse gas emissions. The training – led by Raj Buch, practice lead for the Walton Global Sustainability Solutions Services – helped attendees determine where emissions cuts are most needed.

Twenty-one city officials attended, from countries including Argentina, India, South Africa, Korea, Bolivia, China and Bangladesh. All of them were clients of World Bank, an organization that mainly finances Third World infrastructure projects and is concerned about the effects climate change will have on them.

Bank officials asked the School of Sustainability to design and deliver a curriculum around this topic, as it had done for other topics in the past. The workshop will be produced in an online format, as well.


Love of a language shapes sustainability grad's path

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

May 16, 2016

Bridget Harding standing on a wet walking path through a field of tall flowersSchool of Sustainability student Bridget Harding's love of the Korean language, which she studied throughout high school and her time at ASU, has shaped her path in a few profound ways.

First, it prompted her to study abroad in South Korea, where she became interested in East vs. West perspectives on nature and ecology. It also became a point of intrigue for potential employers, who viewed that the knack for learning such a difficult language as an indicator of other aptitudes – like learning difficult computer programs.

Harding was admitted into the Fulbright Scholarship Program in South Korea, where she will teach English for at least one year. She is one of the 118  uniquely-talented students to graduate from the School of Spring in 2016.


A higher-ed transformation that could help save the planet

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News

May 12, 2016

New York buildings with trees.In a May 2016 article in Huffpost Green, the directorate of the ASU Wrigley Institute examines the question, "Can universities save the planet?"

In the piece, authors Rob Melnick, Gary Dirks and Chris Boone contend that practical solutions to the mega-problems we face are not being implemented quickly enough. They attribute this gap, in part, to the incremental advance of these problems – too difficult to see for many people to take seriously.

Universities – with their vast portfolio of expertise – can be instrumental in closing this gap, say the authors. But only if they move from the current model, where knowledge generation and dissemination is the sole goal, to one where solution implementation is the desired end.


A glimpse into the future of algae

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News

May 11, 2016

summerfeld_and_algae-5One of the nation’s top experts on algae, ASU sustainability scientist Milton Sommerfeld, has spent half of a century exploring the possibilities of the plant as a super food, fuel, fertilizer and more.

Sommerfeld – co-director of the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation at ASU's Polytechnic campus – explains that there are roughly 75,000 different types of algae, and that certain strains are more optimal for given uses than others.

According to Sommerfeld, the most immediate impact from algae will be in bioremediation – a waste management technique that uses organisms to remove or neutralize pollutants from a contaminated site. He expects commercial algal biofuels further down the line, as production will require scaling the small cultivation operations of the present to an industrial level.


Thinking circularly in a rapidly-growing megacity

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May 10, 2016

asu-circular-economy-workshop-lagos-2To help address the mounting challenges of Africa's most populous city – Lagos, Nigeria – the Global Sustainability Solutions Services of ASU’s Walton Initiatives hosted a three-day workshop there in April 2016.

The first of its kind in the world, the "Introduction to Ethical Circular Economy" workshop was hosted at Sustainability School Lagos – an institution modeled after ASU's Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. It encouraged the group of 35 students, city and state officials, and others to imagine an economy where resources are remanufactured, refurbished and recycled – nothing is wasted.

“There is a tremendous amount of potential for a circular economy in rapidly developing countries,” said Senior Sustainability Scientist and Practice Lead Raj Buch. “It’s where the larger opportunity arises because it’s where most of the economic development is going to happen.”

Buch co-led the course with General Manager Dan O’Neill and Olufemi Olarewaju – an Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership graduate and the executive director of the Sustainability School Lagos.


NASA funds first ASU student team to run space satellite

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

May 6, 2016

Students with laptops smiling in infrared An ASU undergraduate project called “Phoenix,” which will design and build a bread loaf-sized satellite, has been awarded $200,000 by the NASA Space Grant Undergraduate Student Instrument Program. The satellite, called a “3U CubeSat,” will use thermal infrared imaging to investigate how human activity and weather create urban heat islands around the Valley.

"Phoenix" follows an interdisciplinary model, made up of students and faculty from the School of Sustainability, among others. Though faculty and a graduate student will be mentors on the project, the team of more than 25 undergraduate students will be designing, promoting, building and running it from beginning to end.

“This project is history in the making,” said School of Earth and Space Exploration associate professor Judd Bowman, the project’s principal investigator. “No undergraduate student group at ASU has run a satellite in space before.”


Solar panels: worth it? ASU expert discusses on FOX 10

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News

May 4, 2016

Harvey Bryan in front of blue FOX 10 backdrop wearing navy blazerIn a May 2016 segment of "Is it worth it?" on FOX 10 Arizona Morning, ASU senior sustainability scientist Harvey Bryan answered frequently-asked questions about installing solar panels on a home.

Bryan, a professor in The Design School, explained to hosts Rick D'Amico and Andrea Robinson that there are a variety of rooftop solar options available. They range from crystalline to thin-film, and vary in efficiency and price.

He confirmed that 85% of the rooftop solar market is constituted by power-purchasing agreements, where there are no up-front costs and you are paid for the energy that you generate. There are also leasing agreements, where you pay to lease the panels but get your energy for free, as well as outright purchasing.

In the instance of outright purchasing, an expensive option in the short-term, Bryan estimates owners can expect paybacks in six to eight years. This is because technology is reducing costs by up to 30% a year in some instances.

Bryan advises shopping around and getting at least three quotes prior to making a purchase.


International innovation through partnership with Beijing Normal University

Board Letter School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News

April 28, 2016

25496231294_902c0b3fc6_oStrengthening Arizona State University’s commitment to innovation, ASU and Beijing Normal University have agreed to establish the Joint International Research Laboratory of Disaster Risk and Sustainability Sciences. The mission of the Joint Lab is to establish an international innovation platform for fostering research, training and education programs in both disaster risk and sustainability sciences, with an emphasis on integrated risk governance for sustainable development.

The ultimate goals for the Joint Lab are to understand the transformation of social-ecological systems in the context of global climate change, to provide the knowledge required for societies elsewhere in the world to deal with risks posed by global environmental change, and to seize sustainable development opportunities in a transition to global sustainability.

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