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Sustainability News

Father of climate-change awareness speaks at ASU

ASU Wrigley Institute News

February 26, 2016

james hansen wearing brown hat and navy blazerJames Hansen, legendary for perceiving the threat of catastrophic climate change during his long career as NASA’s chief climatologist, delivered a Wrigley Lecture in February 2016 detailing the latest climate-change developments. He was also a speaker at the GreenBiz University conference, presented in partnership with The Sustainability Consortium and the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives.

Hansen, a professor at the Columbia University Earth Institute, talked about how current policies are falling short, and what he thinks will work. He spoke about his plan for a carbon fee, calling it the only viable way to move away from fossil fuels that contribute to man-made climate change.

Click here to read his Thought Leader Series essay, which was featured in The Arizona Republic. The full video of his Wrigley Lecture can be viewed here.


ASU partners with UH Hilo on energy certificate

School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

February 22, 2016

solar panels, palms trees and ocean at sunsetThe University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo will begin offering a certificate in energy science in fall 2016. The program was made possible through collaboration with ASU's School of Sustainability, which shared courses, syllabi and rationale for its own undergraduate certificate in energy and sustainability.

Representatives from the School of Sustainability met with UH Hilo's Bruce Mathews – interim dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management – and physics professor Philippe Binder when the certificate was in its infancy. Sustainability scientists Mike Pasqualetti and Jon Kelman helped to fine-tune further details.

“Energy science is a really critical component of our future,” said Mathews. “Our energy is dependent on outside resources, and nutrients used as fertilizers are derived from outside energy, too. We are so dependent on imported fossil fuel, oil and coal. For us to become self-reliant is extremely critical.”


Western mayors team up to tackle water challenges

ASU Wrigley Institute News DCDC News

February 8, 2016

mayors in suits and ties smiling for pictureAlongside the January 2016 U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., leaders from Phoenix, Mesa, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Aurora and Fort Collins, Colorado, met to discuss what actions their cities are taking to address urban water supply and demand issues in an era of changing climate.

The “Western Mayors Water and Climate Change Summit” was hosted by Dave White – director of the ASU Wrigley Institute’s Decision Center for a Desert City –  and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. The mayors of participating cities covered topics like the role information technology will play in conserving water and the importance of educating the next generation of leaders in government, industry and environmental policy.

“The idea of thinking about providing a secure, sustainable water supply for future generations is this notion of a public good that really crosses sectors — public, private, nonprofit — and requires us to train leaders in all of them,” White said.

Building on the initial meeting, the group will evaluate a series of principles developed by Decision Center for a Desert City with the goal of refining, and ultimately moving toward, a consensus for implementation.


Assigning a dollar value to natural capital

ASU Wrigley Institute News

February 8, 2016

researcher Joshua Abbott wearing glasses and a blue suitTo calculate the value of natural capital, you start with the same economic principles used to value traditional assets, explains economist and School of Sustainability professor Joshua Abbott. Then, you factor in changes in ecosystems and human behavior that influence the appreciation or depreciation of that natural resource. The result is a figure that can be compared on a balance sheet with traditional assets like real estate, factory machinery and infrastructure.

Abbott — with lead author Eli Fenichel of Yale and colleagues from California State University at Chico, Michigan State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — published these findings in February 2016 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Without an apples-to-apples valuation approach, the value of natural capital cannot be measured against other assets and expenses,” Abbott said. “Our work can help governments and businesses track the sustainable use of natural resources.”

The study garnered attention in the national media, with coverage in both The Washington Post and Newsweek.


Addressing the need for ecological expertise in business

ASU Wrigley Institute News Biodiversity News

February 4, 2016

marriage-business-ecology-asuEcologists who are motivated to achieve real impact in nature conservation should consider engaging with the corporate sector, according to an editorial in the February 2016 issue of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

The authors - including sustainability scientists Leah Gerber and Sheila Bonini - contend that there is a high demand from the corporate sector for ecological science. Businesses are beginning to see the world’s economic and ecological systems as they are – inextricable. They are realizing that maintaining the natural resources upon which their operations depend ensures their long-term viability, and that failing to do so is costly.

But right now, the authors say, businesses do not have adequate access to the ecological expertise and data they need to properly price nature. Efforts like those by The Sustainability Consortium – which translates sustainability life-cycle analysis into practical business tools used by Walmart and other leading consumer-goods companies – and ASU's Center for Biodiversity Outcomes need to be increased.

The authors stress that, in meeting the need for their expertise in the corporate sector, ecologists can make a strong contribution to addressing the complex sustainability challenges we face.


A conference on climate change, from a gender perspective

ASU Wrigley Institute News

February 2, 2016

collage of strong, smiling womenThe USAID Takamol- Gender Program, in collaboration with Arizona State University and the Jordanian Ministry of Environment, conducted the first-ever gender and climate change conference in February 2016.

Among those to provide opening remarks was Global Sustainability Solutions Services Practice Lead Rajesh Buch, who highlighted the intersection between climate change and gender in light of Jordan’s drive to accelerate its green growth initiatives after the December 2015 Conference of Parties in Paris.

Women in Jordanian communities are leaders and change makers who would benefit from stronger integration between gender mainstreaming and sustainable development concepts. Through multi-stakeholder dialogues and exchanges of knowledge, Takamol hopes to facilitate this integration by developing a policy paper and action plan. Guest speakers from ASU provided international best practices and shared knowledge on gender and climate change linkages within various contexts.

“We hope to contribute to impactful and innovative solutions to the social, environmental and economic challenges of this region, specifically around the implications of climate change on gender” said Gary Dirks, executive director for the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.


Studying the effects of neighborhood gardens

ASU Wrigley Institute News

January 22, 2016

urban farm with city skyline in the backgroundASU is taking the lead on a collaborative national project –supported by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Center for Atmospheric Research – to answer questions about urban farming.

Senior sustainability scientist Alex Maholov is the project's lead principal investigator and oversees an interdisciplinary team consisting of computational and climate scientists, mathematicians, statisticians, geoscientists and social scientists. The team will help predict the yields of crops, studying “what if” scenarios to optimize future outcomes. For example, the team will study what would happen if vacant lands around the Phoenix metropolitan area were converted to farms.

The end product will be a physics-based model utilizing weather and farming data to predict environmental, economic and socio-economic impacts of increased urban agriculture. The model will be public and accessible to everyone, including scientists, researchers, farmers, city planners and policymakers.


Conference in Aloha State will have strong ASU presence

ASU Wrigley Institute News

January 14, 2016

world-conservation-congress-asuFor the first time in its history, the International Union for Conservation of Nature will host its World Conservation Congress on U.S. soil – a bid secured with the assistance of ASU.

Likened to the United Nations of nature conservation, the IUCN is a global organization based in Switzerland whose members include NGOs, governments and universities. It hosts the WCC every four years, providing a forum for members to share information and experiences, debate major sustainable development issues and propose solutions.

The conference has been hosted throughout the world in its 68 years – most recently by South Korea. Not only will the 2016 conference be held in Hawai'i, it will feature three events sponsored by the ASU Wrigley Institute, as well as a subcommittee on Neighbor Islands and Counties chaired by board member John DeFries.

Struggling to process the Paris climate talks? Help is coming

ASU Wrigley Institute News

January 13, 2016

paris-climate-agreement-asuThe December 2015 conference in Paris, where governments of the world adopted an arguably game-changing international agreement on climate change, was a lot to process for many of us.

To aid our digestion of this historic event, four ASU experts and conference attendees will join us for the latest installment in the Case Critical series, "Postcards from Paris," on January 20, 2016. They'll cover what happened at COP21, what they did while they were there, what they consider to be the innovations of the Paris agreement, and what the agreement implies for the U.S. and world. What might ASU staff, students and faculty contribute as all parties move forward?

The experts include Manjana Milkoreit, a senior sustainability fellow and postdoctoral research fellow with the Walton InitiativesJeffrey Swofford, a doctoral student in the School of Sustainability; Daniel Bodansky, a foundation professor of law in the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law and the faculty co-director of the Center for Law and Global Affairs; and Sonja Klinsky, a senior sustainability scientist and assistant professor in the School of Sustainability.

The event is co-sponsored by the Center for Law and Global Affairs at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.

Celebrating 10 years of leading the way

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Alumni News

January 4, 2016

asu-school-sustainability-anniversaryArizona State University’s School of Sustainability has been boldly leading the way to a sustainable future since its inception in 2006.

Now in 2016, the school – the first comprehensive, degree-granting program of its kind in the nation – reaches its 10th Anniversary. The milestone will be marked with a series of memorable events from April 14-16, including a Wrigley Lecture by renowned author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” Michael Pollan.

The school has enjoyed numerous accomplishments over the past decade, including an expanding set of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, a minor in sustainability and multiple online offerings. It has also established training partnerships with organizations including the International Finance Corporation, World Bank, Starbucks, Walton Family Foundation, Wells Fargo, United States Agency for International Development and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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Media seeks ASU expertise on Paris climate talks

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

December 10, 2015

media-mentions-300x300Eight ASU sustainability experts were in attendance at the 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Paris, France, Nov. 30 through Dec. 11. With expertise ranging from international law to ecology to ideology, policy and equity, Arizona State University was well represented in the media.

In an article published near the end of the negotiations, Sustainability Scientist Sonja Klinsky was prominently featured in the Los Angeles Times. Together with Walton Sustainability Postdoctoral Fellow Manjana Milkoreit, Klinsky was also consulted for a piece on PBS FRONTLINE. Foundation Professor of Law Daniel Bodansky was featured in articles by both US News & World Report and CNN, and local NPR affiliate KJZZ ran an interview with Klinsky and Bodansky, as well.

Follow our web page dedicated to the COP 21 for more information about the experts, plus quotes, links to articles and more.

Sustainability a motivating alternative to doom and gloom

School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

November 29, 2015

asu-sustainability-dean-booneIn a recent contribution to the Journal of Sustainability Education titled "On Hope and Agency in Sustainability: Lessons from Arizona State University," School of Sustainability Dean Christopher Boone examines how ASU prepares students to address the pressing challenges of living and working sustainably.

Boone starts by explaining the appeal of sustainability to many students — it offers a hopeful alternative to doom and gloom while encouraging everyone to participate in the creation of a desirable future. He then describes how — with the strong support of President Michael Crow — sustainability education flourished at ASU, making this optimistic science accessible to all of its students.

Focusing on curricular strategies while addressing some extra-curricular strategies, Boone discusses in detail how the principle of sustainability has been integrated into ASU. He also shares the post-graduate employment patterns of alumni who are now agents of sustainability in their places of work.


Sustainability grad receives prestigious NASA fellowship

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

November 18, 2015

asu-sustainability-grad-nasa-fellowAnn Marie Raymondi, a 2013 graduate of the School of Sustainability's Master of Science program, has been named a NASA Harriett G. Jenkins Graduate Fellow following a rigorous selection process. Now pursuing her master’s in biology at Boise State, Raymondi is one of only 13 to receive a prestigious Minority University Research Education Project (MUREP) Advanced STEM Training and Research (ASTAR) fellowship.

The fellowship application required students to develop a research proposal, which was then evaluated by NASA for scientific rigor and impact. Raymondi's research will examine the effects of fire and climate change on plant communities in the sagebrush-steppe system. This is an important line of inquiry as many ecosystems that support life on Earth are undergoing rapid change, underscoring the need for tools to aid our understanding.

In addition to research conducted at Boise State during the academic year, Raymondi's award provides her with an annual 10- to 15-week center-based research experience at a NASA research center.


DCDC details decade of water research in Phoenix

ASU Wrigley Institute News DCDC News

November 4, 2015

Dam in desert locationA paper authored by Decision Center for a Desert City researchers, published today in the journal Sustainability, synthesizes a decade of water research in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Titled "Decision-Making under Uncertainty for Water Sustainability and Urban Climate Change Adaptation," the paper explores human–environment dynamics, gaps in knowledge and practice, social learning and the evolution of an interdisciplinary research and boundary organization, which has enhanced adaptive and sustainable governance in the face of complex system dynamics.

"This research exemplifies the transdisciplinary approach advanced by ASU," says DCDC Director Dave White. "The knowledge generated here was developed by a team of social, behavioral, economic and sustainability scientists collaborating with biophysical scientists, engineers, a network of stakeholders and an internationally-recognized group of scientists and practitioners on our advisory committee."

In addition to White, the paper was authored by sustainability scientists Kelli Larson, Pat Gober and Amber Wutich.


ASU LightWorks to engage military in energy-related research

ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News

October 29, 2015

Wind turbines in a fieldASU LightWorks recently received funding through the Naval Enterprise Partnership Teaming with Universities for National Excellence (NEPTUNE), a pilot program of the Office of Naval Research. The $1.5 million in seed grants over seven years will support six energy-related research projects at Arizona State University that will engage veterans or active-duty military.

Recognizing that energy challenges pertain to both technology and people, the projects will invite participation from the ASU veteran community through the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, as well as from local bases with active-duty military personnel. The projects aim to provide military members with experience, training and resume-building that is beneficial in post-military careers.


ASU center takes pragmatic approach to extinction

ASU Wrigley Institute News Biodiversity News

October 27, 2015

Frog in waterASU's Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, directed by Senior Sustainability Scientist Leah Gerberwas created a year ago to pragmatically stem the tide of loss in what has been called the Sixth Extinction. Its mission is to make discoveries and create solutions to conserve, where possible, and to manage biodiversity for the long term as the world rapidly changes. In doing so, tough decisions must be made.

“We can’t save everything,” says Anita Hagy Ferguson, program coordinator for the center. “We’re not operating in that la-la land. It’s heartbreaking, but we are operating with real data, with real reality, and you cannot save everything. You have to make choices in what to save and how to save it, so that we can move quickly.”

The center’s research focuses on five areas: biodiversity assessment and decision tools, governance and biodiversity, advancing corporate sustainability, public health and biodiversity, and engagement of underserved youth. To learn more about the center, watch this interview with Gerber on Arizona Horizon.


Hawaii to host IUCN World Conservation Congress in 2016

ASU Wrigley Institute News

October 20, 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 Hawaii, 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 Hawaii - 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.

Hawai'i teachers participate in national sustainability academy

ASU Wrigley Institute News

October 20, 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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ASU Wrigley Institute leaders define sustainability

ASU Wrigley Institute News

October 20, 2015

chicago-skyline-2Most experts agree that sustainability's primary aim is to accommodate a growing number of people on a planet with finite resources. The precise definition of sustainability, however, garners numerous interpretations. In a recent ASU News article, the members of the ASU Wrigley Institute's directorate provide their personal definitions.

“It’s looking after the Earth as a system, people as a system, and trying to find ways we can both survive and thrive in the future,” says School of Sustainability Dean Christopher Boone. “That’s one definition. I don’t always use that definition. I use something more formal.”

According to Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer Rob Melnick, “Both the Brundtland definition and Gifford Pinchot’s encompass a rapidly growing, relatively new expression of ‘sustainability. That is, ‘intergenerational well-being.’ This works for me."

Gary Dirks, director of the ASU Wrigley Institute, simply defines sustainability as “universal, intergenerational human well-being.”


CAP LTER partners to bring big data to high school girls

ASU Wrigley Institute News

October 19, 2015

High school work together an assignmentASU’s Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research program was a partner on a recent week-long workshop that presented big data to high school girls.

More than a dozen 11th- and 12th-graders spent their fall break learning a statistical computing program and gathering skills that will be valuable to them in future STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers. The workshop was taught by Jessica Guo, a graduate student in the School of Life Sciences.

“Programs like this one are narrowing the gap in girls’ participation and success in math and science,” said Monica Elser, education manager for the ASU Wrigley Institute. "The workshop capitalized on a broad range of data and ASU resources to create something really special for these students.”