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Sustainability News

Thinking circularly in a rapidly-growing megacity

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

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.

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NASA funds first ASU student team to run space satellite

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.”

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

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.

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International innovation through partnership with Beijing Normal University

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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Partnership drives international sustainability education

School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News

April 28, 2016

26008456592_62e279a211_oArizona State University is developing a long-term partnership with Beijing Normal University through a joint education program. This program between ASU and BNU allows the universities to drive their shared vision of sustainability through education.

We’re excited to announce that BNU and ASU have agreed to establish a collaborative education program known as the “BNU-ASU 3+1+2 Program.” This program allows qualified undergraduate students enrolled at BNU to successfully complete three years of their curriculum at BNU, and then transfer to ASU for another year to finish their undergraduate program. When students complete the first four years in the program, they receive a bachelor’s degree from BNU, after which they have the option to pursue a two-year Master of Science in Sustainability degree at ASU's School of Sustainability.

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ASU mends the trails of iconic mountain on Earth Day

School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

April 22, 2016

Teachers and students smile while collecting trash at A MountainTo commemorate Earth Day 2016, the ASU Wrigley Institute partnered with the City of Tempe to host a clean-up of "A" Mountain on April 22.

Roughly 150 volunteers from at least seven organizations hit the trails of Tempe's only preserve, armed with trash pickers and bags. Staff from the Department of Public Works – who had come in on their day off, in some instances – hauled away four dump trucks of debris, with many more small loads taken away in golf carts.

According to Robert Bartelme of the City of Tempe, up to 150 bags of trash were removed. This is a testament to the impressive volunteer turnout – the largest in the event's seven-year history.

WaterSim debuts at largest science festival in US

ASU Wrigley Institute News DCDC News

April 18, 2016

DCDC staff stand in front of booth, smiling and flashing ASU pitchforkASU's Decision Center for a Desert City was one of only 30 National Science Foundation-funded projects invited to represent the organization at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C., from April 16-17, 2016.

Visitors to the DCDC  booth learned about water in the West through WaterSim – a simulation tool created by the center to estimate water supply and demand for the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. It allows users to explore how various factors like regional growth, drought, climate change and water management policies influence water sustainability.

The festival – the largest and only national science festival, as well as the largest STEM education event in the United States – saw an estimated 350,000 visitors over the course of two days.

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Best-selling author takes a look at your next meal

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Food Systems News

April 14, 2016

Author Michael Pollan sitting at table with his books smiling at studentAuthor, journalist and food activist Michael Pollan — named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine — gave a Wrigley Lecture on April 14, 2016, as part of the School of Sustainability's 10th anniversary celebration.

Pulling from 15 years of research, Pollan detailed the many shifts in agriculture since the industrial revolution – including the move from sunlight to oil. He explained how many factories that supported WWII – like those that manufactured bombs – went into the food business post-war, making products like pesticides instead.

These shifts have had a number of unintended negative consequences, Pollan explained. They include crops that are so laden with chemicals that they are not fit for direct human consumption, a poor quality of life for farmed animals, and a significant toll on the overall health of Americans.

Pollan concluded by commending the ASU Wrigley Institute for its focus on solutions to the problems of food system sustainability. After receiving a standing ovation, he joined the excitement at both the Rescued Food Feast and Festival of Sustainability at ASU.

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Anniversary celebration propels school into its next decade

ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

April 14, 2016

asu-school-of-sustainability-ten-yearsIn 2014-2015, more than 1,500 ASU students were enrolled as sustainability majors and minors across business, engineering, sustainability, humanities and nutrition. Ten years prior, the degree did not exist – not at ASU or any other university in the nation.

The festivities on April 14, 2016, not only celebrated the evolution and accomplishments of the first-ever School of Sustainability, they recognized the foresight and collaborative spirit of Arizona State University as a whole.

The day began with a packed house at a Wrigley Lecture by best-selling author and food activist Michael Pollan, who discussed some disturbing trends in our food system and how they can be reversed. After receiving a standing ovation from the audience, Pollan joined the migration to the Rescued Food Feast, which served nearly 1,000 people with delicious meals made from nutritious foods typically disposed of for cosmetic reasons alone.

Diners then followed members of ASU's marching band to the front steps of Wrigley Hall, where Benefactor Julie Wrigley and President Michael Crow remarked on the occasion. Alumni, faculty and community members alike then enjoyed the Festival of Sustainability at ASU, featuring a Farmers Market, live music and exhibits by departments throughout the university.

It was a 10th birthday to remember!

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Adapting to climate change while working to reverse it

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

April 8, 2016

A devastated community after a stormEfforts to reverse climate change are not fast-acting enough, so we must take practical steps now to blunt disasters, says a March 2016 report called “Adaptation for a High Energy Planet: A Climate Pragmatism Project.”

Co-author Daniel Sarewitz – a sustainability scientist and the director of ASU's Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes – explains that while working toward a reduction in carbon emissions is important, we must adapt to the increased likelihood of extreme weather events in the meantime. This can be achieved through flexible, forward-thinking infrastructure; contingency plans for evacuation and emergency housing; and improved weather tracking, among others.

“There’s all sorts of aspects to this; it’s not just a technological problem,” Sarewitz says. “What we’d really like to see is policymakers and the media realize that there is a different, more hopeful way to look at the problem, and it points the way towards solutions.”

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Expect the unexpected in age of The Anthropocene

ASU Wrigley Institute News

April 8, 2016

Sir Crispin Tickell wearing purple sweater sitting in arm chair in sunlit roomHow we cope with the accumulating effects of our actions is a major issue for society and requires understanding and political leadership.

This was the sentiment of the Sustainability Series talk given by Sir Crispin Tickell – a member of the Board of Directors for Sustainability at ASU – in April 2016.

He began by staging The Anthropocene, which he described as a man-made geological epoch that started when fossil fuels began replacing muscle.

Now, Tickell said, we need to address climate change on an intellectual level, closing the gap between scientific findings and political will. We need to learn to think differently and – above all – to expect the unexpected.

Tickell is a member of the Advisory Council for Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford. He is the former director of the Policy Foresight Programme for the University of Oxford and former chancellor of the University of Kent. 

ASU students pursue biodiversity solutions in the global south

ASU Wrigley Institute News Biodiversity News

March 29, 2016

Two dolphins jumping through waves in the oceanBiodiversity describes the plethora of different species on the Earth, as well as the ecosystems that they create and sustain. Humans couldn’t survive without a biodiverse planet, simply because the ecosystems we rely on only function due to the interactions of all these different species. In many cases, we don’t know exactly how a single species fits into the web of ecosystem functions; we do know that once a species goes extinct, there’s no going back.

The Center for Biodiversity Outcomes (CBO) is one of Arizona State University’s newest endeavors to conserve biodiversity around the world, through research, natural resource management and education. In terms of education, the center is one of several ASU programs now working with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to connect student researchers with partners in the global south to address conservation challenges.

“We are delighted to collaborate with the USAID program to provide our students with hands-on practical conservation development research,” says CBO director Leah Gerber.

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Let's talk water abundance, not scarcity, says new initiative

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

March 22, 2016

Desert mountains in background and calm lake in foregroundA five-year Arizona State University initiative called FutureH2O is flipping the global conversation about water – focusing on abundance and how to create it, rather than on scarcity.

John Sabo, a senior sustainability scientist and professor in the School of Life Sciences, directs the new initiative and announced it at a White House Water Summit on March 22, 2016.

“FutureH2O will look for new opportunities to harness the abundance of water on the planet,” said Sabo. “Some of these opportunities are things you’d expect us to do as a university, like training the next generation of water managers. But some of the other opportunities are things that ASU is uniquely poised to do."

ASU will work with large corporate water consumers to restore what they use, train a new generation of leaders on water usage, turn a Phoenix-area municipality into a model for reducing outdoor water use, as well as maximize sensors, data and the internet on a global scale to instantly manage water and hydropower.

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LightWorks draws VIP crowd at energy innovation summit

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News

March 16, 2016

Al-Gore-ARPA-E-LightWorks-ASUTaking part in a high-visibility event near the nation’s capital means you need to be on your toes. Just ask sustainability scientist Zak Holman, an assistant professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He was displaying a technology at the recent ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit near Washington, D.C., when Al Gore, the former vice president, walked up and asked him about the PVMirror Holman had invented.

Holman’s PVMirrors were part of an ASU LightWorks display put on by Arizona State University for the ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy) summit. ASU professors, staff and students took part in the three-day event. They had the chance to show off their work to several people, including dignitaries like Jim Yong Kim – president of the World Bank – who was also impressed by Holman's technology.

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ASU researcher proposes endangered species triage

ASU Wrigley Institute News Biodiversity News

March 15, 2016

asu-biodiversity-endangered-speciesThe agencies involved in implementing the Endangered Species Act have difficult choices to make regarding which species and actions are of the highest priority.

Of the 1,125 currently listed species under the Endangered Species Act, 50% still have declining populations or are high risk for extinction, with 800 additional species that must be considered by 2018. Listing species under the act is assumed to promote recovery, yet for this to be successful, conservation actions must be taken post-listing and adequate funding must be allocated. Currently only approximately 12% of listed species receive the recommended funding.

CBO Director Leah Gerber proposes that reallocating funds from species with budget surplus to offset funding deficits for underfunded species could support recovery for 180 species. The full publication in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences can be accessed here.

Read more on the paper in Science InsiderClimate Progress, The Wildlife Society, 91.5 KJZZ,  Wired and Global Possibilities.

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The advent of the humane economy

Thought Leader Series ASU Wrigley Institute News

March 7, 2016

A Thought Leader Series Piece

By Wayne Pacelle

smiling wayne wearing black suit jacket and light blue tieNote: Wayne Pacelle is president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, the nation's largest animal protection organization. He is author of the book, "The Humane Economy: How Innovators and Enlightened Consumers Are Transforming the Lives of Animals," and his March 2016 Wrigley Lecture is titled "The Humane Economy." 

A decade ago, Arizona voters approved a ballot measure to stop the extreme confinement of pigs and veal calves on industrial-scale farms. Opponents mounted a vigorous and mocking campaign, claiming that food costs would rise and farmers would suffer if these animals were given just a little room to move beyond tiny crates. The electorate saw through those scare tactics and passed Prop 204 in a landslide, with 62 percent voting to give animals raised for food better lives.

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Collaborative efforts to address youth hunger and unemployment

ASU Wrigley Institute News Food Systems News

March 5, 2016

girl with backback kneeling in gardenThe Food Systems Transformation Initiative (FSTI) is excited to collaborate with the Global Youth Innovation Network, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and other partners to support the Youth Agribusiness, Leadership, and Entrepreneurship Summit on Innovation YALESI 2016 held in Dakar, Senegal.

Youth employment and hunger are two key issues that have been impacted by the economic crisis. This is particularly true for youth living in developing countries, representing 85% of the world youth. To address these issues, YALESI 2016 will prioritize young people’s needs, considering their developmental needs, and including underserved populations, such as girls, to an effective and inclusive employment strategy.

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Status of sustainability in the Colorado River Basin

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News DCDC News

March 3, 2016

Panelists discuss water in front of audience“We have more interest, more data, and more planning tools than we’ve ever had."

This was a sentiment expressed by James Eklund – director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board – at Decision Center for a Desert City's annual keynote on March 3, 2016.

The discussion, titled "A Conversation about Solutions for Water Sustainability in the Colorado River Basin," also included Eklund's Arizona counterpart Tom Buschatzke – director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

The two water chieftains, moderated by sustainability scientist Wellington “Duke” Reiter, explained that Arizona and Colorado have an ample water supply as the result of very careful planning and conservation.

They stressed that this fact should not keep residents of the states from viewing water as the precious resource it is.

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What changes will global warming bring?

ASU Wrigley Institute News

March 2, 2016

Climate change expert Wally Broecker smiling in study full of booksIn this March 2016 lecture, Dr. Wally Broecker discusses the changes that global warming will bring to our planet.

Broecker, whose research has focused mainly on defining the ocean’s role in climate change, is known as the grandfather of climate science.

Winner of the 1996 U.S. National Medal of Science, Broecker is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a foreign member of the Royal Society, a fellow of the American Geophysical Union and of the European Geophysical Union, and a senior sustainability fellow at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

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We've got climate change all wrong

Thought Leader Series ASU Wrigley Institute News

March 1, 2016

A Thought Leader Series Piece

By James Hansen

james hansen wearing brown hat and navy blazerNote: James Hansen is the former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and is an adjunct professor at Columbia University's Earth Institute. He is credited for perceiving the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change, and delivered a Wrigley Lecture on the topic in February 2016. This essay appeared in The Arizona Republic in the same month.

The commercials are low-key, but omnipresent. Gentle, warm encouragement, the key message implicit: vote for the political candidates on the take from the fossil-fuel industry. “I am an energy voter” commercials are persuasive. They promise jobs, low prices at the pump, warm homes, and energy independence for our nation.

Benefits for all, or so it seems. In reality, benefits flow mainly to a handful of people, the fossil-fuel magnates, who prefer to be anonymous. “I am an energy voter” commercials, in effect, ask us to place our offspring on a sacrificial alter. As we raise the knife, unlike Abraham, we hear no voice telling us to stop, to put down the knife.

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