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Sustainability News

A goodbye to giraffes? The decline of Earth's gentle giants

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Biodiversity News

December 16, 2016

Two giraffes standing in tall grass, their necks intertwinedWith giraffe populations diminishing 40 percent over the last 30 years, and numerous other species facing grave population declines, humans must re-evaluate and adapt our behavior to safeguard the planet's biodiversity.

In a recent interview with ASU Now, Senior Sustainability Scientist Leah Gerber indicates that humans will not only have to act swiftly to halt threatened species' declines, but will also have to choose which species to preserve. She adds that how we make those decisions – whether we base them on charisma, cost-effectiveness or ecosystem significance – is up to us.

Gerber, who is also the founding director of the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, is working to find ways to address these biodiversity challenges at ASU.


Tabulating the world's weather oddities

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

December 13, 2016

Patches of foam cover a rolling ocean waveBy leading the World Meteorological Organization’s confirmation group and curating the events it substantiates at ASU, sustainability scientist Randy Cerveny helps the Geneva-based United Nations agency keep track of the world’s weather, climate and water.

Cerveny, who lists a 2.25-pound hail stone that fell in Bangladesh among the oddities in the archives he maintains, says it can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to verify an extreme event and that a lot can be learned from these records. In a December 2016 interview with ASU Now, Cerveny explains that these records not only help us prepare for these events but help us understand how our climate is changing over time, as well.

He stresses that these changes in climate guarantee that we will see more records fall in the future.


A family man's journey to sustainability

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

December 12, 2016

jason-tibbetts-standing-in-front-of-green-leafy-treeIn a December 2016 interview with ASU NowSchool of Sustainability student Jason Tibbetts shares that he originally planned to attend an out-of-state school. He ultimately opted for Mesa Community College due to its reputation and proximity, and learned about the School of Sustainability there.

"I have always had a passion for the environment and self-sufficiency, but I never had a name for it until I heard about the sustainability program at ASU," Tibbetts says.

Tibbetts enrolled in the school's Bachelor of Science program shortly thereafter. In addition to classes in the Sustainable Energy, Materials and Technology track, he is a husband and a father of three, as well as the owner of an edible landscaping business.


Water woes: How one ASU expert is addressing water conservation

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

December 8, 2016

John Sabo smiling in plaid blue and white shirt, green leafy backgroundAs droughts and fresh water shortages continue to be a challenge for the nation's southwest region, many are seeking more aggressive and effective water conservation solutions.

In a December 2016 interview with ASU NowSenior Sustainability Scientist John Sabo says that businesses can help lead the charge to conserve water, and to set an example for others to do the same.

Sabo, director of ASU's Future H2O initiative, attended Business H2O – a conference in Las Vegas that explored how industry can reduce water consumption and overall costs through advancements in water technology. He explains that not only the environment, but also companies themselves can benefit from saving water.

According to Sabo, "If the incentives are set up right, a business can sustain supplies of cheaper water into the future by investing in conservation."


Breaking barriers to green procurement overseas

School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

December 7, 2016

Nicole Darnall wearing a black top and smiling.Nicole Darnall, a sustainability scholar and professor in the School of Sustainability, has been awarded the Social Science Research Council's 2017-2019 Abe Fellowship for her research on sustainable public procurement.

The fellowship is designed to encourage international multidisciplinary research on policy-related topics of pressing global concern and to support researchers who are willing to become key members of a bilateral and global research network built around such topics. It strives to promote a new level of intellectual cooperation between the Japanese and U.S. academic and professional communities committed to and trained for advancing global understanding and problem solving.

As part of her fellowship, Darnall will extend her sustainable procurement research (with scholars in ASU's Center for Organization Research and Design) to assess the barriers and facilitators of Japanese local governments' green procurement decisions.

Seeds of opportunity: Are veterans the future of farming?

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Food Systems News

December 6, 2016

A group of men in uniform pose for the cameraAs the nation's farming population continues to age and retire without replacements, our shortage of farmers is more grave than ever. Meanwhile, thousands of military veterans are returning home seeking meaningful, peaceful employment.

In order to combat both of these issues, filmmaker Dulanie Ellis suggested veterans take over for retiring farmers – an idea explored in her documentary "Ground Operations: Battlefields to Farmfields."

Sydney Lines, coordinator of the Food Systems Transformation Initiative at ASU, hosted the film screening and subsequent panel discussion in downtown Phoenix. In an interview with ASU Now, Lines expresses her enthusiasm for the concept of veterans replacing retiring farmers. She notes not only the special skills veterans have to fill these rolls, but also the beneficial and therapeutic effects farming has on veterans returning home from war.


A certification ASU students can go wild about

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November 29, 2016

Man wearing brown shirt stands in front of a pond and releases a duck into the air.While a passion for the environment is essential, students looking for careers in the field also need the right credentials. To help meet that need, sustainability scientist Heather Bateman worked with colleagues in ASU’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts to develop the undergraduate Wildlife Management Certificate.

According to Bateman, the need was twofold: “Applied biological sciences students wanted some type of recognition when they graduated that would indicate to potential employers they had expertise in the discipline of wildlife management, and [myself and other biology professors] wanted to get the word out across ASU about opportunities to study wildlife and engage with wildlife professionals.”

The new certificate provides application-based, hands-on experience to students interested in biology, conservation, sustainability and management of natural resources. It was first offered in Fall 2016.


Paving the way to sustainable transportation infrastructure

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

November 21, 2016

The underside of a white bridge in MinneapolisWith almost half of federal highways and major roads in the U.S. classified below "good condition," the country is in need of serious transportation innovation.

Senior Sustainability Scientists Narayanan Neithalath, Timothy James and Kamil Kaloush are exploring how to improve the nation's transportation infrastructure by creating safer, less expensive, and more environmentally-friendly and durable structures.

A few of their techniques? Integrating innovative materials such as recycled tires and longer-lasting concrete, and building sensors to monitor structural safety.

According to Neithalath, "We can use less resources, we can make bridges last longer and we can make them less risky. Sustainability is a collaboration of all these different things.”


US election results cause concern for international climate treaty

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

November 16, 2016

ASU's Sonja Klinsky, wearing dark top and turquoise scarf, smiles for camera. While scientists generally agree that human activity is accelerating Earth’s warming trend, president-elect Donald Trump has called it a hoax. His election was a hot topic at the COP 22 climate meetings in Marrakech, Morocco, where international climate scientists met to discuss implementation of the Paris climate agreement.

School of Sustainability Assistant Professor Sonja Klinsky, who presented research on strategies for global cooperation on climate and human well-being at the meeting in Marrakech, took a few moments to gauge the mood there for ASU Now.

Klinsky described the election results as "devastating to all," and cited several specific concerns. These include an increased vulnerability of Americans to climate change impacts, lost economic opportunities, a tarnished international reputation and eroded trust.


Sustainability student named among Outside's "30 Under 30"

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

November 16, 2016

Sarra standing in front of an urban garden wearing a shirt that says "hope"At age 21, Sarra Tekola stood on a stage in Blaine, Washington and shouted to a crowd that she was “born to fight climate change.” Now enrolled in the PhD program at ASU's School of Sustainability, Tekola has been named to Outside magazine's "30 Under 30."

The list features young adults successfully tackling some of the biggest challenges on the planet and leading the way for others. Tekola, the daughter of an Ethiopian refugee who fled his home country after a deadly drought, has been championing climate action for years. Outside nicknames her "The Troublemaker" for her sometimes unconventional way of prompting positive change.

Tekola is now studying how to build eco-communities for underprivileged people.


Tour takes sustainable approach to cultural appreciation in Hawaii

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November 16, 2016

Guide stands in the center of a Hawaiian cultural landmarkImproving education systems for Native Hawaiian learners by cultivating vital community partnerships is the mission of Kamehameha Schools. That's why the organization teamed up with Arizona State University to make it possible for learners worldwide to explore some of Hawaii’s sacred cultural sites.

Through the partnership, KS developed a virtual huaka‘i (field trip) that offers learners the same cognitive and effective gains as a real-life excursion and enables the organization to share its cultural resources without disturbing sacred sites – a concern for cultural practitioners. ASU experts provided technical assistance, surveying the sites, gathering three-dimensional images and creating the online, 360-degree tour.

KS envisions one of the sites, Kahaluʻu Ma Kai, as a hub for innovative Native Hawaiian ʻāina-based STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) education.


New degree anticipates global energy transitions

Board Letter School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

November 15, 2016

A solar array at night on ASU's Tempe campusRecognizing that today’s global energy transitions demand leaders who can navigate interwoven technical, societal and environmental challenges, ASU's School of Sustainability introduced a Doctor of Philosophy in Sustainable Energy in November 2016.

The new PhD transcends the boundaries of traditional methodologies and disciplinary viewpoints to achieve a sustainable energy future. Students in the program conduct collaborative cross-disciplinary research, integrating energy science with societal and policy insights.

Drawing upon emerging knowledge and deep historical insights – as well as integrating information from the physical, biological and social sciences – students will explore and contribute to sustainable solutions that address urgent energy challenges now and in the future.


Dinner 2040 provides a taste of the future

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Food Systems News

November 14, 2016

Diners take notes while eating colorful meal outdoorsHosted by local, organic Maya's Farm in November 2016, Dinner 2040 was a meal served to spark conversation.

The charette-style gathering – planned by sustainability scientist Joan McGregor with support from the Food Systems Transformation Initiative – put people from diverse backgrounds around the same table. While enjoying equitably-produced dishes, diners like academics, chefs, activists, legislators and others discussed key values related to food and how they can be better implemented going forward.

McGregor hopes that Dinner 2040 events will serve as a template for “future of food” workshops and dinners in communities across North America. She explores food-related values in detail in a October 2016 Thought Leader Series contribution titled "Putting Values on Our Plates."


What's in a game? A creative approach to complicated issues.

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

November 10, 2016

Two women with glasses consider what to do with colorful playing cards.A game called “Future Shocks and City Resilience” – created by Senior Sustainability Scientist Lauren Withycombe Keeler – is helping decision-makers take a creative approach to solving complex problems.

The game was played by about 50 people at a November 2016 City of Tempe Resilience Workshop, sponsored by the city, the National League of Cities and ASU's School of Sustainability. Participants – including top city officials and ASU faculty – learned to think about sustainability in much broader terms than, say, recycling.

“It’s sustainability in terms of, how does a city create an environment that is livable for all different types of residents, and is equitable? And does it achieve that in a way that preserves and enhances the natural environment and allows the benefits to be available for future generations?” Withycombe Keeler explained.


Upping the game for reduced greenhouse gas emissions

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

November 1, 2016

Man with glasses sits in front of a computer, smilingIn an interview with ASU Now, School of Sustainability Assistant Professor Datu Buyung Agusdinata describes how ASU is supporting the development of a video game – one that helps everyday people understand how their consumption of food, energy and water can affect everything from the environment to income inequality.

The game represents an effort by multiple institutions and is funded through a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Agusdinata leads the ASU team, which will contribute a better understanding of human decision-making in households, as well as of humans' response to psychological cues and social norms.

The game will reveal the preferences and intentions of users, suggesting what they might do under certain conditions in a realistic environment. Ultimately, it will inform concrete and cost-effective methods – including technology and policy – for promoting sustainable consumption.


Fostering sustainability and forging connections in Guatemala

School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Alumni News

November 1, 2016

Room of Guatemalan schoolchildren wearing uniformsGuatemala is consistently listed in the top 10 happiest countries in the world, despite the difficulties it faces with poverty and crime. To continue this trend and improve the lives of Guatemala's residents, different groups are working there – including School of Sustainability faculty, alumni and students, who have visited the country for the past two summers.

These visits yield a number of connections, like one between two alumni who were in Guatemala with different organizations and crossed paths unexpectedly. Another graduate from the School of Sustainability is currently working in Guatemala for Habitat for Humanity. A study abroad program also brought students to the country in the summer of 2015, and the faculty member who facilitated the trip – who has visited multiple times since – plans to go back again this December.

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Members of new consortium unite around global sustainability outcomes

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October 26, 2016

Micheal Crow wearing gold and maroon tie, speaking in front of audienceAt the first-ever meeting of the Global Consortium for Sustainability Outcomes, ASU President Michael Crow described both the depth of the challenge at hand and his excitement to join forces with other universities to make sustainability both a value and an outcome.

The twenty men and women in the room, representatives of eleven universities around the world, had traveled to Tempe to do just that: work together to create sustainability outcomes on a global scale, and at a pace that our current challenges mandate. It was clear from the dialogue over the course of their two days together that this was the goal of every founding member.

The Global Consortium for Sustainability Outcomes is an international network that transforms ideas into action. By joining the consortium – a nonprofit, member-governed organization – members enjoy the benefits of collaboration, international connectivity and the catalytic effect that contributes to sustainability impact.


The greatest threat of our time and no one wants to talk about it

Board Letter Thought Leader Series ASU Wrigley Institute News

October 25, 2016

Smokestacks in front of an orange sunsetA Thought Leader Series Piece

by Leon Billings & Thomas Jorling

Note: As the two senior staff members who led the Senate environment subcommittee during the 1970s, Leon Billings and Thomas Jorling are widely regarded as pioneers of the "Golden Age" in environmental policy when Congress developed some of the most influential and enduring legislation – still in effect today.

While electronic media, political commentators and candidates wallow in irrelevancy, our planet’s future hangs in the balance. Actions man has taken over the last century and a half have contaminated the thin patina of atmosphere that we call air.

No, this isn’t conventional air pollution that we have sought to reduce through efficiency and technology. This is climate pollution caused by a group of pollutants called greenhouse gasses, byproducts of man’s use of natural resources to improve the human condition.

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Putting values on our plates

Board Letter Thought Leader Series ASU Wrigley Institute News

October 25, 2016

Joan McGregor, wearing pearl earrings and necklace, smiling in front of a treeA Thought Leader Series Piece

by Joan McGregor

Food is inseparable from human history, culture and values. It provides significant meaning to people around the world, regardless of nationality. The failure of food systems to recognize these qualities in food contributes to some of the vast inequalities we see today.

A sustainable food system, then, is one that respects historical, cultural and place-based practices. It supports ecological health, considering the current strengths and challenges of a region’s natural resources and protecting them for future generations. Encouraging culinary innovations that contribute to human health and nutrition is another key component.

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Sustainable energy versus natural landscape

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

October 18, 2016

Turbines on a green, open meadow overlooking oceanIn order to meet the energy demands of an increasingly industrialized world, renewable energy systems will require a lot of hardware. This hardware will inevitably become a part of our landscapes – a reality that doesn't please everyone.

That's why a cross-disciplinary team of five scientists – including Senior Sustainability Scientist Mike Pasqualetti – came together to write "The Renewable Energy Landscape: Preserving Scenic Values in our Sustainable Future." The recently-released book seeks to address the tension between conservation efforts and the need to develop sustainable energy alternatives.

The book takes care not to discredit landscape quality concerns, which are typically expressed by the people people living near technologies like solar fields and wind farms. Rather, it proposes a responsible compromise; if sustainable energy is a must, then the infrastructure can be built in a manner where its disruptive effect on the landscape is minimized.