November 26, 2014
During the first two weeks of December, representatives from virtually every country in the world will gather at a United Nations convention to talk about climate change. They’re developing an international agreement, slated to be signed in 2015, that will determine how we will mitigate climate change as a global community.
Global climate policy expert Sonja Klinsky, an assistant professor in the School of Sustainability, answers questions about climate change mitigation.
November 19, 2014
By Ray Jensen
Note: December marks eight years since the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted at the United Nations headquarters in New York. In this essay, Ray Jensen advocates for a new model to address disability issues, with the goal of improving global sustainability through inclusion.
The romantic biography of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, The Theory of Everything, was released this month. Its focus is on the relationship of this extraordinary man and Jane Wilde, who weds Hawking and for as long as she is able, embraces the challenges of his life with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). From the trailer, it seems that Hawking received, not a death sentence, but a prison sentence when he was a young man, and gradually was translated into a person with a disability. Sometimes it happens that way.
For other people with disabilities, the point of entry is birth, athletic injury, auto accidents or the violence of war. However it arrives, it is usually unexpected, always unwanted, and often the beginning of a journey that can tax the emotional, financial and relational health, not only of the individual with the disability, but of their family and loved ones.
November 19, 2014
In an effort to improve sanitation infrastructure in Lagos – the second fastest-growing city in Africa – Nigerian leaders turned to ASU and the City of Phoenix’s Resource Innovation and Solutions Network (RISN). The partnership has resulted in a hub at Sustainability School Lagos called RISN Nigeria, which harnesses the knowledge of academics, practitioners, consultants and students to inform waste management in Lagos.
RISN Nigeria is the first international hub of the Resource Innovation and Solutions Network, a partnership between ASU’s Global Sustainability Solutions Services – a program of the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives – and the City of Phoenix’s Reimagine Phoenix program. RISN convenes stakeholders from across the world to collaborate, propose real-world projects and grow a global network that solves resource management issues.
November 19, 2014
A new course called Creating Living Buildings – offered through ASU’s School of Sustainability and taught by Senior Sustainability Scientist Mick Dalrymple – imparts the principles of the Living Building Challenge. The challenge was established by the International Living Future Institute based on a philosophy that buildings are functionally embedded in ecosystems rather than separate from them.
“We want to inform the next generation of green building professionals on the Living Building Challenge and what Living Buildings are,” said Dalrymple, also a practice lead for the Global Sustainability Solutions Services. “Buildings consume natural resources, contribute to climate change and impact human health and productivity. Instead of thinking of green buildings as being less bad, we should think about how buildings can do more good, and that’s the philosophy behind the Living Building Challenge.”
November 14, 2014
With a mission of reaching consensus for wise water policy and lasting solutions in Arizona, the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy was officially launched Nov. 14. Made possible by a $1 million gift from the Morrison family and named after retired U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, the Kyl Center will convene a diverse group of stakeholders to collaboratively address many of the state’s water challenges.
According to Kyl, the center will not be a competitor of existing water centers or efforts, but rather a collaborator and partner in finding new ways to address challenges for our growing state. It will serve as a forum for public evaluation and education, as well as an alternative to litigation for more expeditious resolutions of outstanding issues. Sustainability scholar Grady Gammage, Jr., a senior research fellow at the Morrison Institute, is part of a team providing leadership until a full-time director is found.
November 12, 2014
Presenting a paradigmatic shift in the way a university can act as a force for good, Arizona State announces its first official charter. The comprehensive document focuses the university’s mission on the inclusion and success of all its students, and on a fundamental social responsibility to the communities ASU serves.
ASU President and Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Michael Crow describes the document as an expression of “the reason for the existence of the institution,” and one that re-imagines the role of a major university in the 21st century.
“We can make our universities produce master learners more dedicated to the breadth of our society, more dedicated to the betterment of our society, more dedicated to the betterment of our democracy,” he says. “If we can do that, we will have had a major impact on the outcome of humanity.”
November 12, 2014
With the goal of eliminating water contaminants that present challenges to communities worldwide, sustainability scientists and engineers Kiril Hristovski and Paul Westerhoff will work as part of a new national hub for research and innovation. The hub – funded through an EPA grant and known as the Design of Risk Reducing, Innovative Implementable Small System Knowledge (DeRISK) Center – will develop and test advanced, low-cost methods of reducing, controlling and eliminating common contaminants.
“The ultimate goal is to develop novel and sustainable technologies for photocatalytic water treatment that can move us closer toward using sunlight to convert nitrate and other contaminants to innocuous end-products without addition of any chemicals,” said Hristovski, who will lead the ASU team. “Nanomaterials will play a central role in this research endeavor.”
November 12, 2014
In its new phase within the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, the Stardust Center for Affordable Homes and the Family continues its tradition of advancing affordable, safe and sustainable housing. It does so by empowering students to build sustainable communities, both through two School of Sustainability courses and a new fellowship program.
When it opened in 2005 with a generous gift from philanthropist Jerry Bisgrove, the center acted in a consulting capacity. Since this time, it has partnered with an array of communities – urban and rural, small and large – throughout the state. Now, it utilizes those partners to provide students with an opportunity for the practical application of classroom concepts. In addition to supplying welcomed assistance to participating partners, Stardust fellows gain valuable networking opportunities, insights and inspiration.
November 10, 2014
With a $100,000 grant from Open Society Foundation for Albania, ASU’s Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives are assisting Albania’s transition to sustainable education. Using ASU’s extensive resources, such as experts in green building and international development, the Walton Initiatives team will complete a cost-benefit analysis of energy efficiency in Albania’s public schools.
This analysis, conducted by the Walton Initiatives’ Global Sustainability Solutions Services in partnership with the East-West Management Institute, will be shared with international donor organizations, private investors and the Albanian government. Not only will the analysis direct retrofitting investments, it will support the Albanian Ministry of Education’s initiative to establish an Education Excellence Fund – a program to encourage and finance innovation in schools.
November 7, 2014
On Nov. 6, a letter signed by 240 of the world’s leading conservationists, including six from ASU’s new Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, was published in the journal Nature. The letter, titled “A call for inclusive conservation,” expresses discontent with a divisive debate in the conservation field over whether nature should be protected for its own sake or for the benefit of humankind.
To remedy this, the letter proposes an ethic of inclusiveness – one that recognizes the merits of each approach and encourages broader participation from the conservationist population. The letter’s six Center for Biodiversity Outcomes signatories agree that adoption of this ethic will help engage and align an expansive audience with conservation efforts.
Nature publishes the open letter as the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, a partnership between the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and School of Life Sciences, prepares to celebrate its launch on Nov. 13-14.
October 31, 2014
A Wall Street Journal article on a recent Phoenix-Tucson water agreement highlights the growing trend among drought-ridden regions of sharing natural resources, and includes insights from sustainability scientists Dave White and David Sampson.
“This is ushering in an era of cooperation where, typically in the past, each player has watched out and protected its own rights,” said White, co-director of Decision Center for a Desert City, in the article.
Sampson shared that the Colorado River’s flow could eventually fall to as little as 40% of its long-term average.
The agreement the article cites permits Phoenix to send some of its surplus water to Tucson, where it is needed to lower pumping costs. In return, Tucson will give a portion of its Colorado River water to Phoenix when needed.
October 31, 2014
Continuing its tradition of bringing internationally known thinkers and problem-solvers to engage with the community, the Wrigley Lecture Series welcomed physicist, food activist and author Vandana Shiva on Oct. 30. Shiva – who works to protect the diversity and integrity of native organisms, especially seeds, by promoting practices like organic farming – delivered a lecture titled “Future of Food: Dictatorship or Democracy.”
“Her prescient insights, including the importance of organic farming in feeding the world, are similar to the findings of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development,” said Joni Adamson, a sustainability scholar and professor of English and Environmental Humanities. “They provide many good reasons to invite her to talk about the future of food.”
The lecture was presented by the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and Institute for Humanities Research, with support from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.
October 24, 2014
By Heather Lineberry
Note: Now through January 17, the ASU Art Museum hosts Trout Fishing in America and Other stories, an exhibition by artists Bryndis Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson. The project is supported by a research grant from the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.
Over the past four decades, solutions to the persistent and complex challenges of sustainability have typically been developed through scientific analysis. There has been an assumption that knowledge will lead to appropriate action. Recently the accuracy of this one-dimensional assumption has been in question, and many have begun to seek more effective ways of developing robust solutions.
About a year ago, Arnim Wiek from the School of Sustainability asked me to co-author a chapter for an introductory textbook on sustainability. This might seem an odd request for a contemporary art curator and art historian, but much of my research and curatorial work has explored the ways that artists have engaged with our challenges in living sustainably. I’ve found that art can facilitate deep collaboration across disciplines and social groups to challenge existing models and propose new ones.
October 22, 2014
Supported by a multimillion dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, a team of ASU researchers will develop an efficient and cost-effective carbon capture technology. The team, which includes co-principal investigators and sustainability scientists Cody Friesen and Ellen Stechel, will do so using an innovative electrochemical technique to separate carbon dioxide from other emissions originating from power plants. Additionally, it will explore the real possibility of reducing energy and cost requirements by more than half.
The project is part of a special Department of Energy program designed to pursue high-risk, high-reward advances in alternative energy research. It was was selected through a merit-based process from thousands of concept papers and hundreds of full applications. The results of the project could be an economically enabling breakthrough in the drive to reduce carbon emissions.
October 22, 2014
As a first-time applicant to the Bicycle Friendly University program, ASU recently earned a gold-level ranking. The designation, presented by the League of American Bicyclists, recognizes higher-learning institutions that foster sustainable, productive and efficient cycling environments. Particular attention is paid to the support of cycling initiatives, as well as access to both convenient riding areas and parking on campus.
“We are honored to receive this award from the League of American Bicyclists and to see ASU’s efforts recognized,” said JC Porter, assistant director of commuter services for ASU Parking & Transit Services. “In the past year, we have transformed the bicycling culture at ASU and reinforced our commitment to meeting the transportation needs of all students, staff and faculty who bike to and from campus.”
October 20, 2014
An interdisciplinary team of ASU experts – including sustainability scientists Matthew Fraser, David Gutson and Thomas Seager – offers a new anticipatory approach to Life Cycle Assessment. The approach, featured in the Sept. 16 issue of the journal Environmental Science and Technology, explores best- and worst-case scenarios for the impacts of technologies in diverse categories. It was developed using the photovoltaic cell, a rapidly emerging technology used in solar panels, as a test subject.
Life Cycle Assessment is a tool commonly used by environmental engineers to weigh the positive and negative attributes of a technology at all stages of its life. Because the tool historically relies on hard data that can only be obtained after any environmental harm has already occurred, it presents a dilemma. The anticipatory approach to Life Cycle Assessment remedies this by embracing, rather than trying to eliminate, uncertainty or conflicting data. Instead of looking at one parameter at a time, it compares many uncertain parameters to identify an environmentally promising research agenda.
October 20, 2014
Harvard University has announced its five-year sustainability plan, which will apply new “green” standards in an effort to reduce waste and energy use. Heather Henriksen, director of Harvard’s Office of Sustainability, shared that Arizona State University’s plan served as a direct model for Harvard.
In a Harvard Crimson article, Henriksen explained that while other universities’ sustainability plans focus on climate change and emissions, ASU’s is more holistic. She cited faculty involvement in sustainability research and teaching, along with greater emphasis on everyday campus operations and health, as examples.
ASU’s framework for addressing the challenges of sustainability incorporates four pillars; namely, education, research, business practices, and global partnerships and transformation. The Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability serves as the hub of ASU’s overall sustainability initiatives. ASU’s School of Sustainability, one of the first such schools in the country, trains the next generation of sustainability practitioners, entrepreneurs and leaders.
October 15, 2014
ASU’s Listen(n) Symposium – a series of panel discussions, musical performances and art installations – aims to open our eyes to sustainability issues by opening our ears to the sonic environment. The symposium, which takes place Oct. 16-17 at the ASU Art Museum and Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute for Sustainability, hopes to forge cross-disciplinary efforts to address environmental issues in new and innovative ways.
“At its base, the symposium is about the ways we engage the environment through the mode of listening, and whether we can attune our listening practices to a degree that allows us to think about these environmental issues in a way that moves beyond, say, studying statistical analyses,” said Professor Daniel Gilfillan. “(This approach) brings the individual into the realm of the environmental space. It encourages students to think about how composition, how sound, how art as a medium, allows us to engage with these more critical issues in a way that is both creative and forward thinking.”
October 14, 2014
In high school, Galvin did not want to wait until college to put her science interests into action. She began looking into research opportunities open to high school students, and found the ASU Wrigley Institute’s Southwest Center for Education and the Natural Environment. Galvin became intrigued with the work led by Nathan Newman – a sustainability scientist and professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy – including his lab team’s efforts to develop next-generation electronics.
Galvin’s work in Newman’s lab earned her a first-place prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, where she competed against 1,700 of the top high school students from 70 countries around the world.
October 14, 2014
With support from NASA, ASU Senior Sustainability Scientist Soe Myint is leading an interdisciplinary study to further understand the impacts of urban infrastructure and vegetation on local and regional climate. Using diverse analytical techniques like remote sensing and numerical modeling, Myint’s team is monitoring climate in five urban areas: Las Vegas; Beer Sheva, Israel; Jodhpur, India; Kharga, Egypt; and Hotan/Hetian, China.
As part of a series that showcases the interdisciplinary studies it sponsors, NASA has invited Myint to present a live webinar describing his team’s investigation. Projects selected for the webinar series deal with interactions among components of the Earth system and promote research in emerging science areas like those identified in the Strategic Plan of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. The knowledge that Myint’s team acquires will serve to support adaptive management and foster the development of sustainable desert cities.