ASU Wrigley Institute News

Sustainability resonates with change-driven Scholars

June 2, 2014

Soccer02The students enrolled in ASU’s MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program share two key characteristics with the university: a commitment to fostering meaningful change and an enthusiasm for sustainability.

This August, ASU welcomes its third cohort of Scholars, representatives of 15 Sub-Saharan African nations who exemplify academic excellence and the potential for effective leadership. All 40 students come to the land of maroon and gold determined to improve their home communities when they return after four years of undergraduate schooling.

What is ASU’s role in accomplishing this goal? In addition to providing a caliber of education these promising students could not otherwise access, Scholars are given the tools and capacities that innovative solutions require. As a complement to their chosen degree programs, all scholars take SOS 194: “Sustainability Issues in Africa,” a course offered by the School of Sustainability.

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Hotter nights suggest increase in heat-related deaths

May 30, 2014

Phoenix SkylineA recent study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, indicates that increasing overnight temperatures pose a greater threat to human health in Maricopa County than daytime temperatures. Because this phenomenon is largely attributed to urbanization and the heat-retaining capacity of the built environment, the increase in overnight temperatures may be mitigated by implementing a lower-growth strategy.

The study, co-authored by senior sustainability scientist Matei Georgescu, sought to quantify heat-related deaths using three urbanization and adaption scenarios along with multiple exposure variables. By guiding long-term planners and public officials toward more sustainable urban development strategies, these findings may decrease the number of heat-related illnesses and deaths otherwise reported in Maricopa County.

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Developing the blueprint for sustainable cities

May 27, 2014

sustainable-cities-bannerAs the human population grows and an increasing number of people move to urban areas, cities around the world are considering options for improved sustainability. Because its climate is similar to other cities experiencing population booms, Phoenix is in a unique position to exemplify resilience in the face of climate change.

Recognizing this opportunity, local city officials and ASU researchers – such as those at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability – are working to provide a digestible definition of sustainability, as well as frameworks that can be easily implemented by policymakers. Through projects on campus, partnerships with municipalities and faculty-led investigations, these researchers are developing innovative solutions to complex challenges like feeding and transporting the population, reducing sprawl and preserving cultural identity.

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Sustainability scientist receives national recognition for research

May 27, 2014

vivoni_0Enrique Vivoni, a senior sustainability scientist and professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, has been named a recipient of the 2014 Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize. Awarded by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the prize recognizes notable achievements in research related to civil engineering, and is generally given to members under the age of 40.

The selection committee cited Vivoni for his “contributions to the understanding of ecohydrologic processes in semi-arid areas,” taking particular note of his focus on the impacts of climate change. Over the past year, he has demonstrated the role of terrestrial plants on topographic, radiation and hydrological properties in aspect-delimited ecosystems; developed participatory modeling workshops in Mexico that address infrastructure and climate change impacts on water supply in rural settings; and identified the role of urban irrigation on soil moisture dynamics and its management implications in Phoenix.

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ASU’s algae-based biofuels of interest to US Navy

May 27, 2014

mcginn_in_lab_2Dennis McGinn – U.S. Navy Assistant Secretary for Energy, Installations and Environment – highlighted problems shared between the Navy and civilian cities during a recent visit to Arizona State University. In the realm of energy use and reliability, such overlapping issues include cost, sustainability, efficiency and energy security.

During his visit, McGinn toured the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) at the Polytechnic campus in Mesa. As the largest university-based algae facility on the globe, AzCATI leads the DOE-funded national algae testbed, known as the Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3). McGinn expressed the Navy’s interest in the work done by both AzCATI and ATP3, particularly if the cost of creating algae biofuels shrinks to compete with traditional fuel markets.

Through the increased use of U.S.-made renewable fuels, McGinn expects that the nation will achieve a higher level of physical and economic security along with the Navy.

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Study links air conditioning ‘waste heat’ to increased temperatures

May 14, 2014

air-conditionersAn Arizona State University research team – which featured sustainability scientists Matei Georgescu, Alex Mahalov and Mohamed Moustaoui – found that the release of excess heat from air conditioners running during the night resulted in higher outdoor temperatures. This phenomenon not only worsens the urban heat island effect, but increases cooling demands, resulting in a positive feedback loop.

The study – titled “Anthropogenic Heating of the Urban Environment due to Air Conditioning” and published in the Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres – used a physics-based modeling system to evaluate the impact of heat emission from air conditioning systems on surrounding air temperature. They found that the effect of “waste heat” from air conditioning systems was more consequential during the night due to the limited depth of the urban boundary layer.

These findings will help to address future energy needs in a more sustainable manner.

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Sustainability scientists contribute to Arizona heat preparedness

May 12, 2014

heat-hydration_0Two senior sustainability scientists are among the ASU researchers working to prepare for Arizona’s dangerous, and sometimes fatal, summer temperatures. In an effort to reduce the number of heat-related deaths seen in 2013, Sharon Harlan  a professor in ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change  is working to understand the details behind these incidents, such as the conditions under which they occur and the demographics that are most commonly affected. Her findings indicate that residents of inner-city neighborhoods with lower household incomes, particularly elderly individuals living alone, are at greatest risk.

Mikhail Chester, assistant professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, leads a research team that focuses on the relationship between urban form and heat vulnerability. The team also created an interactive map that directs users to cooling stations in Maricopa County.

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Renewable Energy as a Key National Security Interest

Thought Leader Series

May 12, 2014

Lt-Gen-Norm-Seip-320x320A Thought Leader Series Piece

By Lt Gen (ret) Norman R. Seip, USAF

Note: May 17, 2014, is Armed Forces Day, a holiday established in 1949 by President Harry S. Truman as a single day for U.S. citizens to thank all military members for their service. On the occasion of the first Armed Forces Day, Truman recognized the military for progress toward its “goal of readiness for any eventuality,” a goal that endures today.

The Pentagon is leading the charge toward a secure renewable energy future. Senior military and national security leaders agree: a single-source dependence on fossil fuels – primarily oil – endangers our troops in combat zones and threatens our long-term security interests.

Additionally, our continued reliance on these dirty fuels is worsening the impacts of climate change. The effects of shifting weather patterns are already destabilizing vulnerable regions of the world, and international instability could force the military into an ever-rising number of resource-driven conflicts.

While the civilian “debate” on these issues trudges on – hampered largely by politicians beholden to petroleum interests – the Department of Defense has recognized that reducing fossil fuel dependence, investing in clean energy technologies, and incorporating climate change into national security strategies are operational, tactical, and strategic imperatives.

To strengthen our national security and prevent more of our servicemen and women from being sent into conflicts abroad, our civilian leaders would be wise to follow the lead of the military and increase our commitment to employing clean energy and combatting the threat of climate change.

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ASU honors conservationist with naming of Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability

May 7, 2014

conservationist-julie-ann-wrigley-global-sustainabilityIn 2004, philanthropist and conservationist Julie Ann Wrigley participated in a gathering of some of the world’s leading thinkers in the field of sustainability. The meeting, led by Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow, outlined a vision of a successful sustainability institute that crossed academic disciplines and institutional boundaries to forge a new way of thinking about and solving the challenges of sustainability.

To help make that vision a reality, Wrigley made a $15 million gift to establish the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University. Later, she invested another $10 million to attract some of the world’s foremost scholar-researchers to the nascent School of Sustainability.

Today, the university announces an additional gift of $25 million, bringing Wrigley’s investments in sustainability at ASU to a total of $50 million. Wrigley is one of three families or individuals who have given $50 million or more to ASU – the others are Fulton Homes founder Ira A. and Mary Lou Fulton and businessman William P. Carey.

VIDEO: Julie Ann Wrigley’s investment in sustainability at ASU »

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ASU scientists play key role in White House climate assessment

May 7, 2014

NCA3-Climate-Change-Impacts-in-the-United-States-Cover-smallThe third National Climate Assessment report, released by the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee, concludes that the effects of climate change are evident and primarily caused by human activity. Among the report’s contributors are two Arizona State University faculty and senior sustainability scientists – Nancy Grimm and Michael Kuby – who were lead authors on three chapters. In addition, Hallie Eakin, an associate professor in ASU’s School of Sustainability, was a reviewer on the project.

Overall, the report includes 30 chapters covering climate change and its effects on a wide range of industries, activities and eight regions of the U.S. It demonstrates that how we adapt to these effects will go a long way in determining our future on Earth. Additionally, human-induced climate change is projected to accelerate significantly if emissions of heat trapping gasses continue to increase, threatening human health and well-being in many ways. The report, which included the input of nearly 300 authors and was overseen by a 60-member federal advisory committee, is the most comprehensive assessment of the science and effects of climate change in the U.S.

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Sustainability grad influences water management reform

May 6, 2014

ben-warner2Ben Warner, a School of Sustainability doctoral student, used an interdisciplinary approach to determine the causes of water scarcity in the rural, semi-arid region of northwestern Costa Rica. By working directly with water and agricultural managers, Warner found that both drought and international trade liberalization treaties have had a major impact on smallholder farmers. As a result, they have become increasingly vulnerable to global changes and less capable of adapting to them.

In an effort to bolster smallholder farmers’ ability to cope with limited market access and frequent drought, Warner collected data from workshop proceedings, focus groups, interviews and surveys within the Arenal-Tempisque Irrigation Project in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. His analysis revealed that farm size, farming tenure, the presence of family members working outside of the agricultural sector, livestock ownership, perceptions of climate change and household reliance on agriculture were determining factors in farmers’ decisions to adjust their livelihoods. His findings have since been used to refine agricultural water management policy in the region.

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Extreme makeover: sustainable residence hall edition

May 2, 2014

After a months-long transformation, the School of Sustainability Residential Community’s courtyard is an ideal gathering place.

Music, Mexican food, a perfect spring day on a patio in Tempe, Arizona…

This celebration has more of a mission than most, however. In between bites from Chipotle burritos, residents of the School of Sustainability Residential Community (SOSRC) are enthusiastically planting, building and painting. Several Wrigley Sustainability Institute staff members join them, and a butterfly flutters about a fledgling citrus tree as if imitating the activity.

This is the culmination of a months-long effort to recreate SOSRC’s courtyard, located in the appropriately named “S Cluster” of Adelphi Commons II. The colorful umbrellas, numerous planter boxes, plentiful seating and greenery are recent features of a patio that was nothing more than rocks and a French drain prior to the undertaking.

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Student Spotlight: David Jae Hoon Yu

May 2, 2014

David-YuMotivated by the desire to make an impact, School of Sustainability doctoral student and Neely Foundation grant recipient David Yu made a courageous decision that has changed the course of his career.

Yu was born and spent his formative years in Seoul, South Korea. As a teen, he immigrated to the Canadian province of British Columbia with his family. After graduating from Centennial High School in Coquitlam, a suburb of Vancouver, he enrolled in the engineering science program at Simon Fraser University.

Life after graduation was comfortable for Yu, who began working as an engineer and quality assurance professional in the IT industry. Though he made a decent living, he began craving a change.

“I wanted to have more impact than being just one of many engineers in a big company,” Yu says. “I wanted an exciting career that allowed me to contribute and make an impact, even when I’m 60 or 70 years old.”

With his sights set on a new occupation in either environmental policy or sustainability science, Yu resigned from his job of seven years to pursue the graduate degree necessary to attain it.

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ASU helps local schools divert waste, promote sustainability education

May 1, 2014

downtown-phxInspired by the goal of a 40 percent diversion rate put forth by the Reimagine Phoenix initiative, Paradise Valley Unified School District (PV Schools) is finding new uses for trash. As one of the largest districts in Arizona, generating nearly 1,500 tons of waste per year, PV Schools has partnered with the Mayo Clinic of Arizona, the City of Phoenix and the Resource Innovation and Solutions Network (RISN) – a program operated by Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability’s Sustainability Solutions Services (S3) – to achieve this aim.

Not only are teams of experts from ASU and Mayo Clinic helping the school district to prevent, minimize, reuse and recycle waste, the partnership presents an opportunity to incorporate sustainability into students’ studies. Sustainability students from Paradise Valley schools have already completed an assessment of the district’s current waste strategies, pinpointing opportunities for improvement and for educating their peers. Beginning in the fall, teachers will design a waste diversion curriculum in consultation with the expert teams, and at least one elementary, junior high and high school will conduct a waste diversion project.

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National Academy of Sciences inducts sustainability scientist

April 30, 2014

franklin_0708 (1)Janet Franklin, a sustainability scientist in ASU’s Wrigley Sustainability Institute and professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). This election, considered one of the highest honors a scientist can receive, recognizes Franklin’s distinguished and continued achievements in original scientific research that can be used for the general benefit of society.

Beginning with the idea that Earth is a whole, living organism, Franklin’s research addresses the impacts of human-caused landscape change, as well as their long-term implications for the environment and its inhabitants  Her work combines field work with statistical modeling, computer simulation, geospatial data and spatial analysis.

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Student Spotlight: Alexis Roeckner

April 23, 2014

20140306-Global-Sustainability-Studies-Program-Alexis-Roeckner-Profile-DCSchool of Sustainability senior Alexis Roeckner began her ASU experience in pursuit of a journalism degree. Though the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism’s reputable program appealed to her passion for writing and ambition to be published one day, she realized during her first semester that her interests lie elsewhere.

“I had heard about the School of Sustainability while I was still in high school, but because I’d already been accepted into the journalism program, I decided to admire from afar,” Roeckner says. “I discovered that, while the journalism program was great, it just wasn’t a fit for me. So I began the process of switching over to sustainability and didn’t look back.”

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Building Cities that Celebrate Life

Thought Leader Series

April 22, 2014

William-McDonough-2013-Lynne-Brubaker-PhotoA Thought Leader Series Piece

By William McDonough

Note: William McDonough is a globally recognized leader in sustainable development. Trained as an architect, Mr. McDonough’s interests and influence range widely, and he works at all scales. Mr. McDonough has written and lectured extensively on design as the first signal of human intention.

Living in the age of cities
We live in the age of cities, in the midst of the most dramatic transformation of urban life and the urban landscape the world has ever seen. Cities have always been engines of growth, innovation and opportunity, drawing people from afar since the ancient settlements of Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Indus, and the Yellow River gave urban form to “a certain energized crowding” along their alluvial plains.

But urbanization on a global scale has happened in a heartbeat. It took more than 5,000 years of human development for the world’s urban population to approach one billion, in the early 1960s, but in the short half-century since it has more than tripled, reaching 3.5 billion in 2010. By 2030, according to the latest United Nations estimates, five billion people will live in cities, nearly half of them making their lives in homes, schools, workplaces and parks that do not yet exist.

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Guggenheim Fellowship granted to sustainability scientist

April 17, 2014

emily-talenEmily Talen, a senior sustainability scientist and professor in ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, has been chosen for one of this year’s prestigious Guggenheim Fellowships. The fellowship program selected 178 scholars, artists and scientists from among almost 3,000 applicants on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise.

Talen, who holds the fellowship from July 2014 through June 2015, intends to use it to compose a book about neighborhoods. The book, to be published by the University of Chicago Press, will compare neighborhoods throughout time and in places with varying cultures. With over 2,000 sources on the topic already, Talen aims to determine what urban form means for social interactivity – for example, do certain city patterns create a “sense of community”?

“The book is ‘all things neighborhood.’ I’ll explore how they’re idealized, abstracted, attributed effects, designed, bounded, fought over,” Talen explains. “My task is to try to make sense of it all, tease out the big picture and think about what neighborhoods have to do with the future sustainable city.”

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Professor expounds on need for narrative in sustainability journal

April 16, 2014

Sustainability JournalIn the April 2014 issue of Sustainability: The Journal of Record, Senior Sustainability Scientist and School of Sustainability Professor of Practice George Basile and co-author Scott McNall expound on the necessity for a new sustainability narrative in their second installment on the subject.

In their article, “How to Create a New Narrative for Sustainability That Will Work: And Why It Matters, Part 2,” McNall and Basile draw from social movement theory to illustrate how humans make decisions. They demonstrate that successful movements of the past share several key characteristics, such as a well-defined grievance and a solution that can be achieved. Though the sustainability movement possesses these characteristics, it must do a better job of of aligning its goals with those of its members.

As McNall and Basile conclude, “[The sustainability movement] must be about common values and common needs; it must be framed so that we understand that it is our responsibility to act now! A sustainability narrative will embrace the idea that the problems we face are practical ones, solvable through leadership and innovation at the local as well as the global level.”

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International competition invites electronic waste innovation

April 14, 2014

US-China-ewaste-competitionThe United States and China, two of the world’s biggest electronic waste (e-waste) producers, have joined forces to promote the prevention of e-waste through the U.S.-China Green Electronics Competition. Spearheaded by the Future Tense initiative – a partnership of Arizona State University, New America Foundation and Slate magazine – and China’s Tsinghua University, the competition invites participants to repurpose yesterday’s electronics by using them to repair an existing product, develop a new product or create artwork.

With rapid advances in technology, electronics tend to become obsolete after just a few years. Though approximately 50 million tons of this electronic waste is produced each year, only about 15 to 20 percent is recycled, a cause for significant concern for both human and environmental health. Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives Director Patricia Reiter said, “Supporting the sustainable efforts of preventing e-waste on the international level represents a tremendous opportunity for inspiring innovation and cultural exchange.”

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