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Chester comments on climate change and our already-taxed infrastructure

August 11, 2020

Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington PostSustainability scientist Mikhail Chester is interviewed in the August 8 Washington Post article, Why climate change is about to make your bad commute worse. According to the article, while most motorists are familiar with many reasons for bad traffic, such as construction, inadequate mass transit and crashes, a culprit that must increasingly be considered is climate change.

"We need to fundamentally reassess what our systems need to be able to deliver, and under what conditions," said Mikhail Chester, associate professor of civil, environmental and sustainable engineering at Arizona State University and co-leader of the Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network. "And those conditions, it looks like, are going to be changing faster and faster in the future."

"Climate change is an additional stressor on already taxed infrastructure," Chester said. The situation’s silver lining, he added, is consensus: "Everyone is in agreement that we should do something about infrastructure."

New paper: Modest water policy implementation could offset 30 percent of outdoor demand

July 14, 2020

A new paper in Sustainability Science finds that the use of alternative water supplies, such as rainwater harvesting and greywater use, could offset up to 30 percent of total outdoor water demand for the Phoenix Metropolitan Area under modest implantation of these policies.

The paper, Simulating alternative sustainable water futures, is the work of sustainability scientists David Sampson and Nancy Grimm, sustainability fellow David Iwaniac, UREX affiliate Elizabeth Cook and CAP LTER affiliate Melissa Davidson. The authors adapted ASU’s WaterSim tool to explore differences in water demand and supply, as influenced by runoff, rainfall, changes in land use and land cover, population growth and improvements in water use efficiency.

The abstract follows.

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Our Infrastructure is Being Built for a Climate That's Already Gone

June 2, 2020

With the current climate crisis comes the realization that infrastructure built on climate models of the past is no longer sufficient for weather events today. The concept of stationarity will need to give way to more flexible and adaptable engineering approaches that embrace deep uncertainty. In the Vice News article Our Infrastructure is Being Built for a Climate That's Already Gone examples of failed infrastructure are illustrated.

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In an interdisciplinary effort, ASU researchers develop a framework to help decide sustainable futures

Science Direct | February 1, 2020

Image of wind turbinesAs we continue to witness the devastating impacts of climate change, there is a consensus that we as a human population need to transition to a more sustainable way of living. But with so many ideas and proposals, how do we decide which pathways are best? Experts from Arizona State University have created a tool to help: The Sustainable Future Scenarios (SFS).

According to a new paper published in the journal of Landscape and Urban Planning, "The co-production of sustainable future scenarios," the SFS “offers guidance to co-produce visions and transition pathways of positive futures that develop and integrate interventions for sustainability transformations of social-ecological-technological systems.”

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UREx co-founder, Nancy Grimm receives honored recognition

December 31, 2019

In recognition of her distinguished and continued achievement in research, co-founder and director of the Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network (UREx SRN), Nancy Grimm was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2019, and will be inducted into the Academy in April 2020.  This mark of excellence in science is considered one of the highest honors that a scientist can receive. This fall, she also was honored by Arizona State University, being named Regents Professor.

Grimm’s research interests include the interaction of climate variation and change, human activities, and ecosystems. Her long-term stream research focuses on how variability in the hydrologic regime affects the structure and processes of desert streams, especially wetland plant distribution, metabolism, nitrogen cycling, and hyporheic processes. Her related research in cities addresses how stormwater infrastructure affects water and material movement across an urban landscape. As the founding director of the interdisciplinary Central Arizona-Phoenix LTER program, she brought together earth, life, and social scientists to develop new frameworks for understanding urban social-ecological-technological systems (SETS). For UREx SRN, the SETS framing is central.

Congratulations to Nancy!

UREx SRN Alumni: Beating the heat in Phoenix neighborhoods

December 30, 2019

Melissa GuardaroSchool of Sustainability PhD graduate, Melissa Guardaro has made an impact on heat action planning in Phoenix, Arizona. As part of the Nature’s Cooling System Project, Guardaro strove to address social and geographical equity concerns related to heat mitigation and adaptation strategies in under-served areas. She partnered with local groups including the Nature Conservancy, community based organizations, city officials, and the public health department to develop heat action plans for three low-income communities: Edison-Eastlake Community, Mesa Care Neighborhood, and Lindo Park-Roesley Park Neighborhood.

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Members of UREx SRN receive ecology award

August 15, 2019

UREx and SRn members accepting Award from the Ecological Society of AmericaUrban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network (UREx SRN) were recipients of an award from the Ecological Society of America.

Winners of the award are recognized for their “outstanding contributions to ecology in new discoveries, teaching, sustainability, diversity, and lifelong commitment to the profession,” according to an ESA announcement.

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Sustainability scientist Nancy Grimm wins fellowship

March 8, 2019

Nancy Grimm working in the fieldSenior Sustainability Scientist Nancy Grimm, the Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Ecology in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University, was named a 2019 Fellow of the Society of Freshwater Science in honor of her outstanding contributions to stream and watershed science.

According to Grimm's biography on the Society of Freshwater Science fellows site, "Grimm studies urban and stream ecosystems. Initially working on stream nitrogen dynamics, she expanded out and down to riparian and hyporheic zones and then abruptly became an urban ecologist."

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Science Outside the Lab summer program convenes in nation's capital

View Source | August 1, 2018

Several students stand under a globeWho does the United States public trust to help in its efforts to become more resilient to extreme weather events and climate change? A 2016 Pew Research Center survey revealed that 76 percent of citizens trust scientists “a great deal” or “a fair amount” to act in the public’s best interests, but only 27 percent report the same degrees of trust for their politicians and elected officials. Given these percentages, how does the public feel about the hybrid workers in government: the scientist civil servants staffing the federal agencies run by political appointees?

Since the civilian workforce of the federal government makes up over 99.7 percent of the total staff, leaving very few positions to be filled by political appointment, it turns out that the actual “doing” part of resilience policy and science is largely left to scientist civil servants. Who are these scientist civil servants, then? How do they straddle the line between resilience policy and science? And how does the public feel about what they do?

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Three executive team members author article about rethinking infrastructure

View Source | February 5, 2018

Issues in Science and Technology coverThree of the UREx SRN’s executive team members – Thaddeus MillerMikhail Chester, and Tischa Muñoz-Erickson – authored an article for Issues in Science and Technology.

The United States is currently at an infrastructural crossroads and the path taken at these crossroads will be determined by how cities, states, regions, and the federal government navigate key issues.  The article also details failures in history and how most failures often resulted from an overconfidence in the ability to tightly control complex systems.

UREx researchers highlighted on PECS II blog

View Source | November 14, 2017

PECS II ImageRecently, several researchers from the UREx SRN attended the Program on Ecosystem Change and Society II (PECS) Conference in Oaxaca, Mexico where they detailed the importance of green infrastructure.  UREx researchers mentioned are Nancy Grimm, Elizabeth Cook, Timon McPhearson, Hallie Eakin, David Iwaniec, and Marta Berbés-Blázquez. The PECS II blog highlights the social-ecological-technological systems (SETS) framework that the UREx uses and references Elizabeth Cook’s talk to illustrate the concept.

Have you ever considered that not all shade is created equally?  According to Cook of the UREx SRN, both trees and tall buildings provide shade; however, the shade from buildings continually casting trees into shadows may reduce the amount of photosynthesis and carbon intake. This is one example of why UREx researchers have decided to follow a SETS framework.

The Conversation features article by the Knowledge Systems Innovation Task Force

View Source | November 13, 2017

PECS II ImageThree UREx SRN researchers of the Knowledge Systems Innovation Group – Clark Miller, Thaddeus Miller, and Tischa Muñoz-Erickson – recently authored an article featured on The Conversation.

The article comes at a time when weather disasters have been inundating our news feeds. At the forefront of most articles is mention of growing financial losses and outdated infrastructure.

In the article, Clark Miller, Thaddeus Miller, and Tischa Muñoz-Erickson explain the implications of cities not updating their knowledge systems – “the creative new sets of tools and practices for collecting, analyzing and applying data to solving problems.”

UREx partners with Georgia State University

View Source | October 26, 2017

GSU Urban Studies InstituteThe UREx SRN has added Georgia State University’s Urban Studies Institute (USI) to its network, bringing the total number of partnering institutions to seventeen.

USI and UREx have similar missions and are looking forward to becoming partners in building resilient, sustainable, and equitable cities.  David Iwaniec, a senior sustainability scientist with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and now assistant professor at the Urban Studies Institute, will be leading the initiative at GSU.

Executive Team member featured in ProPublica article

View Source | September 13, 2017

ProPublica Hurricane Flooding ImageThaddeus Miller, a UREx SRN Executive Team member and social scientist, is featured in a ProPublica article about climate, resilience, and the role of the government. The article includes underappreciated ideas from engineers, economists, and policy analysts.

There are many ideas on how to become more resilient, but everyone has a different definition of what that means; some follow the modern definition of the word – having the ability to bounce back – while others would prefer to broaden the definition to include greater adaptability and preparedness.

Miller appears to be one of the latter as he describes the importance of a cultural shift, collaboration among different cities, and safe-to-fail designs to remain safe and thriving in our ever-changing climate.

Phoenix public radio takes interest in UREx research

View Source | September 12, 2017

Harvey Flooding 2 Using Harvey Irma as OpportunitiesCharles Redman, co-director of the UREx SRN, was interviewed by Mark Brodie of KJZZ 91.5. They discussed why we need to take Harvey and Irma as opportunities to rebuild our cities differently after such disasters.

It is common for people to revert to old ways when rebuilding their lives, but that could result in a missed opportunity.  Weather events like the ones we have seen in 2017 are likely to reoccur, and we should start planning both short-term and long-term. One idea is to invest in green infrastructure that can mimic or enhance nature and be safe-to-fail. That way when another disaster strikes, instead of resulting in catastrophe, it will only end up as an inconvenience.

Executive Team members present 6 rules for rebuilding after ‘unprecedented’ weather events

View Source | September 7, 2017

The Conversation Image 2The UREx SRN’s Thaddeus Miller, a social scientist, and Mikhail Chester, an engineer, lay out six rules for investing in infrastructure during a time of ‘unprecedented’ weather events.

Considering U.S. infrastructure was recently given a D+ by the American Society for Civil Engineering Infrastructure Report Card and early estimates of the damage from Hurricane Harvey are hovering around $190 million, we need to start looking at how we got to this point and how to proceed moving forward.

Making cities more resilient after Harvey and Irma

View Source | September 7, 2017

ASUNow Building Resilient Cities Image 4The UREx SRN’s Charles Redman talks with ASU Now about how to better prepare for events like Harvey and Irma and how the UREx network is developing tools to make cities more resilient.

One step towards making cities more resilient is to realize we cannot always predict what is to come. Therefore, we should move from fail-safe designs – which assume we know exactly what will happen – to safe-to-fail, which have multiple back-up plans.

Hermosillo's Mayor highlights city’s work with UREx

View Source | August 16, 2017

Hermosillo Mayor Image 4One of the UREx SRN’s network cities – Hermosillo, Mexico – was highlighted by Hermosillo Mayor Manuel Ignacio Maloro Acosta during the first 2017 meeting of the National System of Climate Change.  Maloro Acosta emphasized Hermosillo’s work with the UREx network and said that the city will be one of the most prepared in handling a changing climate.