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Five women entrepreneurs named awardees for the 2021 WE Empower UN SDG Challenge

July 15, 2021

The WE Empower UN SDG Challenge – a global business challenge led in partnership by Vital Voices Global Partnership and Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory at ASU – today announced the five social entrepreneurs selected as their 2021 Awardees.

The five 2021 WE Empower Awardees are:

• Olufunto Boroffice, Founder and CEO, Chanja Datti Ltd (Nigeria)

• Nidhi Pant, Co-Founder and Head of Finance and Partnerships, S4S Technologies (India)

• Sara Saeed, Co-Founder and CEO, Sehat Kahani (Pakistan)

• Panmela Castro, Founder and CEO, Panmela Castro Arte e Cultura and Rede Nami (Brazil)

• Aline Sara, Co-founder and CEO, NaTakallam (United States)

Each entrepreneur was selected on the basis that they lead an enterprise committed to advancing one or more of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, and leverage their businesses to push for progress in their communities.

“Over the past year, we have seen women leaders emerge out of the most extraordinary circumstances. In the midst of a global pandemic, women have spearheaded front-line efforts to reverse the effects of climate change, combat gender-based violence, diversify legislative assemblies, and lead the way in the fight against the pervasive impacts of Covid-19. We must recognize the women who, in the face of adversity, never stray from their mission to empower and improve the lives of others,” said Alyse Nelson, President and CEO of Vital Voices. “It is my honor to congratulate this year’s five WE Empower Awardees. These incredible women have demonstrated tenacity, innovation and compassion that are cornerstones of the Vital Voices leadership model. I am confident that our investment in their for-purpose businesses will not only improve their communities, but the world as a whole.”

The opportunity recognizes entrepreneurs for their ground-breaking work. As Awardees, the five women leaders will participate in capacity-building training sessions, connect with renowned business experts from around the world and gain access to Vital Voices’ global network of more than 18,000 women leaders across 182 countries and territories. The WE Empower Awardees will also participate in a dynamic pitch competition, hosted by philanthropist, activist and Vital Voices Board Member Diane von Furstenberg, to present their business for the opportunity to receive a $20,000 grant.

As the world prepares for the 26th Conference of the Parties on Climate Change in November 2021, UN Global Compact Vice-Chair Paul Polman’s warning reverberates: “There is no business to be done on a dead planet”.

“The WE Empower UN SDG Challenge awardees are leading exemplars of sustainability, connectivity and inclusion in business, solving the world’s big problems through planet and people friendly business models,” said Amanda Ellis, director of global partnerships and networks for the ASU Global Futures Laboratory and former UN Ambassador. “As the Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately negatively impacted women, and women entrepreneurs still face over 1600 discriminatory laws globally preventing them from doing business on the same basis as their male counterparts, ASU Global Futures is so proud to herald the tenacity, innovation and achievements of WE Empower awardees. This outstanding group of WE Empower trailblazers embody Melinda Gates’ reminder: ‘Women are not just victims of a broken world, they can be architects of a better one.’”

The WE Empower UN SDG Challenge aims to invest in the most inspiring and transformational women entrepreneurs – providing unique trainings, capacity building, a network of their peers, visibility and credibility for their work – and ignite awareness of the valuable contribution women entrepreneurs can make to the SDGs and the world’s greatest challenges.

The program is led in partnership by Vital Voices and the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, and supported by partners at Bank of America, Bank of Montreal (BMO), Diane von Furstenberg, GroYourBiz, Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden, Mary Kay, Oxford University Said Business School, P&G, Salesforce, UN Foundation and the World Bank.

July 15 Info Session: Global Futures Research Accelerator

July 13, 2021

Application deadline extended for the Global Futures Research Accelerator, a program developed to empower the Scientists and Scholars network to develop an ASU research enterprise strategy to increase competitiveness, funding success, partnerships and societal impact. Early to mid-career faculty with a research focus are encouraged to apply. Classes are planned to run bi-weekly on Fridays, September 3, 2021 through April 29, 2022.

The Research Development Office is offering a virtual info session this Thursday, July 15, from 2-3 p.m. Arizona time. Learn more about the Fall 2021- 2022 Research Accelerator hybrid classes, meet the instructors and hear from a few of your peers from the first cohort.

Access the Zoom session or link to our application and flyer through InfoReady.

New Book: Fat in Four Cultures

July 13, 2021

Sustainability scientists Alexandra Brewis and Amber Wutich are co-authors (with Cindi SturtzSreetharan, Jessica Hardin and Sarah Trainer) of a new book, Fat in Four Cultures: A Global Ethnography of Weight.

The book looks at how people across four different cultures — Japan, the United States, Paraguay and Samoa — experience being fat. It examines how our bodies impact the way we talk, interact and fit into our social networks, communities and broader society.

What surprised all five scientists is that the thin ideal has sunk in across the world. Public health messaging in all four countries urges people to watch what they eat, control diabetes and keep a handle on their weight.

And people across the world all say the same things in response: I don’t have time to work out. The food near my office is unhealthy but it’s convenient. I know I should eat better, but healthy food costs too much. Yes, I know traditional food is bad for you, but it’s so delicious.

In all four countries, it became clear that if you want that body that society tells you is ideal, it’s going to be expensive and it’s going to take time. Read more in ASU News.

Connecting the dots: Redlining and heat resilience in Phoenix

July 13, 2021

With Arizona experiencing its hottest summer on record last year, identifying heat-mitigation strategies and solutions is already a complex issue, and the lasting effects of racially based redlining implemented throughout the 20th century only add to its complexity.

Redlining was the practice of denying loans to people of color and low-income individuals based on the financial risk of the area where they chose to live. Essentially, this process aided in the active separation of races during segregation.

On the Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America website, a map of Phoenix shows how the city’s neighborhoods were categorized by lenders in 1940.

Patricia Solis, executive director of the Knowledge Exchange for Resilience (KER) at Arizona State University, and her team began by mapping and formulating a rich dataset. By linking heat-associated deaths, state programs, cooling centers, utility bills and more, Solis discovered that people who live in mobile homes were disproportionately affected by extreme heat.

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Nationwide survey reveals changes to habits and travel in the US

July 13, 2021

As normalcy begins to come back into our lives, what habits that we adopted during the pandemic are we most likely to continue? In a new article released today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Arizona State University highlight their findings from a nationwide survey documenting potential behavioral changes Americans see themselves making.

Most notably, many Americans see themselves continuing to have telecommute, or work from home, options. In our pre-pandemic world, only 13% of survey respondents participated in telecommute work. But as this method of work became more normalized, 26% of respondents noted that they will be likely to continue telecommuting at least a few days every week.

“This is a large shift, and it comes with a number of cascading effects, including changes to rush-hour traffic patterns, changing demand for downtown services and changes in where people want to live and what they are looking for in a home and a neighborhood,” said sustainability scientist Deborah Salon, associate professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at ASU and lead author of the article. Co-authors included sustainability scientists Sara Khoeini, Nathan Parker and Ram Pendyala, among others. Read the story in ASU News.

The article's abstract follows.

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ASU supports training sail in advance of Pacific circumnavigation

July 13, 2021

For blue-water sailors, the French Frigate Shoals is often thought of as a place with significant wildlife and deep cultural meaning. The Polynesian Voyaging Society hopes to train sailors in this spot in the Pacific Ocean. It’s all in preparation for next year’s Moananuiākea Voyage, a circumnavigation of the Pacific Ocean in which ASU will play an important partner role.

“The Pacific Ocean voyage will serve as a point of coalescence for researchers and educators at ASU — and elsewhere — to imagine and create a future that helps make the planet more habitable and allows for new relations among peoples for shared purpose,” said Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, the university’s vice president of social advancement, President’s Professor, director of the Center for Indian Education, and ASU’s senior adviser to the president on American Indian Affairs.

“Our role is to support, amplify and enhance PVS’ message,” Brayboy said. “That message is: We all share one home — planet Earth." ASU will work with PVS to create a 'Third Canoe,' a virtual platform that will allow educators and students across the globe to virtually participate and learn.

Read more in this ASU News article.

Sustainability scientists among NSF CAREER award recipients

July 12, 2021

The NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program identifies the nation’s most promising young faculty members and provides them with funding to pursue outstanding research, excellence in teaching and the integration of education and research. Often, these awards spur the creativity of the faculty member and helps set them on an innovative career path.

Four sustainability scientists are among ASU's most recent 16 CAREER award recipients. Margaret Garcia, Giulia Pedrielli, Jorge Sefair and Jennifer Vanos are featured in a recent article in ASU News. Read more about their work.

Snake removal research hopes to stop snake killings in Phoenix

July 12, 2021

A recent study published in Global Ecology and Conservation examined over 2,300 snake removals in Phoenix between 2018 and 2019, comparing removal locations to neighborhood-level socioeconomic and demographic factors. The article, entitled Unwanted residential wildlife: Evaluating social-ecological patterns for snake removals, found snake removals occurred more frequently in high-income neighborhoods with recently constructed homes closer to undeveloped desert.

Western diamondback rattlesnakes, which are venomous, were extracted most often, making up 68% of removals. The non-venomous Sonoran gopher snake was a distant runner-up, making up 16% of removals.

Sustainability scientist Heather Bateman, an associate professor at ASU who is the lead author the study, said the size and depth of the dataset from Rattlesnake Solutions is an invaluable new source of information.

Read more about the work, supported by the NSF-funded Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research program, in this AZ Central article.

The paper's abstract follows.

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Register or submit a proposal for the 2021 Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Ed

July 12, 2021

Arizona State University is excited to be a Host Institution for this year’s Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education, a virtual conference taking place October 12-14. GCSHE offers three full days of live content and networking, plus 80 days of on-demand access (through December 31).

As a Host Institution, we have 200 registration passes for our university only, as well as unique opportunities to be recognized for our commitment to sustainability. Sign up using the instructions below to gain free access to this great event:

  1. Click HERE to register.

    If you are a Presenter or Student Presenter, use the Presenter Access Code provided in your acceptance email. Submit an emerging issues session proposal here.

  2. Fill out all the relevant fields.

    Use your institutional email address only. The Discount Code is linked to our email domain (, Other email addresses (such as Gmail, Outlook, or Yahoo) will not work with the Discount Code and will be deleted.

  3. Enter the promotional code.

    After entering your ticket, but before clicking Checkout, enter the following Promotional Code and hit Apply: ARIZONASTATE30JUN21

    This will drop your total to $0.00.

  4. Complete your registration.

    Registration deadline is October 14, 2021 at 11:59 pm ET

GCSHE has opened an Emerging Issues Call for Proposals. Proposals related to racial justice, campus reopenings, and resilience in the face of climate change are particularly welcome. If you would like to present a session at this year's conference, themed "The future is...", submit your proposal by August 20.

Swette Center report sets organic food agenda for US

July 2, 2021

The ASU Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems recently released a report to help President Joe Biden set a new agriculture agenda based to organic foods. "The Critical To-Do List for Organic Agriculture: Recommendations for the President" is outlined with 46 recommendations for the current administration and Congress to use as a framework for food development and safety as well as its impacts on climate change, research, supply chain, animal welfare standards, racial justice, social equity and enforcement.

"In our report, we establish a baseline of support that USDA should provide the organic sector — 6% of whatever dollars are being distributed," said Kathleen Merrigan, Swette Center executive director and Kelly and Brian Swette Professor of Practice in Sustainable Food Systems. "We chose this number because 6% of food purchased in the U.S. today is organic. We argue that support for the organic sector should, at minimum, be commensurate with its market share."

Learn more about the center's approach to developing these recommendations and some information behind the numbers in this exclusive interview with Merrigan on ASU News.

AP: People of color are far more likely to live in extreme urban heat zones

June 23, 2021

People of color are far more likely to live in extreme urban heat zones. This is according to a study co-authored by sustainability scientist Glenn Sheriff. The piece, Disproportionate exposure to urban heat island intensity across major US cities, was published in Nature Communications.

The Associated Press interviewed Sheriff for its article, People of color more exposed to heat islands, study finds. Through republication on ABC News and US News and World Report, the article featuring Sheriff saw readership of over 31 million. The work was also covered by CNN and the Washington Post, as well as local NBC affiliate 12 News. Visit for additional metrics.

The paper’s abstract follows.

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NYT: Climate Change Batters the West Before Summer Even Begins

June 23, 2021

A heat dome is baking Arizona and Nevada, where temperatures have soared past 115 degrees this week and doctors are warning that people can get third-degree burns from the sizzling asphalt.

Last month, the Phoenix City Council approved $2.8 million in new climate spending, including creating a four-person Office of Heat Response and Mitigation. “That’s a good start, but we’re clearly not doing enough yet,” said David Hondula, an Arizona State University sustainability scientist who studies heat’s consequences.

Drastically reducing heat deaths would require adding trees and shade in underserved neighborhoods and increasing funding to help residents who need help with energy bills or who lack air conditioning, among other things, he said.

“Every one of these heat deaths should be preventable,” he said. “But it’s not just an engineering problem. It means tackling tough issues like poverty or homelessness. And the numbers suggest we’re moving in the wrong direction. Right now, heat deaths are increasing faster than population growth and aging.”

Hondula was quoted in a New York Times article that has seen readership over 36 million, with more than 7,000 social media shares. ASU faculty, staff and students can read the article with a free group pass subscription via ASU Libraries.

NAS report advises shifting focus from projecting to preparing for climate change

June 23, 2021

As it drafts its next decadal strategic plan, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) should shift its focus to providing insights that help society prepare for and avoid the worst potential consequences of climate change, while protecting the most vulnerable, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Traditional climate research that projects changes in the natural environment to estimate potential consequences is not meeting the needs of decision-makers as they respond to the climate crisis, the report says.

Global Change Research Needs and Opportunities for 2022-2031 recommends USGCRP accelerate research on the multidirectional relationships among human and natural systems to advance our understanding of how to manage urgent current and future climate risks. Our food availability, for example, depends on a complex interaction between natural systems, such as the carbon and water cycles, and aspects of human systems, such as population growth or farming practices.

Sustainability scientist Nancy Grimm is an advisor to the USGRP and was an author of the report. Sustainability scientist Hallie Eakin, who is a member of the NAS Board on Environmental Change and Society, served as a reviewer of the report. Read the press release on

Models of human heat strain don’t account for complexities

June 23, 2021

To better prepare for an ever-warming world in which heat waves are increasingly common, a group of international researchers is calling attention to the physiological variables and complexities of how humans react to the heat, or their “thermoregulation.” It turns out that these variables characteristically are often oversimplified and that oversimplification can result in a faulty understanding of how heat will affect humans as the climate changes.

The researchers’ commentary, Simplicity lacks robustness when projecting heat-health outcomes in a changing climate, was published online in the journal Nature Communications. Sustainability scientist Jennifer Vanos is the lead author.

“We’re hoping that this paper will lead people to think more about the intricacies of the human body and how it deals with heat in the same way that we think about the intricacies of climate models,” said Vanos.

“We often see news reports of study results suggesting that a place in the future will not be survivable,” said Vanos. “That’s important, but we want a place to be livable, not just survivable. Livable means the climate can safely sustain work, play and well-being for an extended period of time.” Read more in ASU News.

A Double Heat and Housing Crisis in Phoenix

June 23, 2021

construction crew working in the heatIn the June 20 edition of The New York Times, writer Jack Healy visits Phoenix to explore how the region is addressing a housing shortage while in the midst of near-record heat. The article interviews Melissa Guardaro, an assistant research professor at the Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation at Arizona State University and a HUE researcher.

“Extreme heat has made the problems we have all the more evident,” said Melissa Guardaro, regarding the rising housing crisis and the scorching heat in Phoenix.

Read the full article. ASU faculty, staff and students can read the article with a free New York Times group pass subscription via ASU Libraries.

June 22-24: Reimagining leadership for just and regenerative global futures

June 22, 2021

The International Leadership Association, through this Sustainability and Beyond summit, is inviting change agents and leaders to mobilize, reimagine and collectively accelerate the positive changes needed to meet the daunting challenges facing planet and people.

ASU participants include Peter Schlosser, Amanda Ellis, Nikhil Dave, Melissa Nelson, Euan Murray and Alex Dehgan.

This summit is designed to create space for people of common purpose to gather, inspire and be inspired, connect with others, and learn what they can do to help create regenerative global futures.

Each day will have a different theme, including (1) Visionary Leadership for Systems Change, (2) Economic Imperatives of Sustainable and Regenerative Futures, and (3) Marginalized to Mainstream: Equity, Justice, and Regenerative Futures. Summit plenary and concurrent session speakers will specifically speak to all of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. More information and registration.

What climate science loses without enough black researchers

June 22, 2021

Sustainability scientist Vernon Morris, director and professor in ASU's School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, recently gave a video interview for Bloomberg, where he talked about inequitable representation in academia and STEM careers, and the impact of this on climate change policies.

Science usually guides a country's climate change policies, but there's a problem when the decisions are made by a homogenous group and the consequences could be dire for everyone. Bloomberg's Scarlet Fu sat down with Morris, who is also the founding director of the NOAA's Center for Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology.

Move-in day for burrowing owls at ASU Polytechnic campus

June 22, 2021

ASU Polytechnic campus has rolled out the welcome mat for several distinguished — and feathered — guests: four burrowing owls.

Their arrival in towel-covered cardboard pet-carriers mid-morning on May 22, 2021, was a year in the making and the finishing touches on their burrows — dug out with backhoes and constructed 24 hours before — had just been completed.

In a partnership with Wild at Heart raptor rescue, ASU College of Integrative Sciences and Arts faculty, students, alumni and staff, with the help of ASU Facilities Management staff, have built and will monitor habitats for burrowing owl pairs who need relocating.

“Burrowing owls are native to the Sonoran Desert and the only owls in the world that nest in the ground,” said wildlife ecologist Heather Bateman, associate professor in the college's Faculty of Science and Mathematics, who initiated the project proposal with faculty colleagues Adam Stein, Pedro Chavarria and Cynthia Sagers. “These owls rely on other species to do their excavating and will nest in burrows dug by prairie dogs, ground squirrels, desert tortoises and other animals.”

Read the full story in ASU News.

How will we protect American infrastructure from cyberattacks?

June 22, 2021

Infrastructure — it’s one of those words we think we understand, but it can be a hard concept to wrap our brains around. We may vaguely imagine electrical grids or railroads, but infrastructure also includes many other services that are essential for keeping our homes, schools and businesses thriving. It includes roads and transportation, telecommunications networks, water and sewage systems, and electricity. And today, much of it is connected to the internet.

As the Biden administration looks to implement the American Jobs Plan, which includes expanding U.S. infrastructure, cybersecurity needs to be a key consideration to prevent even more costly and dangerous attacks.

ASU is home to a bevy of experts on cybersecurity — in fields from computer science and law to business and humanities — who come together in order to understand and find solutions to this complex, far-reaching problem.

Read the story on ASU News to learn from sustainability scientist Diana Bowman, as well as colleagues Jamie Winterton, Tiffany Bao and Adam Doupé.