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Sustainability News

Taking steps to solve the problem of phosphorus

September 18, 2021

To address the complex ecological, economic and sociopolitical challenges predicated by the rapidly expanding use of mined phosphorus in agriculture, the National Science Foundation has announced the creation of a major new research center.

The Science and Technologies for Phosphorus Sustainability (STEPS) Center brings together an interdisciplinary team of experts to pursue a “25-in-25” vision. They are seeking to reduce human dependence on mined phosphorus by 25% and also to reduce current losses of phosphorus to soil and water resources by 25% within the next 25 years.

Funded by an initial five-year, $25 million grant and headquartered at North Carolina State University, the STEPS Center involves faculty, staff and students from eight other partner institutions across the country, including ASU.

Read more at ASU News.

Sept 22: Book launch and roundtable

September 17, 2021

Join the UREx SRN via Zoom on September 22, 2021, 2pm - 3:30pm Arizona time, for a roundtable discussion and launch of Resilient Urban Futures, a new book exploring the ways in which cities are profoundly impacted by climate change, and strategies for cultivating more resilient futures.

Based on practical experience in participatory visioning in nine Latin American and U.S. cities, the volume provides tools for engaging urban communities in resilience strategies. Authors of this open access volume will discuss urban climate inequity, modeling and communicating the impact of extreme climate and weather, as well as visioning equitable, positive, and resilient futures.

Register and download the book.

UREx Future Cities podcast recognized by ESA

September 17, 2021

FutureCities podcast logoUrban Resilience to Extremes SRN's monthly podcast, Future Cities, has been awarded the Ecological Society of America's "Science Communication in Practice Award." This award is given to ESA members who represent excellence in public engagement and science communication.

Future Cities aims to increase awareness of, and to catalyze action on, urban resilience. The show examines this topic by discussing ongoing research, highlighting current efforts, and sharing stories of resilience in cities across the world. By exploring a wide variety of perspectives, the show digs deep into understanding the many dimensions of resilience and the ways in which cities prepare themselves for the extreme weather events of tomorrow.

The podcast, recently added to NSF's Science Zone Radio, has been downloaded about 15k times in the last year (from listeners across the world), reaching #77 on Apple’s "US Life Sciences Podcast" chart over the summer. Visit the UREx website for more details.

Sala to advise US Global Change Research Program

September 17, 2021

Osvaldo-Sala-Blue-ShirtBy Celina Osuna

In July 2021, Osvaldo Sala, founding director of the Global Drylands Center and Julie A. Wrigley Chair, Regents’ and Foundation Professor, was nominated by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to serve a three-year term on the Committee to Advise the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP).

Established by the Global Change Research Act of 1990, the USGCRP is, as stated by their website, “a federal program mandated by Congress to coordinate federal research and investments in understanding the forces shaping the global environment, both human and natural, and their impacts on society.” Every ten years, the 13 different agencies that make up the USGCRP, including NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Science Foundation, develop a strategic plan to help people understand the effects of global change on society.

As a leading ecologist in global change research, Osvaldo Sala has been recognized and nominated as a member of the NASEM Committee that convenes to advise the USGCRP in developing its strategic plan. The committee is composed of 28 experts from across the country representing an array of sectors and disciplines spanning the sciences, engineering, and medicine. It is a forum for interaction between the USGCRP and the relevant scientific communities and other interested parties. The committee also helps to identify issues of importance for the global change research community. In addition to assistance with the strategic plan, the NASEM Committee will also help USGCRP as they produce the 5th National Climate Assessment (NCA5), which is a report submitted to the President and Congress every four years.

Call for applications: Knowledge Exchange for Resilience

September 17, 2021

The mission of the Knowledge Exchange for Resilience is to support Maricopa County, Arizona by sharing knowledge, catalyzing discovery, and exchanging responses to challenges together, in order to build community resilience. Through its 12-month fellowship program, representatives from both the community and university come together to share knowledge, discover gaps or opportunities, and respond to challenges. Fellows conduct individual and collaborative research, meeting weekly for six months, then monthly for the fellowship's remainder. Approximately twelve fellows will be chosen for the 2022 cohort.

Successful academic fellow applicants may be tenure-track or non-tenure-track professors at any level (assistant, associate, or full), scholars with instructor or research appointments, or post-doctoral research associates in any discipline. Eligible applicants may be affiliated with any department, school, or research center across all Arizona State University campuses in Maricopa County.

Applications are due October 15, 2021. Learn more.

Making sense of complexity: A webinar series and explainer video

September 17, 2021

Trying to understand complexity and the concept of Complex Adaptive Systems? Learn from your colleagues in the School of Complex Adaptive Systems, College of Global Futures. Their webinar series, Making Sense of Complexity, launched in Spring 2021 and is published online.

If you want to start with something simpler, here's a basic explainer video published last Spring, featuring Michael Barton explaining complex adaptive systems using examples with which most people are familiar.

Ground-breaking climate program for corporate boards

September 17, 2021

Image by <a href="">Vincent Grenon</a> from <a href="">Pixabay</a>With climate issues demanding ever more attention from corporate boards, ASU's Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, Thunderbird School of Global Management and the University of Oxford's Saïd Business School have partnered with Competent Boards to launch a new program to help directors navigate the complexities of climate change and its impact on their businesses.

The program is designed to give board members, senior executives, business professionals and investors an in-depth understanding of the fast-evolving threats and opportunities that climate change presents for companies around the world, large and small.

Those who enroll now can complete the 6-module online program before the start of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow on November 1. Read the press release.

Call for Abstracts: 21st Annual IGSC Conference

September 17, 2021

The East-West Center International Graduate Student Conference (IGSC) has an open Call for Abstracts for its 21st annual conference with the theme Reimagining Our Shared Future.

IGSC welcomes abstracts from current graduate students, as well as from young professionals and scholars, who have completed a graduate degree within the past three years.

They are looking for submissions from various fields of study that:

  1. Aim to contribute to the sharing and advancement of the multiple knowledges, epistemologies, and ontologies of the Asia-Pacific region; and
  2. Reimagine theory, practice, and policy for a more just and sustainable shared future.

They also invite artistic expressions that utilize alternative methods for reimagining the world we live in. Learn more and submit your proposal.

ASU research reveals 'weak' replicability of place-based research

September 17, 2021

Senior Global Futures Scientist Wenwen Li is co-author on a new publication shedding light on the challenges and opportunities the scientific community faces in replicating place-based research.

Across the scientific community, the repeated testing of studies has always been central to progress. Reproducing and replicating research not only validates prior findings, but it also validates research methods and data that could then be applied to solve other elusive problems and accelerate future research.

But compared with the scientific fields of physics, chemistry and biology, dialogue around the reproducibility and replicability of research in the social and environmental sciences, like geography, has been largely absent and focused on computation challenges.

In a recent perspective paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Li and lead author Michael Goodchild conduct a novel analysis, shedding new light on the challenges and opportunities the scientific community faces in replicating place-based research.

Read more in ASU News. The abstract follows.

Continue Reading

STACC report released: Status of Tribes and Climate Change

September 17, 2021

Senior Global Futures Scientist Otakuye Conroy-Ben is co-author of a new report convened by the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP) Tribes and Climate Change Program and written by the STACC Working Group.

The Status of Tribes and Climate Change (STACC) Report seeks to uplift and honor the voices of Indigenous peoples across the U.S. to increase understanding of Tribal lifeways, cultures, and worldviews,the climate change impacts Tribes are experiencing, the solutions they are implementing, and ways that all of us can support Tribes in adapting to our changing world.

Conroy-Ben's contribution to a chapter on water quality discusses the outlook of Tribal drinking water with respect to regulated and unregulated contaminants.

New findings in the role fish play in balancing coral, algae

September 17, 2021

When people think of coral reefs, images of beautiful colors and structures come to mind. But beyond aesthetic pleasure, coral reefs provide numerous benefits, ranging from food security and coastline protection to their role in coastal traditions and cultures. Although reefs cover less than 1% of the ocean floor, they support about 25% of marine life and earn their nickname: the rainforests of the sea.

A major challenge to reefs today is whether corals can persist under changing climate. One way that climate affects corals is by stimulating the overgrowth of algae that can smother the reef, making life tough for new corals to survive.

To better understand the balance between coral and algae, postdoc Shawna Foo and Global Futures Scientist Greg Asner at Arizona State University’s Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science explored the role of herbivorous fish in keeping check on one of the main antagonists in coral-algae fight for reef space, known as “turf algae.” Their findings were published on Aug. 9 in Coral Reefs, the Journal of the International Coral Reef Society.

Read more on ASU News. The abstract follows.

Continue Reading

ASU, partners announce completion of Allen Coral Atlas mapping

September 9, 2021

Allen Coral Atlas sample mapping mageArizona State University alongside atlas founding partners at Vulcan Inc., National Geographic, Planet and the University of Queensland presented to the world a complete projection of the planet's coral ecosystems. The Allen Coral Atlas, named for the late Vulcan founder and celebrated philanthropist and entrepreneur Paul Allen, allows formal scientists, conservationists, policy makers and citizen scientists to fully explore the world's coral reefs and see in real time how oceanic warming causes bleaching or allows for rehabilitation.

“Our biggest contribution in this achievement is that we have a uniform mapping of the entire coral reef biome,” said Greg Asner, managing director of the Atlas and director of ASU’s Center for Global Discovery and Conservation. “If you don’t know what you’ve got more uniformly, how would the U.N. ever play a real role? How would a government that has an archipelago with 500 islands make a uniform decision? (The atlas) lets us bring the playing field up to a level where decisions can be made at a bigger scale because so far decisions have been super localized.”

Learn more.

Sept. 2: Food. Nature. People.

August 30, 2021

Food, nature and people are the three essential elements of our food system. When these elements are in balance, our food system provides nutritious food and livelihoods and supports natural systems like biodiversity, nutrient and water cycles and a stable climate. Unfortunately, our food system is out of balance, threatening people and communities around the world. To reverse this dangerous trend, we need to implement solutions at scale, quickly.

This half-day digital event will show the way forward, by providing actionable scientific evidence to build sustainable landscapes and by connecting with people on the ground to share knowledge and experience and fundamentally transform agriculture and land management. By rebuilding resilient food systems, supporting sustainable use of forests, trees and other healthy landscapes, we can adapt to the crises we have created.

ASU’s Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems, part of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, is a partner in this international, virtual and free event. Learn more and register.

Sept 7: Workshop on Reimagining Climate Futures

August 30, 2021

Join the Center for Science and the Imagination (CSI), the Journal of Science Policy & Governance (JSPG) and the UK Science and Innovation Network for a workshop that brings together innovative thinkers in climate science and provides opportunities to reimagine positive climate futures. This event will feature early career researchers published in a special issue of JSPG on climate-change solutions, and CSI's Climate Imagination Fellows, who are working on stories that inspire positive visions of climate action and resilience.

Workshop participants will work in interdisciplinary teams to create their own narratives on climate-policy interventions, focusing on issues including climate migration and displacement, advocacy and coalition-building and transforming institutions and industries.

The event will also feature a conversation with Emily Cloke, the British Consul General in Los Angeles, California, whose portfolio includes bolstering scientific cooperation between the U.S. and UK and exploring ways to tackle the climate crisis. Register online.

Sept. 1-2: Advancing Women, Peace and Security in the Indo-Pacific

August 30, 2021

To further the implementation of Women, Peace and Security (WPS) that advances a Free and Open Indo-Pacific, Pacific Forum International, in partnership with USINDOPACOM Office of WPS, is organizing the conference Advancing Women, Peace & Security in the Indo-Pacific. Topics in this conference include cultivating a culture of allyship in security, building bridges between CSOs and local government, WPS in the defense sector, gender and preventing/countering violent extremism, and gender and climate security in the Indo-Pacific. Learn more on the event website.

Entrepreneur Magazine: These are the reasons why you will return to your desk

August 30, 2021

The future of the office has become an open question after the coronavirus lockdown forced billions of people to work from home. Will office workers return to their cubicles with refrigerators when the pandemic ends? Or will employees want to hold on to their newfound freedom and flexibility, while noting the lower costs of no-show?

At least some companies have already answered this question: Twitter, for example, says that most of its employees can continue to work from home forever, making the office simply a place to meet with clients. Three academics weigh the future of the office. Beth Humberd and Scott Latham of University of Massachusetts, Lowell, say jobs that are inherently relational are more likely to last. Global Futures Scientist Deborah Salon discusses a survey that finds office workers want more flexibility where they work.

Read the piece in Entrepreneur.

The Conversation: Organic food has room to grow

August 30, 2021

Organic food once was viewed as a niche category, but today it’s a routine choice for millions of Americans, with over half of organic sales in conventional grocery store chains, club stores and supercenters.

Surveys show that 82% of Americans buy some organic food, and availability has improved. Still, overall organic sales add up to a mere 6% of all food sold in the U.S. In addition, there are some 2 million farms in the U.S.; of them, only 16,585 are organic – less than 1%.

A recent report by the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems recommends dedicating 6% of USDA spending to supporting the organic sector, a figure that reflects its market share. Kathleen Merrigan explains why and how in a new piece for The Conversation.

Rethinking resources and conservation

August 30, 2021

An Arizona State University assistant professor says laws regarding natural resources on public land are antiquated and prevent voluntary conservation.

“Use-it-or-lose-it requirements, together with narrow definitions of eligible uses, can preclude environmental groups from participating in markets for natural resources,” said Bryan Leonard, a senior sustainability scientist at ASU who was the lead author

on a recently published policy forum for Science. “These restrictions can bias resource management in favor of extractive users, even when conservation interests are willing to pay more to protect resources from development.”

Leonard said resources can include oil, gas, water and a variety of minerals and raw materials. He added the laws were created in the 19th and early 20th centuries when the country’s priorities were different, and they now need to be updated.

Read the ASU News Q&A with Leonard about his article and resources on public lands.

Announcing GFORS, the Global Futures Office of Research Services

August 30, 2021

The Global Futures Office of Research Services (GFORS) is a virtual organization of the set of services required by members of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory to plan, apply for and perform externally sponsored research. GFORS organizes and administers these services through a single web portal.

GFORS is available to all members of the Global Futures Laboratory who are performing (or want to perform) externally sponsored research. Members include the following: faculty, post-docs, staff and students within the College of Global Futures; the centers, projects and initiatives in the Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation (GIOSI); participants in the Global Futures Focal Areas groups; Global Futures Scientists and Scholars. Participants in centers, projects and programs within the Global Futures Laboratory that are not within GIOSI, such as the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainable Solutions Service, the ASU-Starbucks Center for the Future, etc., are also welcome to use GFORS.

You may be asking, "Can GFORS really serve all those groups?" And the answer is, well, not yet. However, that is the ultimate goal. While capacity is currently limited, we are working hard to create more efficient processes and build more capacity. Read more on the website:

California wildfires make underground utilities an infrastructure priority

August 30, 2021

Despite years of declaring that conversion of high-voltage, long-distance electrical transmission lines to underground installation was cost prohibitive, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has announced plans to spend $20 billion over 10 years to bury 10,000 miles of power lines in wildfire-prone areas of California.

The move comes after PG&E filed a preliminary report with the California Utilities Commission noting that the Dixie Fire, which so far has decimated 460,000 acres in Northern California, may have been ignited by a blown fuse on one of its utility poles. The utility company has been linked to multiple fires in California and pleaded guilty last year to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the Camp Fire.

According to Samuel Ariaratnam, a nationally recognized expert in trenchless technology and a professor and Beavers-Ames Chair in heavy construction at Arizona State University, utility companies are beginning to move their power lines underground, but none have contemplated a project on the scale of the PG&E announcement.

“This action taken by PG&E, while motivated by tragic circumstances, highlights the importance of adopting advanced new technologies despite the initial expense,” said Ariaratnam. “Over time, those upfront expenses will pay dividends in diminished maintenance, repair and replacement costs. Most importantly, it will save communities and lives, not only from wildfires, but from other catastrophic events like ice storms, hurricanes and tornados.”

Read more on ASU News.