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Sustainability News

ASU hosts AZDA Summit with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsak

April 11, 2022

USDA Sec. Tom Vilsak address the AZDA Summitt at ASU“Out of crisis, it is incumbent upon us to create something better…something more resilient.” Secretary Tom Vilsak, United States Department of Agriculture

Featuring 26 speakers and over 200 Arizonans in attendance – nearly 140 in person – the Arizona Department of Agriculture and ASU Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems co-hosted the 4th annual Arizona Food Summit at ASU’s Sun Devil Stadium San Tan Ford Club March 23 and 24 for two days of information sharing and discussion on how best to move forward on creating a sustainable, healthy food system for all Arizonans. You can click here to watch the recordings of the full event.

The days were packed with speakers from across the food system spectrum. The event opened with US Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. Secretary Vilsack emphasized the need to link food security with nutrition security and to better translate science to help people make informed choices. Vilsack further challenged Arizonans to engage, to bring young people into agriculture and food work, to support our local farmers, and attend to nutrition security.

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Two CBO proposals finalists for ASU Women in Philanthropy prizes

March 3, 2022

CBO at ASU Women in PhilanthropyTwo proposals headed by the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes leadership were announced as grant finalists for ASU Women and Philanthropy, an organization comprised of women committed to becoming advocates and philanthropic supporters of the university. The proposal presentations took place at the Musical Instrument Museum on Feb. 23.

Designing a public engagement strategy to support the establishment of an effective and equitable US National Biodiversity Strategy was led by Center for Biodiversity Outcomes founding director Leah Gerber, in conjunction with the center program leads. This proposal focuses on how we can more effectively tackle the biodiversity crisis in the U.S. through an inclusive community-led approach leading up to developing a stakeholder engagement strategy for an NBS in the US.

GirlsConserve: Engaging girls in STEM careers using a culturally relevant One Health approach was led by the center's assistant director Gwen Iacona, in collaboration with the ASU Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology (CGEST). GirlsConserve centers around the development of a culturally responsive curriculum for a high school summer camp and mentoring program, focusing on engaging girls in STEM and conservation by following the highly successful model of CGEST’s preexisting program CompuGirls.

CBO's Leah Gerber speaks at GreenBiz22

March 2, 2022

Leah GerberThe business sector's premier annual sustainablility conference, GreenBiz 2022, returned to the Valley of the Sun in Scottsdale this February. The ASU Center of Biodiversity Ooutcome’s founding director, Leah Gerber, was invited to sit on a panel titled "Teaming Up To Tackle Plastic Waste: How Cross-Industry Partnerships Can Ignite Long-Lasting Change", which also included Chairman of SC Johnson, Fisk Johnson, and Senior Director of Facilities for the Milwaukee Brewers, Mike Brockman. Moderated by Chris Coulter, CEO of GlobeScan, the panel focused on addressing plastic waste and the disrupting impact it has on our ecosystems.

In bringing the panel together, GreenBiz highlighted the importance of forming partnerships to tackle plastic waste through innovating solutions to positively impact generations to come. It also addressed how the sports industry is working with companies to adapt to the waste crisis and incorporate various recycling models. GreenBiz is centered around bringing together business, technology, and sustainability with the goal of a clean economy. More than a thousand sustainability leaders were registered for the GreenBiz yearly forum.

Gerber spoke about the mission of the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes. She was able to share her knowledge on how businesses can explore opportunities within universities to solve sustainability crises. Plastic waste can threaten the survival of key species and pollute important ecosystems and habitats to further negative impacts on these species. Gerber elaborated on how crucial finding solutions to the plastics crisis is about biodiversity conservation.

CBO conducts research, such as finding regions that are most at risk and pinpointing where the most impactful reduction of plastics could be. They also partner with government, corporate and corporate-facing institutions solutions to provide solutions that can help lower the plastic footprint.

In cultivating partnerships between academia and larger corporations, specific solutions can be found to address the plastics crisis one step at a time.

Could coral habitats be rebuilt on sunken warships?

February 21, 2022

Corals naturally growing on sunken warships in the PacificFaculty and researchers from the ASU Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science, teaming with partners from the University of Hawaii, recently published a paper based on their survey of 29 sunked warships around the Bikini Atoll and Chuuk Lagoon in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. Until these explorations, it was unknown if the hulls of the ships would sustain the development of biodiversity habitats based on ship size and hull material, location relative to natural reef, time since sinking, ocean currents and water depth. According to this study's findings, the team identified more than 9,100 types of corals that represented around 70 percent of the corals found in the natural reefs in the area. The team determined that ship length, but not water depth, positively correlated with relative abundance and richness at the genus level, meaning that very large wrecks can serve as havens for reef-building corals with a broad genetic diversity. Read more.

Global Futures Laboratory's Diane Pataki, Enrique Vivoni elected AAAS Fellows

February 17, 2022

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals, has elected two outstanding faculty from the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory to the newest class of AAAS Fellows, among the most distinct honors within the scientific community. Additionally, Sara Brownell, who has an appointment with the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, also was elected.

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Klaus Lackner joins Newsweek's America's Greatest Disruptors Hall of Fame

December 20, 2021

Klaus lackner in the CNCE labKlaus Lackner, director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions and a pioneer in the carbon capture research space, has been named to Newsweek's Hall of Fame for America's Greatest Distruptors. In a special edition published Dec. 15, Lackner was one of five initial innovators tapped to receive this honor, each recognized by the publication as "Visionaries whose career-long actions have had far-reaching impact."

Lackner, who in also is a professor with the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, was the first person to suggest the artificial capture of carbon dioxide from air in the context of carbon management. His work in this space has led to a partnership between ASU, the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory and the private corporation Carbon Collect to manufacture and deploy the Mechanical Tree, a passive energy carbon collection system. The first Mechanical Tree will be installed for testing at ASU's Tempe campus in early 2022. The research by Lackner and his team has also been recognized by Discover Magazine Discover as one of seven ideas that could change the world.

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ASU receives $6.36M grant to launch Pacific Island research center

September 30, 2021

Funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the center will support research into how Pacific Island communities can build resilience to extreme climate events

Fallen trees and a blue house sinking into floodwater.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced a five-year, $6.36 million research grant that will launch the Pacific Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (Pacific RISA) program as a research center at ASU within the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory. This partnership with ASU is the next step in an ongoing effort of the Pacific RISA initiative to support communities in the Pacific region in becoming more resilient to the effects of climate change. The team will expand their research, advocacy and action from their home base on the Island of Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi, leveraging support from the East-West Center, the University of Hawaiʻi Water Resources Research Center, various other stakeholders and now ASU, to address the most pressing regional and community-specific climate challenges.

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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.”

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New paper positions waste pickers as models of environmental stewards for circular economy

August 27, 2021

Waster picker collecting plasticA new paper published by a team from the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service that includes College of Global Futures associate professor Rimjhim Aggarwal examines the culture and economy of waste pickers. In the paper, published Aug. 10 in Sustainability, the authors demonstrate that waste pickers, typically part of extreme poverty communities based on or around landfills, have the potential to act as environmental stewards by mitigating the effects of waste, contributing to the resilience of urban systems, reducing greenhouse gas emissions through recovery of materials from waste streams and saving energy and preserving natural resources by enabling recycling and reuse.

"They play critical roles in waste management, but their full potential to contribute to the circular economy remains unrealized due to their marginalized social status, lack of recognition by authorities, and disconnection from the formal economy. Additionally, they face significant occupational hazards and social exclusion, and their livelihoods are at risk of being displaced by private-sector-led waste management approaches."

The paper was co-authored by Raj Buch, Alicia Marseille, Matthew Williams, Rimjhim Aggarwal and Aparna Sharma. Read the full report.

Dave White selected as Southwest chapter lead author for National Climate Assessment

August 23, 2021

Dave WhiteDave White, deputy director of Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation and professor in the School of Community Resources and Development, has been tapped by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to represent the Southwest region as chapter lead author for the Fifth U.S. National Climate Assessment. White previously served as co-author for the complex systems chapter for the Fourth U.S. National Climate Assessment, published in 2018.

“I am honored to step into the lead author role for NCA5 for the Southwest, and I look forward to building an author team that represents the true diversity of our region,” White said. “Our primary goal is to develop actionable knowledge to address the climate crisis.”

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'Code-Red' megadrought is the Southwest's latest demand for collaborative innovation, says Dave White in Washington Post

August 23, 2021

Colorado River and Lake Mead low water levelsThe Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation's deputy director, Dave White, was featured in the Washington Post on Aug. 18 with his opinion piece on the US Bureau of Reclaimation's recent report on a record low water level for both the Colorado River and Lake Mead. In his opinion, White asserts that "nothing less than a water 'moonshot'" will be the only way forward to ensure that the needs of industry, agriculture and residents will be met.

"Debates over water rights and water usage are often emotional because people’s lives and livelihoods depend on this basic component of our existence. Solving the problem will demand unprecedented cooperation among competing parties, rapid technological innovation and thoughtful public engagement."

Read the full opinion.

A response to the Working Group 1 contribution to the IPCC 6th Assessment Report

August 14, 2021

Changing, by Alisa Singer (2021)The first working group’s contribution to the 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “The Physical Science Basis” released on August 9, comes at a moment when our planet is experiencing multiple crises, some of which directly highlight the key findings of the report. To avoid additional, more extreme events, we no longer have decades to make choices to change what we can and should do to mitigate climate change – we must act now and act more boldly than previously envisioned in any of the current commitments.

The negative impacts of human activities on our planet affect not only the climate system but also social and environmental systems including water, energy, food, economies and public health. There is a high level of interconnectivity between these systems as well as between all environmental and societal systems, the ultimate drivers of change on our planet. We have outgrown the capacity of our planet to sustain “business as usual.” In other words, global society is asking our planet to give more than it has to offer. Unless we dramatically change our ways to more equitable and environmentally conscious ways we face a future in which life will be forced to severely adapt through sacrifice or planetary self regulation.

Yet, we do still face a future of hope. As we have seen with the COVID pandemic, an intersection of science, policy, humanities and resources guided by principles of equity, inclusivity and justice can drive unprecedented response and solutions at record speed. The challenge, with COVID and climate change, is to translate these solutions into meaningful and just collective action.

This idea — the opportunity of human action to positively and impactfully help shape our global future to ensure a habitable planet for all — is at the very essence of the work being done by more than 600 scientists and scholars here at Arizona State University. This is how the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory is shaping tomorrow, today.

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Global Futures faculty join international team to examine how extreme events can be future indicators

July 30, 2021

Arizona wildfire caused by lightningTwo ASU faculty affiliated with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, Michael Barton and Sander van der Leeuw, joined an international panel of 31 natural and social scientists to write a newly published article in Nature Geoscience that investigates abrupt shifts in the Earth's past and how they can be used to predict the future.

The article, Past abrupt changes, tipping points and cascading impacts in the Earth system, was published today an made available with open access by Nature Geoscience.

"We are increasingly concerned about the potential for abrupt changes resulting from human impacts in coming decades," said Barton, director of education and professor at the School of Complex Adaptive Systems. "Equally important, however, are societal dynamics that can make seemingly resilient human systems vulnerable to abrupt economic or political change--or even collapse--from otherwise manageable environmental fluctuations. Study of past socio-environmental tipping points can give us important insights needed to plan for future ones."

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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.

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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.

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.

Do trees provide the best shade for urban environments?

June 9, 2021

Shade monitoring at ASU ariane middelShade is a term that residents of arid, hot environments learn to appreciate, especially during scalding summer months. But what makes for the best shade?

“Cities have started to plant trees as a means to shade the environment. But oftentimes you can’t really plant trees because of infrastructure challenges. There may be sewer lines underground, internet cables, or business signs that will be blocked,” said sustainability scientist Ariane Middel, assistant professor in ASU’s School of Arts, Media and Engineering and a HUE grantee. New research explores viable alternatives to trees for providing shade to keep people comfortable outdoors.

Using a special mobile lab named MaRTy, Middel and her team are assessing what makes for the best provider of shade. The findings may surprise you.

Learn more at ASU News.

Peter Schlosser named chair of AGU Development Board

May 6, 2021

AGU logoASU vice president and vice provost of Global Futures, Peter Schlosser, was recently named as chair of the Development Board for the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Joining Schlosser on the board as new members are John Podesta, former advisor to presidents Obama and Clinton and founder and Chair of the Board of Directors for the think tank Center for American Progress, and Tong Zhu, Dean of College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at Peking University. They join a board dedicated to a membership of 130,000 members, from ethusiasts to experts from around the world, focused on Earth and space sciences.

In his introductory address to the AGU membership, Schlosser, who was first appointed to the AGU board in 2015 and recognizes AGU as the first scientific organization he joined, said, "I was trained as a physicist and used measurements of isotopes and trace substances to better understand the hydrosphere, air/sea gas exchange and continental paleoclimate. Thus, AGU was a natural choice as its broad scope in Earth and Space Science covered my interests in a way no other professional society did."

Learn more about Schlosser's appointment and the AGU.

New book: Resilient Urban Futures

April 27, 2021

A new open access book, Resilient Urban Futures, addresses the way in which urban and urbanizing regions profoundly impact and are impacted by climate change. Editors include Urban Resilience to Extremes SRN members Zoé Hamstead, sustainability fellow David Iwaniac, Timon McPhearson, Marta Berbés-Blázquez, Elizabeth Cook and School of Sustainability adjunct faculty member Tischa Munoz-Erickson.

The editors and authors show why cities must wage simultaneous battles to curb global climate change trends while adapting and transforming to address local climate impacts. This book addresses how cities develop anticipatory and long-range planning capacities for more resilient futures, earnest collaboration across disciplines, and radical reconfigurations of the power regimes that have institutionalized the disenfranchisement of minority groups.

Although planning processes consider visions for the future, the editors highlight a more ambitious long-term positive visioning approach that accounts for unpredictability, system dynamics and equity in decision-making.

This volume brings the science of urban transformation together with practices of professionals who govern and manage our social, ecological and technological systems to design processes by which cities may achieve resilient urban futures in the face of climate change.