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Sustainability News

West Coast Fires: Will they finally push us to act?

September 21, 2020

In our latest piece on Medium, co-authors Peter Schlosser and Steven Beschloss examine the wildfire outbreak across the western US and if this is finally the climate-oriented moment that will move people to take that next step towards impact and change. "In short, are these fires, is this deadly pandemic, is another round of pounding from hurricanes, capable of awakening a reluctant, distracted public? Has the alarm bell grown so loud that it can’t be ignored any longer? Have we reached a tipping point when Americans and others walk to their proverbial window and shout: 'I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore'?"

You can read the piece on Medium. To ensure you don’t miss any Global Futures Laboratory Medium posts, follow our Medium channel directly, or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn where we announce all new posts.

Growth in plastic waste could exceed mitigation efforts

September 17, 2020

Plastic trash floating underwaterToday, ASU Center for Biodiversity Outcomes Founding Director Leah Gerber and Associate Center Director of Biodiversity Valuation and Assessments Beth Polidoro published a Science article titled “Predicted growth in plastic waste exceeds efforts to mitigate plastic pollution.”

In addition, 18 researchers from other universities and NGOs co-authored this publication including ASU Conservation Innovation Lab graduate students Erin Murphy and Miranda Bernard.

This work emerged from the center’s Plastic Emissions Working Group supported by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center.

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ASU named a ‘best college’ by The Princeton Review, ranked high for sustainability

ASU Now | September 16, 2020

rows of tall palm trees line Palm Walk on ASU Tempe campusThe Princeton Review has named Arizona State University one of the Best 386 Colleges in its 2021 rankings, which were compiled by surveying 143,000 students across the country.

On sustainability, The Princeton Review ranked ASU nearly perfect. On a scale of 60-99, ASU’s green rating is 98, and has been for four years straight. ASU’s most recent commitment to sustainability involved the launch of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, which is dedicated to keeping our planet habitable and future generations thriving. For this ranking, university and colleges are graded on whether students’ campus quality of life are both healthy and sustainable, how well the institution prepares students for clean-energy jobs and how environmentally responsible school policies are.

This week: UN75 Global Governance Forum

September 14, 2020

ASU faculty, staff and students are invited to register for the livestream of the 2020 Global Governance Forum, Sept 16-18. The event features a session, Global Governance and the Emergence of Global Institutions for the 21st Century, moderated by GFL’s Amanda Ellis at 9am AZ time on Sept 18. In connection with the world body’s 75th anniversary, the UN75 Global Governance Forum seeks to promote a more inclusive and effective United Nations through dialogue and recommendations that better harness the ideas, capabilities, and networks of both state and non-state actors for achieving the UN’s commitment to peace, sustainable development, human rights, and a stable climate. More info and register.

Sign up now for free: Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education

September 14, 2020

The Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory has signed on as a host institution for this year’s Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education. As a host institution, we have unlimited registration passes for the ASU community. 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 link provided in your acceptance email and add the Discount Code to receive a free registration.
  2. Fill out all the relevant fields. Be sure to use your institutional email address only (@asu.edu or @thunderbird.edu).
  3. On the Submit Payment page, enter the following Discount Code: ASUEDU091020. This will drop your total to $0.00.
  4. Complete your registration.

GCSHE is a virtual conference taking place on October 20-22 that offers 3 full days of live content and networking, plus thirty days of on-demand access (through November 22). Explore the session types and tracks, and view the schedule.

ASU launches Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory to transform the world for a better future

ASU Now | September 9, 2020

Artist rendering of new ASU building ISTB7The Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory represents the next quantum leap in the evolution of Arizona State University as one of the world’s premier centers for studies of sustainability, Earth's life-supporting systems and the future of life on our planet.

In rethinking traditional approaches to academic work and public engagement — often too slow to ensure needed impact — the Global Futures Laboratory aims to engage with speed and urgency to address the existential threats facing the planet and global society. To complete these goals, the lab encompasses a new College of Global Futures, a major research institute called the Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation, a solutions service called the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service, and engagement initiatives.

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Study offers new insights for sun-gathering technologies

ASU Now | August 24, 2020

Inspired by the way plants and other photosynthetic organisms collect and use the sun’s radiant energy, they hope to develop technologies that harvest sunlight and store it as carbon-free or carbon-neutral fuels. The research appears in the current issue of the American Chemical Society journal Applied Energy Materials and graces its cover.

The new research from Biodesign Center for Applied Structural Discovery and School of Molecular Sciences provides a framework for better understanding catalytic performance in solar fuel devices and points the way to further discoveries.

"This article describes a general yet useful strategy for better understanding the role of catalysts in emerging technologies for converting sunlight to fuels," corresponding author Gary Moore said. The goal is to maximize energy efficiency and where possible, make use of earth-abundant elements.

Anbar awarded medal from the Geological Society of America

August 24, 2020

Arizona State University President’s Professor Ariel Anbar has been awarded the Arthur L. Day Medal from the Geological Society of America, in recognition of his outstanding research contributions, mentoring generations of students, and vigorous promotion of science in the public sphere.

Anbar is a scientist and educator interested in Earth’s past and future as an inhabited world, and the prospects for life beyond. He is on the faculty of the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the School of Molecular Sciences, and a distinguished sustainability scholar in ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation. Anbar also directs ASU’s Center for Education Through eXploration, which is reinventing digital learning around curiosity, exploration and discovery.

The Geological Society of America’s Arthur L. Day Medal is awarded annually to recognize outstanding distinction in the application of physics and chemistry to the solution of geologic problems. A formal ceremony for the award will take place during the Geological Society of America's annual meeting to be held Oct. 25–28.

Past recipients of the Arthur L. Day Medal include Crafoord Prize laureate Wallace Broecker, who had close ties to ASU, as well as Nobel Prize laureates Willard F. Libby and Harold C. Urey.

Asner, Martin teach Hawaiian youth about coral reef conservation

ASU Now | August 21, 2020

A multiday immersion, part of Lawai'a 'Ohana Camp in South Kona, offered children in the coastal fishing village of Miloli'i the opportunity to learn about Indigenous island culture, local traditions, and environmental research and stewardship. In addition to the students there in person, 30 more students living in other regions of Hawaii joined virtually via Zoom and Facebook Live, due to COVID-19 safety measures.

Sustainability scientist Greg Asner, director of ASU’s Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science (GDCS) and professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, and Robin Martin, associate professor in the same school, were volunteer teachers at the summer camp.

Asner and Martin’s participation in the camp is just one piece of an important partnership that places ASU in the center of important work to break down geographic barriers to education and expand opportunities to Native and non-Native Hawaiian communities.

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ASU joins global research cohort to launch new center focused on society’s relationship with oceans

ASU Now | August 21, 2020

men on a beach holding a large net near a boat, walking toward the ocean Arizona State University, through its partnership with Conservation International, joins the University of Washington and the Nippon Foundation to announce the Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center. The Ocean Nexus Center is an interdisciplinary research initiative that focuses on social equity, ocean sustainability and climate change. The Ocean Nexus Center will bring uncompromised, critical voices to policy and public conversations that will help enable research and policy engagement. The new center is supported by the Nippon Foundation’s investment of $32.5 million over 10 years.

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3 ASU professors named senior members of National Academy of Inventors

ASU Now | August 18, 2020

The National Academy of Inventors has named three Arizona State University faculty members to the August 2020 class of NAI senior members.

Senior member status within the international organization recognizes engineers, scientists and others whose work has produced significant innovations resulting in technologies with the potential to have widespread benefit to society.

Professor Wim Vermaas and associate professors James Abbas and Cody Friesen join fellow NAI colleagues in the senior membership ranks who, along with their research accomplishments, have been successful in earning patents, acquiring licensing and commercializing technology they have developed. Vermaas and Friesen are sustainability scientists in the Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation.

Broadbent, Georgescu explore humans’ exposure to future extreme temperatures

ASU Now | August 17, 2020

Over the next century, climate change and population growth will subject more people to dangerous heat and cold. A new paper, The motley drivers of heat and cold exposure in 21st century U.S. cities, was published online Aug. 17 in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences." It is the first study of its kind to consider population-weighted heat and cold exposure that directly and simultaneously account for greenhouse gas and urban development-induced warming.

Authors Ashley Broadbent and Matei Georgescu of ASU's School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning faculty used state-of-the-art modeling tools to analyze how three key variables would affect human exposure to extreme temperatures from the beginning of this century to its end. They concentrated on the following three key factors: climate change brought about by greenhouse gas emissions, urban development-induced impacts arising from the growth of cities, and population change in individual cities.

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Like marathon runners, locusts carbo-load before a long journey

ASU Now | August 14, 2020

A study published Aug. 2 in the Journal of Animal Ecology finds that migrating locusts carbo-load before flying up to 350 kilometers in a single night.

Marion Le Gall, an assistant research professor in the Global Locust Initiative in the Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation, conducted a locust field study in 2017 in Senegal.

Her findings showed that Mongolian locusts did better in overgrazed pastures than in a normal pasture. Co-author and sustainability scientist Arianne Cease tied this to the nutritional content of plants: Land that was overgrazed contained less nitrogen and plants were more sugar-based. That was good for the locusts.

The abstract follows.

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Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing act important for socially diverse neighborhoods

ASU Now | August 13, 2020

Last month, the Trump administration announced they rescinded the Obama administration’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) amendment of the Fair Housing Act. According to the White House’s fact sheet on the action, this repeal was done as an effort to end overregulation and to preserve local decision-making, with the proclamation that, “The suburb destruction will end with us.”

Read a Q&A with sustainability scientist Deirdre Pfeiffer, associate professor of urban planning in ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, who is an expert on neighborhoods and housing strategies in the United States. In the Q&A, she explains the history of the AFFH, what she views as its strengths, her concerns about its repeal, and how local municipalities can continue making progress toward creating inclusionary and equitable neighborhoods despite the repeal.

Wednesday: Teaching in the Wake of Racial Violence with Carol Anderson

August 11, 2020

All are invited to attend an August 12 conversation with acclaimed historian Carol Anderson, human and civil rights advocate, expert on African American history and 20th-century politics and the author of the critically-acclaimed "White Rage." The event is sponsored by ASU's Institute for Humanities Research.

Anderson will be interviewed by Ayanna Thompson, director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies and professor in the ASU Department of English, and Mako Ward, faculty head and clinical assistant professor in the ASU School of Social Transformation.

This free event is an ASU Humanities, Social Sciences and Institute for Humanities Research collaboration. It is free and open to the public. Register for the Zoom webinar or watch live on YouTube.

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."

Video: Convergence Lab: Social Cohesion in a Time of Crisis

ASU Events | August 11, 2020

Sometimes crises bring out the strength of a community. People pitch in to help each other after a flood or earthquake. While dealing with the COVID-19 crisis similarly demands strong social cohesion, necessary public health measures like social distancing and the disruption of business and public spaces seem to undermine our underlying sense of community. Moreover, the pandemic lays bare pre-existing inequalities, the weakness of social institutions and other challenges to social cohesion.

How do we beat the crisis, and how can we rebuild to have stronger societies in the future?

View the video from ASU Convergence Lab's binational discussion featuring Alexandra Zapata — researcher, activist and former deputy director general of el Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad, and Craig Calhoun — ASU's university professor of social sciences and former director and president of the London School of Economics and Political Science. The conversation will be held in English.

Moore receives Department of Energy Career Award

ASU Now | August 7, 2020

Gary F. Moore, assistant professor in Arizona State University's School of Molecular Sciences and scientist in the ASU Biodesign Institute Center for Applied Structural Discovery, was awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science’s Early Career Research Program.

Moore’s research group at ASU studies the fundamental science of energy conversion processes, including those required to use solar energy for producing fuels and other value-added chemical products. The research Moore and his team performs aims to unleash sustainable-chemistry and renewable-energy technologies that address global-scale demands. Biological energy transducing systems perform several related chemical processes at large scales. For example, photosynthesis uses sunlight to drive a series of complex chemical transformations that power our biosphere and ultimately provide the fossil fuels our modern societies rely on.

“Nature provides inspiration and design considerations for the constructs we build and the chemistries we develop,” Moore said. Read the full story on ASU Now.

If “the economy” is collapsing, how do people survive?

Medium | August 6, 2020

busy marketOur latest Medium article, written by the Human Economies Working Group at the ASU Global Futures Laboratory, explores the relationship between the formal and informal economy, particularly in this period of crisis. The authors write: "A growing number of innovative economists and other scholars...are challenging us to reevaluate our profit- and growth-driven economy on the basis of an ethics of inclusion and sustainability. We need an understanding of economic activity that reflects its complexity and is centered on the long-term well-being of humans and the rest of the planet."

You can read the piece on Medium. To ensure you don’t miss any Global Futures Laboratory Medium posts, follow our Medium channel directly, or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn where we announce all new posts.

DOE establishes new EFRC at ASU

ASU Now | August 4, 2020

powering-tomorrow-energy-reportA U.S. Department of Energy award is empowering a new center at Arizona State University to create a more resilient and sustainable electricity grid with the use of next-generation materials.

The four-year, $12.4 million award from the DOE’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences establishes an Energy Frontier Research Center headquartered at ASU called Ultra Materials for a Resilient, Smart Electricity Grid, or Ultra EFRC. While ASU will lead Ultra EFRC, researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of California Riverside, Cornell University, Michigan State University, Sandia National Laboratories, Stanford University and the University of Bristol will work within its framework.

Headed by Regents Professor of physics Robert Nemanich and Professor of electrical engineering Stephen M. Goodnick, Ultra EFRC will investigate fundamental questions about wide band gap semiconductors. Goodnick is a senior sustainability scientist and deputy director of LightWorks.