School of Sustainability News

Death Valley now holds the record for world’s hottest temperature

January 7, 2013

cervenyThe New York Times reported on responses to the World Meteorological Organization’s announcement that Death Valley, Calif. now holds the record for the world’s hottest temperature.

ASU Professor and Senior Sustainability Scientist Randy Cerveny coordinated the international effort to evaluate the validity of the previously-held hottest-temperature record, which was based on a 1922 reading in El Azizia, Libya. Cerveny holds the title rapporteur of climate extremes for the World Climate Organization, and in this role brought together a team of 13 meteorologists – including experts from Libya, Italy, Spain, Egypt, France, Morocco, Argentina, the United States, and the United Kingdom – to evaluate the Libya record.

The New York Times article discusses responses to the announcement in the Death Valley community – for example, Randy Banis, the editor of an online newsletter promoting the area, stated “You don’t underestimate Death Valley.  Most of us enthusiasts are proud that the extremes that we have known about at Death Valley are indeed the most harsh on earth.”

“There are a lot of places that do like these records,” said Cerveny for the New York Times report. “It can be a source of pride for that country or a source of contention for other countries. Politics, unfortunately, are going to play a role sometime in the determining of these records.”

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DOE 2013 Solar Decathlon competitors to meet media on Friday, January 11

Institute Press Releases

January 7, 2013

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. – Jan. 7, 2013 – Members of the media will have an opportunity to meet representatives from all 20 collegiate teams competing in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 as well as interview Richard King, Director and founder of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

This will be the student teams’ first visit to the Orange County Great Park as they arrive for a weekend workshop to prepare for the Solar Decathlon 2013 competition. The Great Park will host the award-winning competition October 3-13, 2013, the first time the event has ever been held outside of Washington D.C.

The Solar Decathlon challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

The Solar Decathlon 2013 will be the centerpiece of the XPO, a world’s fair of clean, renewable, and efficient energy.

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New directions in national energy policy: Skepticism about big initiatives

January 7, 2013

In an EnergyBiz article, reporter Tom Armistead writes that even though the current administration is aware of climate change and claims it as a focus for future policy, the United States still doesn’t have a clear-cut energy policy. What we do have is a mash-up of different policies that were developed for past political movements. Armistead writes the policies “promote both renewable energy and fossil fuels, without emphasis on either one or direction for the long term.” What kind of energy future will America have?

Some experts say the market should dictate what type of energy sources should be developed. Others still think climate change is only a minor threat. However, 2012 brought many weather extremes, causing more people to reflect on the concept of “climate change.”

In the article, Senior Sustainability Scientist Clark Miller says current energy policy is “working to increase energy supply, but also is raising public concerns about what it would mean to increase North American energy production and increasing concern about climate change.”

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Report: Climate changing watersheds

December 19, 2012

In a technical report to be included in the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment, climate scientists say temperature changes and shifts in species ranges and moisture will have major effects on natural ecosystems, especially watersheds. These effects will trickle down to human activities like commercial fishing and storm preparedness.

The report’s findings are covered in the Arizona Republic. The team of scientists come from Arizona State University, the National Wildlife Federation, and the U.S. Geological Survey. Nancy Grimm, a sustainability scientist in ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and professor in the School of Life Sciences, served as a lead researcher on the report.

“U.S. ecosystems are undergoing massive change due to climate change,” says Grimm.

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Helping you ID which common brands are most sustainable: ASU professor helps with groundbreaking research

Institute Press Releases

December 18, 2012

Kevin_Dooley_SmalTEMPE, Ariz. – Dec. 18, 2012 – As you do your shopping this holiday season, would it help to know exactly which toys, electronics, food and other items are better for the environment? A prominent researcher at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University is helping to develop a system that will tell retailers, manufacturers, and eventually consumers, about the sustainability of many of the products we buy every day.

Professor Kevin Dooley is research director of The Sustainability Consortium, an impressive group administered by Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas, featuring big-name-members, such as Unilever, BASF, MillerCoors, Mars and Walmart, with combined revenue of more than $1.5 trillion. The consortium is developing criteria that will allow you to easily identify which products are the most sustainable in their categories, based on factors like emissions, labor practices, water usage and waste creation. The consortium’s efforts were recently named among 10 “world-changing ideas” that are “radical enough to alter our lives” by Scientific American, and this year, the consortium’s work really vaulted forward.

“We have now established the critical issues and best areas in which to improve more than 100 types of the most common products — everything from electronics and toys, to food, drinks and personal care items,” says Dooley, also a sustainability scientist in ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability. “We’re helping businesses focus on the most important sustainability issues and giving them a way to measure and share their progress in making products better. This year, we were able to make rapid progress, thanks to the intense efforts of our staff and the stakeholders involved.”

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Climate change already having major effects on ecosystems, species

December 18, 2012

A report by more than 60 federal, academic, and other scientists, including lead authors from the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Wildlife Federation, and Arizona State University, warns that climate change is having immediate negative effects on natural systems and wildlife. As the global temperature rises, the timing and geographic ranges of many innate processes animals go through, like breeding and migrating, are being shifted, causing an imbalance.

“These geographic range and timing changes are causing cascading effects that extend through ecosystems, bringing together species that haven’t previously interacted and creating mismatches between animals and their food sources,” said Nancy Grimm, a sustainability scientist at ASU and a lead author of the report.

These changes can influence survival for many species and can affect humans, too. The ecosystem services we depend on, like food, clean water, and wood products, can suddenly change and become scarce.

The report is one of many to be included in the 2013 U.S. National Climate Assessment, a federally required assessment of climate change and its impacts.

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Sustainability scientist: Why don't we measure nature's capital?

December 18, 2012

Sustainability scientist and professor Ann Kinzig says, while we do measure the bounty that nature provides, we fail to measure the intrinsic wealth that’s found in natural goods. That’s the reason why our inclusive wealth is not growing, and one of the reasons why we haven’t achieved sustainability.

“On our national accounting and indices, we track some forms of wealth but not others,” Kinzig, a professor in the School of Sustainability and School of Life Sciences, says. “And when we don’t track something, we are sending the signal that it is not important – that we don’t need to take care of it.”

Kinzig discussed natural capital and the wealth of nature at the Arizona Science Center on Oct. 26. As part of Arizona State University’s partnership with the Arizona Science Center, Kinzig was one of three prominent university researchers giving “lightning lectures,” or five minute talks about everything ranging from technology, to the environment, to health.

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Our Graduates: Kim Pearson

December 17, 2012

Growing up in Phoenix, sustainability and Spanish literature senior Kim Pearson was first introduced to the basics of sustainability through class projects on issues such as deforestation.

“I first heard the term, ‘sustainability’ when watching a documentary and I thought, ‘Now I can give a name to what I’ve been interested in all these years,’” she says.

Pearson is graduating from the School of Sustainability with an emphasis in sustainable economics because she wants to understand the economic policies behind agriculture and trade.

“I have been interested in sustainability concepts since elementary school, as I began to learn about environmental issues and their relation to human behavior, politics and economics,” Pearson says.

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Our Graduates: Tim Exposito

December 17, 2012

Tim Exposito’s interest in construction is nothing new. At 16, he helped his brother build a house. In high school, he worked at a cousin’s construction business. During his high school senior year, Exposito spent his mornings at a construction site and his afternoons in the classroom.

His passion for sustainability has always been there, too.

“I’ve always written papers about recycling, impacts and implications,” Exposito says. “Sustainability has always been a fascination of mine. It’s always been a goal of mine to reuse something instead of throwing it away. I do this in construction and everyday as much as possible.”

Now, Exposito gets to combine construction and sustainability in his career.

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Our Graduates: Braden Kay

December 17, 2012

Most five year olds may be more concerned with cartoon TV shows rather than their neighborhood community garden. But Braden Kay started his life mission early – at a local youth garden when he was just a kid.

“I grew up in Washington, D.C., and saw the challenges of providing quality services to an economically and racially segregated city,” he says. “From starting at the local youth garden at age five, I always wanted to be part of producing solutions that bring diverse people together to make their city better with opportunity for all.”

Kay says it was ASU President Michael Crow’s vision of Arizona State University as a New American University that drew him to the School of Sustainability to study urban development and sustainability challenges.

“The School of Sustainability provided me with the opportunity I was looking for – to become a world-class urban solution developer,” he says.

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Researchers: Urban heat island effect more severe than global warming

December 13, 2012

Global Institute of Sustainability’s research is profiled in a recent State Press article. State Climatologist Nancy Selover and Senior Sustainability Scientist Nalini Chhetri both warn that the urban heat island effect, especially in the Valley, may have quicker repercussions than global warming.

Since development in the Phoenix metropolin area exploded in the 1970s, the urban heat island effect has taken its toll.

“Now, because of the heat island, we are seeing nighttime temperatures in the low 90s a lot more than we used to,” Selover says.  “The record high at night is 96, and we’re hoping we don’t end up seeing it go above that.”

So what can people do? Chhetri advises implementing xeriscapes, providing shade whenever possible, and planting native trees to help mitigate the higher temperatures, which can prove fatal to the elderly, homeless, and low-income populations.

“It’s a combination of technology and lifestyle changes and disseminating knowledge, information, and awareness,” she says.  “We must not force people to make decisions or give them doomsday scenarios.”

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The Consumer Goods Forum and The Sustainability Consortium announce global partnership to harmonize sustainability measurement

Institute Press Releases

December 11, 2012

ARIZONA, USA, – December 11, 2012 – As the consumer goods industry continues to drive sustainability throughout the supply chain, there is an increasing need for a globally harmonized science-based approach to measure and communicate product life cycles. Today, a partnership between two leading global organizations was announced that will create tremendous progress in achieving this goal. The Sustainability Consortium (TSC), an independent organization of global participants developing science and integrated tools to support informed decision making for product sustainability across the consumer goods industry and The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), a global industry network with over 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers and other stakeholders are announcing a strategic alliance.

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Three mayors discuss meaning, importance of sustainability

December 11, 2012

The Tempe Republic covered a mayoral forum that took place on Sept. 25. In the Southeast Valley Opinion article, each mayor’s opinions and remarks are recorded regarding sustainability plans and future improvements for Mesa, Tempe, and Phoenix.

Scott Smith, the mayor of Mesa, believes sustainability is “an environmental issue, an economic issue, a planning issue.”

Mark Mitchell, the mayor of Tempe, adds that the hardest challenge in implementing urban sustainability is education.

“The biggest challenge we have is educating the policy makers, making sure we have a good plan, a mass-transit system, to make sure we have the tools to attract economic-development opportunities,” he says.

Greg Stanton, the mayor of Phoenix, advises that sustainability must be taken into consideration now and into the future.

“Push us to be better leaders,” he says. “A lot of people made a lot of money with a sprawl economy. Even when the economy comes roaring back, let’s not do things the same way.”

The mayoral forum was part of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability’s Sustainability Series.

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Inter-Tribal discussion examines groundbreaking American Indian civil rights era

December 10, 2012

American Indians experienced their own civil rights movement during the 1970s and 80s as national legislation was passed that gave tribes the rights to determine their own destinies as sovereign nations.

Groundbreaking acts that were passed during this era addressed American Indian health care, child welfare, education, environmental management and self-determination.

“It was almost a perfect storm in a positive way where things came together through the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act,” said Eddie Brown, professor, sustainability scientist, and executive director of the American Indian Policy Institute in the ASU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “In the past, cities and counties would barely consider dealing with Indian tribes as governments.”

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Our Graduates: Ryan Winkle

December 10, 2012

After spending countless days in a cubicle working for a local bank, ASU senior Ryan Winkle knew he needed a change. Armed with just his ambition, he applied to ASU in search of a new path and the tools to make a difference in the changing world.

Winkle is currently pursuing dual undergraduate degrees in sustainability and urban planning to fulfill his passion for creating policy changes regarding nutrition and education.

“There is a disconnect now between people and how they get their food. The lettuce you eat is probably from Mexico and your tomatoes from Chile. That’s really far away,” he said.

To assist with more organic and local food opportunities, Winkle teamed up with his friends this fall to begin working on a proposal for a Mesa Urban Garden (M.U.G.) that would unite the local community and bring awareness to sustainable dining.

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Student Spotlight: Erin Frisk

December 7, 2012

Erin Frisk is a doctoral student and researcher in the School of Sustainability. Her work focuses on K-12 sustainability education by incorporating behavioral theories into instruction. She is married to Aaron Redman, a School of Sustainability alumnus. In 2009, Frisk created a line of reusable mesh produce bags called FAVE Bags (Fruit and Vegetable, Etc.). Redman and Frisk collaborated with women in El Salvador to sew the bags, thus providing much-needed income and professional development for the women. In 2010, the FAVE Bags invention earned a $2,000 grant from ASU’s Innovation Challenge competition. Frisk and Redman will be moving to Mexico to work at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México to develop a sustainability undergraduate program and outreach center. Frisk’s FAVE Bags will continue to be sold in Mexico with possible development in South Africa.

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Faculty Spotlight: George Basile

December 6, 2012

George Basile is a professor in the School of Sustainability and a Senior Sustainability Scientist in the Global Institute of Sustainability. He is an internationally recognized creative thinker who was recently on the cover of Sustainability: The Journal of Record. Basile received a B.S. in physics and a Ph.D. in biophysics. He helped develop green M.B.A programs in the U.S. and Sweden. Basile advises Fortune 500 companies on sustainable business practices and is a sought-after speaker on the subject. His expertise lies in green business practices, biotechnology, strategic leadership and sustainability, and entrepreneurship.

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CAP LTER research compares urban ecology in America's cities

November 30, 2012

Your yard in the Valley of the Sun may have many commonalities with a yard in wintry Minnesota. The plants you choose, the fertilizer you use, and how you landscape your yard may have a larger, widespread impact than you think.

A recent NY Times article profiled ASU’s Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research‘s four-year NSF project analyzing how and why America’s urban landscapes are starting to look the same. ASU is partnering with universities from Boston, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Miami, and Los Angeles to develop theories to explain what they call “ecological homogenization.”

It is noted in the article that over time, Americans have progressed a single type of landscape preference. The article’s author, Maggie Koerth-Baker, writes:

“Over the course of the last century, we’ve developed those preferences and started applying them to a wide variety of natural landscapes, shifting all places — whether desert, forest or prairie — closer to the norm. Since the 1950s, for example, Phoenix has been remade into a much wetter place that more closely resembles the pond-dotted ecosystem of the Northeast.”

Sharon Hall, a sustainability scientist and project investigator, hopes that CAP LTER’s research will show the impacts of our everyday decisions and the implications of ecological homogenization.

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Quest for clean energy comes with complexities

November 29, 2012

Efforts to reduce dependence on conventional energy sources such as fossil fuels and coal is spurred by the desire to alleviate the harmful environmental impacts of carbon dioxide emissions that result from the production and use of these sources.

Researchers are working on using sunlight as a catalyst for a process to produce clean hydrogen fuels, or looking at converting biomass (plant materials) as a clean fuel for power plants.

Arizona State University civil and environmental engineer Mikhail Chester weighs in along with other noted experts on alternative-energy issues in a recent article in a prominent international science magazine.

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Center for Environmental Security to research water contamination sources

November 29, 2012

Researchers at Arizona State University are working to identify these unseen contaminants and to measure their effects on human and environmental health.

Some of those unnoticed pollutants are directly linked to consumer practices. Chemicals in the products we use often end up in the water supply. For example, many stain and stick resistant products are made with something called perfluorinated compounds. Their chemistry, which makes them useful in the home, also makes them persistent in the environment. They simply do not degrade.

“What’s needed is a combination of more foresight in the way we pick and produce chemicals and then education of the consumers,” says Rolf Halden, a sustainability scientist and the director of the new Center for Environmental Security in the Biodesign Institute at ASU. “Right now, people are completely in the dark – they don’t even know what they’re buying. If you work with pollution control, the best, most effective way to deal with pollution is to not create pollution.”

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mission

Established in 2006, the School of Sustainability’s mission is to educate a new generation of scholars and practitioners and create innovative modes of scholarship by bringing together leaders, stakeholders, and people from multiple disciplines to develop practical solutions to the most pressing sustainability challenges.

 

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