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Locust plagues are devastating countries across Africa

ASU Now | February 21, 2020

Right now, there are hundreds of billions of locusts wreaking havoc on vegetation across Africa. Experts are sounding the alarm, including United Nations humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock, who said the swarm has the potential to be "the most devastating plague of locusts in any of our living memories if we don't reduce the problem faster than we're doing at the moment."

The outbreak has hit East Africa particularly hard as many countries in the region are heavily dependent on agriculture. Locust swarms devastate food crops and raise food insecurity, an issue many of the countries already struggle with. According to the UN, the swarms are the largest in Somalia and Ethiopia in 25 years and the largest in Kenya in 70 years. In Kenya, Joseph Katone Leparole — who has lived in the hamlet, Wamba, for most of his 68 years — described the plague as being similar to an umbrella covering the sky.

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Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability celebrates 15 years

February 17, 2020

In 2004, Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow convened a meeting in Temozón, Mexico, of a small but distinguished group of intellectual leaders who were exploring a new idea: sustainability science. Could sustainability be a core value of a large public research university?

It would have to instruct and inspire new generations. It would have to solve pressing real-world problems. And it would have to walk its talk.

On the 15th anniversary of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, ASU has proven it can do all of that and more. Read more about the accomplishments and evolution of the ASU Wrigley Institute in these ASU Now stories:

Current locust swarms emphasize the importance of GLI researchers

February 4, 2020

Locust swarm location mapPakistan. Somalia. Ethiopia. Kenya. Locust swarms of near biblical proportions are currently wreaking havoc across a wide swath of southwest Asia and east Africa.

According to the United Nations, the swarms are the largest in Somalia and Ethiopia in 25 years, and the most severe in Kenya in 70 years. Firdous Ashiq Awan, Pakistan’s special assistant to the prime minister for information and broadcasting, called the infestation the “worst in more than two decades.” Both Pakistan and Somalia have declared national emergencies as they struggle to contain the impact of the pests' invasion. As a testament to the significance of the threat, Somalia’s Ministry of Agriculture warned that the locusts posed “a major threat to Somalia’s fragile food security situation.” It was a sentiment echoed by Qu Dongyu, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization.

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Australian wildfires illustrate urgent need for collective action

Medium | February 3, 2020

Image of Australian wildfireAcross the globe, wildfires continue to occur with increasing frequency and higher intensity. The world watched in shock as the still-burning flames in Australia engulfed thousands of homes, scorched millions of acres and burned alive more than a billion animals. The unprecedented disaster has experts worried.

In the latest thought leader piece from the Global Futures Laboratory, "A world on fire: Will we respond?," Peter Schlosser, Clea Edwards, Steven Beschloss, Nina Berman and Upmanu Lall discuss the impacts of the devastating fires in Australia and our collective responsibility to act. "It is the responsibility of all of us — Australian or not — to take this staggering moment to work for change on a global scale," they say.

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In an interdisciplinary effort, ASU researchers develop a framework to help decide sustainable futures

Science Direct | February 1, 2020

Image of wind turbinesAs we continue to witness the devastating impacts of climate change, there is a consensus that we as a human population need to transition to a more sustainable way of living. But with so many ideas and proposals, how do we decide which pathways are best? Experts from Arizona State University have created a tool to help: The Sustainable Future Scenarios (SFS).

According to a new paper published in the journal of Landscape and Urban Planning, "The co-production of sustainable future scenarios," the SFS “offers guidance to co-produce visions and transition pathways of positive futures that develop and integrate interventions for sustainability transformations of social-ecological-technological systems.”

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Uplifting indigenous voices for a sustainable future in food

January 31, 2020

Assorted vegetables, fruits, meats, and grainsThis article was written by William H. Walker VI, a sophomore in the School of Sustainability. 

Modern consumers have lost touch with how food is more than a commodity and brings more than nutritional value. Cultural, spiritual, ecological and community values are bound up in everything we eat. For food systems to be more sustainable, consumers need to embrace indigenous and place-based food narratives that foster more equitable food systems. 

To push back against the common narrative of food for nutrition’s sake, the Wisdom of Indigenous Foodways conference highlighted uplifting agricultural, social and sustainable narratives from the indigenous community.

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Christiana Figueres inspires action to cut carbon emissions in half this decade

January 31, 2020

Christiana Figueres Wrigley Lecture ASUAt the Wrigley Lecture held on January 30 at Arizona State University, climate leader Christiana Figueres said extreme events like the Australian wildfires are foretelling of things to come if we continue to sleepwalk into the future. "That world is possible, but it is not inevitable," she said.

Figueres is recognized internationally as a diplomatic leader on climate change. From 2010 to 2016, she was executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. During her tenure, Figueres brought together national and sub-national governments, corporations and activists, financial institutions and NGOs to deliver the historic Paris Agreement on climate change. To accelerate the global response to climate change, Figueres founded Global Optimism Ltd., a purpose-driven enterprise focused on social and environmental change. On February 25, 2020, Figueres is launching her new book, "The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis."

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Meet sustainability junior Cameron Chavez Reed

January 30, 2020

Cameron ChavezInspired by his passions for nature and correcting social inequities, and fueled by his alarm at the climate crisis, Cameron Chavez Reed began his Arizona State University career determined to obtain a degree that would enable him to make a difference.

“I knew I wanted to study something that could make a difference and integrate the interdisciplinary nature of sustainability into a single program,” Reed said. “ASU’s School of Sustainability has provided me this opportunity: a program that incorporates the social, political, economic, and natural ecological aspects of the incredibly diverse and complex issue that is sustainability.”

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Sunny day flooding in Norfolk, Virginia

January 27, 2020

Image of a car driving through flood water in VirginaWith Hurricane Dorian threatening in late August 2019, staff from Arizona State University traveled to Norfolk, Virginia to investigate and film flooding due to the climate crisis. Norfolk is the site of the largest Naval base in the world and vital to U.S. national security. The city is also the first location in the U.S. where the threats and complications from sea level rise began in earnest.

This nine-minute documentary was produced by Steven Beschloss for the Global Futures Laboratory and co-produced, shot and edited by Kirk Davis for Knowledge Enterprise.

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The wisdom of indigenous foodways

January 27, 2020

top down view of dining table with food being sharedA food summit co-sponsored by Arizona State University brought indigenous voices to the forefront of a conversation about transforming our food system.

The ASU Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems, Food Tank and the University of Hawaii, West Oahu partnered for the inaugural Food Tank Summit, “The Wisdom of Indigenous Foodways." The event, which took place on January 22 at ASU Skysong, featured 22 speakers, almost all of them Native American or Native Hawaiian. Indigenous celebrity chefs Mariah Gladstone and Sean Sherman, founder and CEO of The Sioux Chef, were also present.

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ASU biologist starts magazine to save bees

ASU Now | January 25, 2020

2 million blossoms logoDestruction of biodiversity can sometimes feel like such an overwhelming problem, the average person has no idea where to begin if they want to make a difference. To those who feel this way, Arizona State University biologist Kirsten Traynor has a suggestion: Start with bees.

In the face of the climate crisis, all sorts of animals are facing extinction. But while the average person may not be able to do much about rhinos, tigers or birds, they can certainly help bees.

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ASU workshop tackles questions surrounding the transition to a sustainable future

ASU Now | January 24, 2020

Peter SchlosserThere is near unanimous consent that we need to transition to a sustainable future. The real question is, how do we do so?

In an effort to address this vital question, Arizona State University’s intellectual network the Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes (CSPO) held an open workshop titled “What Will It Take to Transition to a Sustainable Future?” on January 22. The workshop was held at the Barrett & O’Connor Washington Center and it brought together leaders from universities, businesses, government and civil society to discuss potential solutions to the critical, complex challenges of sustainability and the future of our planet.

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Meet sustainability alumna Megan Warner

January 24, 2020

Megan WarnerMegan Warner just graduated with a Bachelor of Science in sustainability. As someone who has been dedicated to sustainability from an early age, completing the program was a dream come true.

"This program will change you in profound ways," Warner said. "I learned how to be mindful of the uncomfortable and inspiring feelings that sustainability brings."

In the following Q&A, read about Warner, her advice to those still on the journey of obtaining a degree, and her plans for the future.

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Marchant is named AAAS fellow

ASU Now | January 23, 2020

Gary MarchantDistinguished Sustainability Scientist Gary Marchant was recently elected by his peers as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science – one of eight fellows named in the Societal Impacts of Science and Engineering sector, for distinguished contributions to research, teaching and outreach at the intersections of law, science and biotechnology, including important work with legislative, executive and judicial groups.

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National Academy of Sciences honors Elkins-Tanton

ASU Now | January 22, 2020

Lindy Elkins-TantonThe National Academy of Sciences has announced that Sustainability Scientist Lindy Elkins-Tanton has been awarded the 2020 Arthur L. Day Prize and Lectureship. The Arthur L. Day Prize and Lectureship is awarded to a scientist making lasting contributions to the study of the physics of the Earth and whose lectures will provide solid, timely, and useful additions to the knowledge and literature in the field.

The prize was awarded to Elkins-Tanton for her lasting contributions to the study of the physics of Earth and for illuminating the early evolution of rocky planets and planetesimals. She will be awarded a $50,000 prize and funds to present a series of Day Lectures, which are provided by the Arthur L. Day Bequest. The award will be presented on Sunday, April 26 at 2 p.m. in Washington, D.C., at the National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting and will be available via live webcast.

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ASU center makes global impact on ecology, conservation science

ASU Now | January 22, 2020

Global Airborne Observatory plane flying over coastlineFrom working to save Hawaiian coral reefs during the 2019 Pacific Ocean warming event to empowering hundreds of students and researchers with data from the largest constellation of satellites currently in orbit, Arizona State University’s recently launched Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science is already making waves.

Established in January 2019, the center expands upon on a vision that Greg Asner, director of the center and a senior sustainability scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, began 18 years ago at the Carnegie Institution for Science on the campus of Stanford University. It’s based on Asner’s lab work of global coral reef mapping, measuring plant biodiversity in tropical forests and hiring and supporting new faculty with a similar vision of discovery and conservation impact.

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ASU emeritus professor advocates for the environment through art

ASU Now | January 18, 2020

drawing of desert landscapeEmeritus professor Mark Reader has a unique way of advocating for the environment: Art.

Reader is a talented painter with a history of protesting going back to the '60s. In 1967, he had just moved from Pennsylvania and was teaching political theory at Arizona State University when Arizona began to experience the harmful effects of automobile exhaust and smokestack emissions. According to Reader, the visibility back then was so bad one couldn’t see Camelback Mountain on some days. Alarmed by the situation, he joined other protesters to demand clean air and water as part of the original Earth Day.

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Creating a sustainable fashion industry

ASU Now | January 17, 2020

Mannequins wearing different outfitsAccording to the United Nations Environment Program, 20% of the global wastewater and 10% of global carbon emissions can be traced back to one source: the fashion industry. The UNEP estimates that these statistics are “more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.” Alarmed by these numbers, Arizona State University students, staff and alumni, including the Business of Fashion group at ASU, are working to change it.

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Project Cities puts student talent on the map

ASU Now | January 14, 2020

Person presenting for project citiesThe city of Apache Junction, Arizona has a complicated relationship with the 125 mobile home and RV parks within its city limits. Some of the parks are well managed and provide an attractive, affordable option for low income residents. But many are deteriorating, unsightly and do not conform to contemporary city codes, presenting a detriment to Apache Junction’s image as it works to attract visitors and boost economic growth.

In an effort to address this, the city partnered with the new-at-the-time Arizona State University program Project Cities, a program launched in 2017 to “connect higher education with local communities, creating a powerful combination of knowledge and know-how.” Apache Junction was the inaugural community partner during the 2017–18 academic year and renewed its partnership through the spring 2019 semester.

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ASU professor leading international effort to improve urban resilience

ASU Now | January 8, 2020

Nancy GrimmWe’re just over a week into the new year and we’ve already seen extensive wildfires in Australia and massive flooding in Indonesia, both of which have claimed multiple lives. These incidents — extreme weather events intensified by climate change — are officially the new normal, and experts are worried.

"The overall challenge is that cities, in particular, are experiencing and will experience an increase in the frequency and magnitude of extreme events,” said Arizona State University Regents Professor Nancy Grimm. “So, fires, heat waves, flooding, coastal flooding, droughts and so forth — most of these are weather-related events, and whether or not you can attribute any single one of them to climate change, we’re going to see more of them and they are going to be more severe.”

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