Global Challenges of Sustainability Call for Action and Solutions

Institute Press Releases

October 26, 2009

ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability Brings Slate of Transformational Leaders to Arizona

TEMPE, Ariz. – To engage public dialogue about the mounting challenges that must be addressed to create a sustainable world, the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University (ASU) is announcing the 2009-2010 slate of distinguished speakers for its Wrigley Lecture Series on Sustainability.

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ASU Exceeds $300 Million in Research Expenditures

October 26, 2009

Arizona State University has topped $300 million in research expenditures for the first time in its school history. With a total of $307 million in research expenditures for FY2009 (which ended June 30), a growth of nearly 9 percent compared to FY08, ASU has made a dramatic climb in the ranks of top research universities.

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Decision-making for climatic uncertainty

September 30, 2009

Q&A with Patricia Gober

Dr. Patricia Gober

Rapid growth on urban fringes exacerbates water supply challenges from climate change

Using WaterSim for decision support in the Decision Theater

Dr. Gober is a professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and in the School of Sustainability. She is also a Policy Research Associate at Morrison Institute for Public Policy and Co-Director of Decision Center for a Desert City, one of five National Science Foundation-funded centers focused on developing fundamental new knowledge and tools for decision-making under climatic uncertainty.

When did you come to focus on “sustainability” in your research?

I’ve been a “closet” sustainability scientist for as long as I can remember. During more than 30 years interacting with earth scientists, biogeographers, and climatologists, I became more interested in our connections than our differences. Then, in 1998 I was elected president of the Association of American Geographers, which triggered the realization that my field — geography — was a potent catalyst for the marriage of science, social science, technology, and the humanities. Gradually, I moved from there to the long-term perspective, collaborative practices, and solution-oriented work of sustainability science I’m involved with today.

What is your most important sustainability-related research project?

I co-direct the Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) to address water management decision-making in the face of climate uncertainty. The premise of our work is that society needs to prepare for the effects of climate change, but even the best climate science will never completely eliminate all unknowns. To mitigate the uncertainty decision-makers must face, we developed WaterSim, a scientific simulation and policy tool that enables them to explore the consequences of different policy scenarios on future water supplies. By asking carefully crafted “what if” questions, applying the best available scientific and institutional knowledge, and collaborating closely with water managers and policymakers, we help identify which choices avoid misfortune and are robust under a range of future climate conditions.

How does your sustainability-related research affect “real world” decisions?

Locally, our goal is to draw attention to the need for climate adaptation in Arizona — particularly to persuade water managers and the public of the need for action. We’ve also worked in collaboration with the city of Phoenix’s Water Services Department to investigate the consequences of using irrigated landscaping to mitigate the urban heat island effect.

Thinking globally, the strategies and solutions we find here can be applied to many other rapidly urbanizing regions around the world. In recognition of that, DCDC was chosen as a winner of the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water in the category of water resources management and protection.

What is the world sustainability challenge that concerns you most?

Increasingly, I focus on the challenge of sustainable cities. We can no longer discuss urban water, land, or energy decisions without examining their consequences for maintaining healthy ecosystems, supporting economic progress, feeding the world’s population, and managing the risk of shortages across social groups and communities. The challenge for the world’s cities is to look at the interconnectedness of their social, economic, and environmental systems and policies. Water is but one piece of this complex puzzle.

September 30, 2009

Study: Wealth buys rescue from urban heat island

September 21, 2009

by Shaun McKinnon
The Arizona Republic

Heat discriminates. Phoenix's sweltering summer inflicts the most misery and illness in poor neighborhoods, a new study shows, and among people least able to protect themselves from the elements. Conditions in those neighborhoods, with their sparse landscaping, high-density housing and converging freeways, create pockets of extreme heat that persist day and night. Inside, homeowners sometimes can't afford to turn up - or even turn on - the air-conditioner.

Wealthier homeowners, meanwhile, often in neighborhoods just blocks away, maintain lush yards and trees that help cool the air more quickly at night, shortening the hours of the hottest heat waves. They can buy further relief with a nudge of the thermostat.
The disparities present threats more serious than just discomfort on a hot day, according to the study, produced by Arizona State University researchers. Prolonged exposure to heat can cause illness or even death. The densely developed nature of the hottest areas also means more of the people most vulnerable - the elderly, children, the homebound - live in the neighborhoods where the risk is greatest.

That link between money and the ability to cope with extreme weather emerged clearly in the research. Among the startling revelations: For every $10,000 an area's income rises, the average outside temperature drops one-half degree Fahrenheit.

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The Aspen Institute Announces Arizona State University’s Jay Golden as Winner of 2009 Faculty Pioneer Award

Institute Press Releases

September 16, 2009

NEW YORK, N.Y., TEMPE, Ariz. – The Center for Business Education at the Aspen Institute announced today that Professor Jay Golden of Arizona State University (ASU) has been named 2009 Faculty Pioneer. This recognition program, dubbed the "Oscars of the business school world" by The Financial Times, celebrates business educators who have demonstrated leadership and risk-taking in integrating ethical, environmental and social issues into the business curriculum. Golden will be honored on November 6th at an awards breakfast at Ernst & Young’s corporate headquarters in New York’s Times Square.

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National Expert on Urban Ecology

August 31, 2009

Q&A with Nancy B. Grimm

Dr. Nancy B. Grimm

A CAP LTER student collects water samples in a stormwater retention basin

CAP LTER technicians and graduate students survey desert study plots

Dr. Nancy B. Grimm is Professor of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Science, affiliate faculty member in the School of Sustainability, and Co-Director of the Central Arizona—Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research project (CAP LTER), an interdisciplinary study of the Phoenix metropolitan area.

When did you first incorporate the ideas of “sustainability” into your research?

I’ve been aware of sustainability’s relevance since the 1991 report, The Sustainable Biosphere Initiative, from the Ecological Society of America. Applying the concepts of sustainability, however, became directly relevant for my own research in 1998 when I began working in the field of urban ecology as principal investigator of the CAP LTER project. That made me consider how we can integrate the understandings of social sciences — human behaviors and actions — into ecological research.

What is your most important sustainability-related research project?

The CAP LTER project takes a long perspective on understanding human–ecological interactions in the Phoenix metro area. We study land change, climate, ecosystem structure and function, water, biodiversity, and material inputs, outputs, and transformations. Cities are prime ground for sustainability research: they are where most people live, and where both problems and potential solutions are concentrated. The key to finding urban solutions is they must be based in sound ecological principles or they won’t prove to be sustainable.

How can your sustainability-related research affect policy?

I want to help decision-makers and planners incorporate an ecological perspective into the design and construction of urban landscapes. For example, we know it’s a challenge to handle stormwater runoff in urban environments that have impervious surfaces and dramatically altered stream channels. Why not design ecologically sound ideas into the system such as nutrient removal, sediment trapping, and groundwater infiltration that have been successful in other regions? This is a conversation that must take place.

What is the world sustainability challenge that concerns you most?

In the long run, I am most concerned about climate change — not just warming, but the severe climate and weather events it will cause such as drought, floods, sea-level rise, and storm surges. These will pose significant threats to people who live where risk is greatest, mainly in cities.

How is your message getting out?

Science magazine published my ideas on the role of urbanization in global environmental change in a special issue on cities released Feb. 8, 2008. I also coordinated the society chapter in the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s synthesis book, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States, which was jointly released by the White House and has been described as the most comprehensive report to date on the possible impacts of climate change across America and the policy choices we face.

August 31, 2009

Sierra Magazine Names ASU as a "Cool School"

August 20, 2009


ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY NAMED ONE OF AMERICA'S TOP 20 "COOLEST" SCHOOLS BY SIERRA MAGAZINE. ASU praised for green efforts by national magazine, ranks #13 on list


TEMPE, Ariz. – Sierra magazine has named the nation's top 20 "coolest" schools for their efforts to stop global warming and operate sustainably. The magazine's September/October cover story spotlights the schools that are making a true impact for the planet, and marks Sierra's third annual listing of America's greenest universities and colleges. The complete list is available online at

Arizona State University (ASU) placed #13 on the list. Sustainability initiatives at Arizona State University include the only purchasing program to score a perfect "10" among Sierra's top 20, ramped-up recycling and waste-diversion efforts, energy-efficiency upgrades that have saved ASU an estimated 33 million kWh and 70 million pounds of CO2 annually, one of the largest university solar initiatives in the country; and ASU is home to the nation's first School of Sustainability.

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Experienced students help nurture young minds

August 10, 2009

Youngsters in a science summer camp hosted by the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering benefitted from the efforts of several ASU students with an enthusiasm for educational outreach.

Among them were Alice Ling, a senior studying mechanical engineering, and Erin Frisk, a doctoral student in ASU’s School of Sustainability.

They worked with 48 Arizona middle school students who participated in the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp.

Ling guided the teens and pre-teens through science and engineering projects and helped them cope with living day and night for two weeks on a university campus.

“I love working with kids,” Ling says. “I love to see them gain confidence in themselves and develop team-building skills in just a couple of weeks.” Frisk developed the camp curriculum, which provided the students a hands-on introduction to the diverse and growing field of sustainability.

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ASU Lighting Retrofit at West Campus is Big, Green Deal

August 10, 2009

Arizona State University’s West campus is getting a new color scheme, and there isn’t a paint brush or drop-cloth in sight.

Working in conjunction with APS Energy Services (APSES), the liberal arts campus tucked in the northwest corner of Phoenix is going green with a major interior and exterior lighting retrofit. The six-month project, scheduled for completion in December, will improve the quality of lighting in offices, classrooms and public areas and reduce the overall energy demand and consumption of the campus.

The project comes on the heels of ASU’s recent selection as one of the country’s “greenest” universities by The Princeton Review for a second consecutive year.

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Arizona State University Installs Lighting in Parking Structures as Part of Energy Conservation Project

Institute Press Releases

August 7, 2009

Lighting Science’s energy saving LED luminaires to reduce annual energy consumption by up to 59 percent in six ASU parking structures

TEMPE, Ariz. and SATELLITE BEACH, FL.– Lighting Science Group Corporation (LSG) (Lighting Science) today announced that Arizona State University (ASU) has taken yet another step in its commitment to 'going green' by retrofitting six parking structures on the Tempe campus with new light emitting-diode (LED) fixtures. Changing the existing fixtures to Lighting Science's LED low bay solution will afford ASU with an annual savings of up to $127,000 in energy and maintenance costs for the six structures that were retrofit.

As part of a Phase II energy conservation and sustainability project underway throughout campus, ASU's partner APS Energy Services replaced over 2,000, 150 W metal halide fixtures with Lighting Science's 78 W LED low bay luminaires. By replacing existing metal halide fixtures and lamps, ASU will reduce its energy consumption by 1.5 million kW hours, which is equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 208 passenger vehicles.

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International Authority on Sustainable Engineering

July 29, 2009

Q&A with Brad Allenby

Dr. Brad Allenby

Notion of a controllable insect for surveillance

Allenby and students discuss a case study about population densities

Dr. Brad Allenby is Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics, Professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, and Professor of Law. He is also Founding Director of the Center for Earth Systems Engineering and Management and an affiliated faculty member of the School of Sustainability. In 2008 he was named a Carnegie Foundation U.S. Professor of the Year. His research addresses Earth systems engineering and the ethical and social issues of emerging technologies.

How did your early career lead you to “sustainability” as a field of work?

More than 15 years ago, a few of us at AT&T and elsewhere began working on the ideas of industrial ecology and design for environment. From there, it was a natural extension to address sustainability issues because industrial ecology techniques provided a bridge between the practical worlds of business and engineering and the more theoretical frameworks of sustainability.

What is the most important sustainability-related research project you are currently working on?

First, I’m working with the IEEE (formerly known as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), the world’s leading professional association for the advancement of technology, to focus on sustainability issues related to technology and technology systems, areas seldom addressed elsewhere. Second, I have recently been appointed a Stockdale Fellow by the U.S. Naval Academy, where I will be exploring the ethical and sustainability implications of emerging technologies in the military, such as robotics, controllable insects, and miniaturized surveillance mechanisms. This work is particularly important because so many technological breakthroughs with significant social implications occur in a military context.

How can your sustainability-related research affect policy?

My work with the IEEE and with emerging technologies for the military has the potential to affect many far-reaching policy decisions. Overall, however, I think the challenge is not to focus on the impact of individuals, but on the slow transformation of institutional and cultural frameworks.

What is the world sustainability challenge that concerns you most?

Emerging technology and national security are often overlooked as sustainability threats, but when you weigh their potential for significant disruption of cultural, social, economic, and environmental systems, they are probably more important than anything else – including climate change.

What has your work in sustainability taught you?

We sometimes get the idea that we know what we’re talking about — that we can control current trends and plan future social and environmental states. This is a serious overestimation of our capabilities. A little more intellectual humility and less ideology would help our thinking considerably in this area.

July 29, 2009

ASU Named One of Nation's 'Greenest' Universities

July 27, 2009

Arizona State University has been named one of the nation's "greenest" universities by The Princeton Review in its second annual rating of environmentally-friendly institutions. This is the second year in a row that ASU made the list.

The Princeton Review named 15 colleges to its "2010 Green Rating Honor Roll" – a list that salutes the institutions that received the highest possible score – 99 – in this year's rating tallies.

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ASU and the U of AR Work with Walmart on Developing Sustainable Product Index

July 16, 2009

Consortium of universities will collaborate with businesses, NGOs and governmental agencies to develop global database of information on the lifecycle of products

TEMPE, Ariz., FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Walmart, a world leader in sustainability announced today an investment that reaffirms its commitment to incorporating sustainable business practices throughout the entire consumer business supply chain. Through a revolutionary move, Walmart is helping create a consortium of universities, jointly administered by Arizona State University (ASU) and the University of Arkansas (UA).

Walmart’s initial investment will be dispersed equally to Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas; this partnership will conduct the development of a science-based, open source, product lifecycle assessment that will provide scientific innovations that lead to a new generation of sustainable products, materials, and technologies.

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Explosive Growth of Life Fueled by Early Greening of Earth

July 14, 2009

Earth’s 4.5-billion-year history is filled with several turning points when temperatures changed dramatically, asteroids bombarded the planet and life forms came and disappeared. But one of the biggest moments in Earth’s lifetime is the Cambrian explosion of life, roughly 540 million years ago, when complex, multi-cellular life burst out all over the planet.

While scientists can pinpoint this pivotal period as leading to life as we know it today, it is not completely understood what caused the Cambrian explosion of life. Now, researchers led by Arizona State University geologist L. Paul Knauth believe they have found the trigger for the Cambrian explosion.

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New Program Helps Sun to SET on Waste

July 13, 2009

Let’s say that your office has 300 white binders with the ASU logo on the front. They were leftover from a conference, and you’re not planning another conference for a long time to come.

You don’t want to throw them away, but they can’t be recycled. So what should you do with them?

Put them on ASU’s newly debuted version of “Craigslist” – SunSET.

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Sustainable Cities Network receives $60,000 grant from Sam's Club®

Institute Press Releases

July 8, 2009

Partnership between ASU and city, county, and tribal leaders strengthens regional sustainability efforts.

As part of Sam’s Club’s commitment to give back to the communities it serves, company executives presented Arizona State University with a $60,000 grant for its Sustainable Cities Network. The contribution is a market grant, with money pooled from 13 Sam’s Club stores in the Phoenix-Tucson-Prescott area.

“The Sustainable Cities Network represents the cities we serve, and it works to promote sustainability, which is one of the major focuses of our grants,” said Keith Lowe, club manager for the Gilbert store.

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Global Leader in Land Change Science

June 30, 2009

Q&A with B. L. Turner II

Turner (left) and student setting up a transect to examine deforestation in southern Yucatan.

Agriculture-related deforestation

Addressing sustainability of local agriculture

Dr. Billie Lee Turner is the Gilbert F. White Chair of Environment and Society in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His research addresses climate change by examining the interactions between humans and the environment that lead to deforestation and desertification.

How were you introduced to the term "sustainability"?

In 1987 while I was at Clark University, I became involved with an activity that led to the landmark volume, The Earth as Transformed by Human Action, which I edited along with Bob Kates, Bill Clark and others. Later I was involved with the Global Land Project and other efforts tied to global change and sustainability, and I played a bit role in developing Our Common Journey, the 1999 National Academy of Science report that staked out sustainability science.

What is the most important sustainability-related research project you are currently working on?

The Southern Yucatan Peninsular Region (SYPR) project is an interdisciplinary study of tropical forest change resulting from human-environment interactions. Begun in 1997, this project helped establish what is now known as “land change science.” A special feature on this sustainability subfield in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recently won an award from the Ecological Society of America for the best contribution to sustainability in 2008.

How do you think your research affects policy or other decisions in the "real world"?

The SYPR project, which is intended to be independent so as to maintain legitimacy among the many stakeholders in the region, nevertheless has provided the science used by NGOs and various state and federal agencies to address policy decisions. I am also currently working to create a sustainable land architecture model that is designed to be decision-maker friendly. That work is in conjunction with ASU’s Central Arizona - Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research project and Decision Center for a Desert City.

What is the world sustainability challenge that concerns you most?

My largest concern is over the ideologies involved in the interpretations of the subject, especially the proliferation of extreme, polarizing views about the condition of the earth, the role of humans, and where we should go from here. These views interfere with our understanding of the dynamics in question.

June 30, 2009

ASU Art Museum Becomes Catalyst for Sustainability Dialogue

June 30, 2009

August 27, 2009 - February 20, 2010

Surprising. Invigorating. Thought provoking. The Arizona State University Art Museum continues to present the best in contemporary art with exhibitions in all media by regional and international, emerging and established artists. The ASU Art Museum organizes these outstanding contemporary art exhibitions – which often receive national and international attention – and presents them in innovative ways for students and visitors. 

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