Urban Farm Inspires Neighbors and Visitors

Green Talk

May 30, 2008

by Greg Peterson
Special for the Arizona Republic

Photo of Greg PetersonI have a good friend whom I call Margaret the Condo Gardner. Her garden is quite the contrast from mine, but she will tell you that it is every bit as gratifying.

Most everyone I know who enjoys gardening shares this same sentiment: Growing your own food really grows on you! From condo-size to farm and everything in between, the rewards are much the same. And it really is so simple to do.

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ASU Ranks 6th for Impact in Ecology, Environmental Research

May 19, 2008

Arizona State University placed sixth in the Thomson Scientific's U.S. University's Top 10 in the subject area of ecology and environmental sciences. The rankings, developed for 21 subject areas, were derived from an examination of 9,200 publications (from 2001-2005) associated with the Thomson's University Science Indicators database. The top scores were held by University of California, Santa Barbara; Stanford University; University of Wisconsin, Madison; Harvard University and University of Washington.

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ASU Researchers Explore Bacteria-Driven Diesel Fuel

May 18, 2008

The Arizona Republic
The lowly cyanobacterium isn't much to look at, but the simple life form thought to have originally created the oxygen in Earth's atmosphere could be on the verge of making another dramatic impact on the planet: transforming the oil business.

Arizona State University researchers are exploring how one of Earth's smallest organisms may supplant its largest industry by growing bacteria to make diesel-engine fuel.

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ASU Opens 'Med School' for Earth's Ailments: 'First of its Kind' School at ASU Dedicated to Researching Sustainability

May 14, 2008

The Arizona Republic
Michael Crow sees Arizona State University's new Global Institute of Sustainability as a sort of global-issues medical school.

"Some 300 years ago, the first medical school was created with a few students, and before that, there was no such thing," said the ASU president, adding that it took hundreds of years for medical schools to create successful practices for treating the illnesses of humanity.

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U.S. Gets Brave on Warming

May 4, 2008

As published in The Arizona Republic: Viewpoints by Julian Hunt

A bipartisan delegation of U.S. lawmakers, including Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., participated in the Brazil Climate Change Forum, together with colleagues from the G8 and key emerging economies - Brazil, Mexico, China, India and South Africa.

At the February forum, U.S. representatives reassured the world that the United States is ready to reverse its policies and, independent of who wins the presidency in November, will collaborate in finding global solutions to climate change.

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We're a Megapolitan Nation

May 4, 2008

As published in The Arizona Republic: Viewpoints by Robert E. Lang and John Stuart Hall

Predictions of growth are not new, and neither is the idea of a network of cities. However, growth and development are now altering the United States at such a scale and pace that the "mega" concept is making its way into the mainstream of urban development and public policy.

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Major Changes to Way We Think, Plan must Be Made Now to Avoid a Sprawling Suburb

May 4, 2008

As published in The Arizona Republic: Viewpoints by Grady Gammage and Rob Melnick

As Arizona boosters like to point out, people "vote with their feet." In that election, more have come to Arizona than have been leaving. But a lot do leave.

For many, Arizona is a desert encampment: a good place to make money so you can afford to move on. For others, it is a sunny place to retire. But long-term commitment to this place has not been an Arizona norm.

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Arizona Must Think Like a Nation for it to Fulfill Promise of the Sun Corridor

May 4, 2008

As published in Arizona Republic: Viewpoints by Michael M. Crow, Arizona State University President
Twenty "megapolitan" areas with potential equivalent to the richest foreign countries are emerging in our nation. Arizona, with its natural assets, spirit of free enterprise and open culture is home to one of these, the Sun Corridor. These vast regions' competitiveness will drive massive economic and social opportunities.

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Related Story: Helping Phoenix Achieve Sustainability in Uncertain Times

April 30, 2008

What can we do to live sustainably in an uncertain world? Here, in a desert city averaging eight inches of rainfall annually yet carpeted with golf courses and dotted with swimming pools, it is an especially relevant question. Unfortunately, Phoenix’s tangle of laws, rights and agreements, which range from individual wells to regional compacts, also make it a difficult one to answer. Add global climate change to the equation and you have a recipe for policy paralysis.

Breaking that paralysis means finding ways to make decisions under uncertainty. It sounds painfully difficult, but perhaps there is a common-sense approach that could get the valley on the right track right now. All it requires is balancing the budget and hedging our bets.

“I think businesspeople shake their heads at this because, who doesn’t understand the need to manage your stock portfolio in the face of an uncertain economy?” says Patricia Gober, co-director of Decision Center for a Desert City. “Businesses do that. Individuals do that. Why shouldn’t we do it with natural resources?”

People live with uncertainty every day. Some live within their means, saving for the future, while others max out their credit cards. Phoenix, unfortunately, falls into the latter category, living the lush life off non-Arizona water. One major step in the right direction, then, might be to cut up the proverbial credit cards and become a desert city again.

It might not be as hard as it sounds.

“In Phoenix, depending on the municipality, between 60 and 70 percent of home water use is outdoor water use,” Gober says. “We can xeriscape our yards and have tremendous impact before ever influencing the way people take showers, flush their toilets or wash their dishes.”

Xeriscaping would not only remove water-guzzling plants, it would also decrease water use by getting rid of high-tech sprinkler systems, which tend to be insensitive to variations in water requirements over time. Getting rid of swimming pools, which annually lose the equivalent of their total volume through evaporation, could also be a big help. A smarter alternative might include community pools in new residential developments.

Another more controversial way to reduce outdoor water use might be to infill the city. Increasing population density, Gober says, would decrease per-capita outdoor water use.

The problem with this option is its potential impact on the urban heat island—the area of locally higher temperature associated with urban areas. Increasing the amount of heat-absorbing building materials while shrinking swaths of open area could worsen heat island effects, as could the amplified insulation and wind resistance caused by taller buildings. If so, they could offset or overwhelm any potential gains from infill.

“How does that balance work? We don’t know,” Gober says. “If you plant trees, does that mitigate the urban heat island effect in central Phoenix? How much water would it take to maintain the vegetation versus how much water would it save to have a cooler environment? These are just a few of the real policy questions that need to be answered for Phoenix to sustain itself in uncertain times.”

Continuing investigations into the ideal urban balance, along with future developments in building materials and green technologies, could bring Phoenix closer to becoming a “sustainable city.” In the meantime, Gober says, finding smarter growth strategies and managing our own water budgets are a step in the right direction.

Nick Gerbis
ASU Media Relations
(480) 965-9690

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Demographer at Crossroads of Climate and Growth


April 30, 2008

Interdisciplinary focus help’s ASU’s Gober chart Phoenix’s future in uncertain times

Pat Gober, Director of the Decision Center for a Desert CityPatricia Gober understands better than most that major shifts, in a climate or a career, are periods rife with uncertainty. The professor and former chair of Arizona State University’s department of geography was at the top of her game as a demographer and urban geographer when, a decade ago, she struck out to explore new intellectual terrain.

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Students from Arizona State University Compete in Wal-Mart's "Better Living Business Plan Challenge"

Institute Press Releases

April 16, 2008

Winner of environmentally friendly innovations competition to receive $20,000
Press Release

Tempe, AZ - On Apr. 18, 2008, students from Arizona State University (ASU) will travel to the Wal-Mart Home Office in Bentonville, Ark. to compete in the “Better Living Business Plan Challenge.” The competition was created to provide students around the world an opportunity to invent sustainable products or business solutions and present them to a panel of Wal-Mart executives, government officials, suppliers and environmental organizations. In addition to gaining an audience with some of the top business and sustainability leaders in the US, the winning school will receive $20,000.

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Assessing New Technology

Green Talk

April 12, 2008

by Brad Allenby
for the Arizona Republic

Photo of Braden Allenby, Professor at Arizona State UniversityIt is hard to remember, but 10 years ago we were all madly in love. The object of our affection – biofuel – was beautiful; the promise was less climate change, support for agriculture, a shift to renewables, better national energy security. But love is blind, and so were we.

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Attaining Sustainability Requires Economic Scorecard

Green Talk

April 11, 2008

V. Kerry Smith
Special for The Republic

Photo of V. Kerry Smith, Professor at Arizona State UniversityEveryone loves to keep score. Most aspects of our lives get rated in some way. Sports, computer games, university-degree programs, local school systems and many other factors of daily living are routinely scored.

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School of Sustainability Featured on NBC Nightly News


March 28, 2008

NBC visited Arizona State University in February 2008 to explore in depth the nation's first School of Sustainability. Their report aired nationally March 24, 2008, on NBC Nightly News. Interviews with students, professors, and administrators shed light on challenges facing this generation of students, opportunities that await graduates, and how ASU's School of Sustainability prepares students for the future.

> Watch the NBC Nightly News video
> Watch NBC interview of ASU students
> Watch NBC interview of President Michael Crow

Earth Hour Spotlights Sustainability: Phoenix to Join Far-Reaching Blackout

Green Talk

March 28, 2008

by Jonathan Fink
Special for The Republic

Photo of Jonathan Fink, Director of the Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State UniversityOn Saturday evening, Arizona State University's University Center building at the downtown Phoenix campus will go completely dark for one hour. The voluntary blackout is a symbol of ASU's commitment to Earth Hour 2008 – a global effort to build awareness around the need for action on climate change.

ASU's University Center and the entire downtown Phoenix area will join Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco and a host of other cities around the globe in turning off all non-essential lighting from 8 to 9 p.m. local time.

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Deciding to Deal with Climate

Green Talk

February 22, 2008

by Anthony Brazel for the Arizona Republic

Photo of Anthony Brazel, Professor at Arizona State UniversityDuring the 1960s, I had the good fortune of spending several summers on some ice- and snowfields in Alaska, at a time when it was commonly thought that global cooling was a climate trend and that we were returning to an ice age. A few decades later, I returned to Alaska to map and analyze glaciers, and found many dramatically retreated up their valleys by one-quarter of a mile or more.

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