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October 6, 2009

Host: Ted Simons

Audubon New Building

  |   Video
  • Audubon Arizona has a new education center in South Phoenix that’s built on the latest “green” principles. Find out more from Sarah Porter of Audubon Arizona.
  • Susan Porter - Audubon Arizona
Category: Sustainability

View Transcript

Ted Simons: The Audubon Society has a new green building. The Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audobon Center will officially open this weekend. The education center and home to Audubon Arizona is located in south Phoenix and was built with many green features. Here's a video tour of the new building.

Sarah Porter: This is the Rio Salado Audubon Center. We are the first Audubon center of the National Audubon Society in the state of Arizona. We are situated in one of the most intensely urban parts of Phoenix. And we are here to connect people with nature. A lot of our green features are things that you can't see. 100% of our wastewater is recycled. During the construction of this building, there was an effort to recycle 90% of construction waste. Over 20% of the materials used in the construction of the center are from sources within 500 miles of the center. So those are features that are hard to see. The arrays are one of our important green features for this green building. They will provide 40 to 50% of our electricity. They were given to us by SRP, a very important gift for us. This area is part of our children's free play area. We call it the Ephemeral streams. It's a manmade stream with a very wide lining and it's a tough stream that children can come and work. A lot of children in Phoenix, and especially in downtown and south Phoenix, you grow up with very limited to no access to the experience of playing in natural water areas, like a stream or a wetland. We thought it was important to give them that experience. And then on this site over here we have another water feature. This is just an old-fashioned pump. A lot of kids never had a reason to ask themselves, where does our water come from? How would I get water to my crops or my garden if I didn't live next to a river?

Sarah Porter: The covers are part of our irrigation system for our landscaping, and they are purple because they indicate that we're using recycled wastewater. We are using cleaned recycled wastewater to irrigate the vegetation in the landscape. This feature is something called a bioswale, a rain caching system comparable to a rain barrel you might see on the side of someone's house. They cache water moving across the ground, especially after a rainstorm. When the water collects, it slowly sinks to the groundwater system, the aquifer. As it goes down, it's cleaned. One of the most important things we can do to keep our water supplies clean is to capture water that falls on the ground and let it run down into the groundwater system.

Ted Simons: Here now to tell us more about the new Audubon facility is Sarah Porter, director of the Rio Salado Audubon Center. Thanks for joining us.

Sarah Porter: Nice to be here.

Ted Simons: The idea for the center, when did it get started? How long was it in development?

Sarah Porter: The idea started not in Arizona, probably about 12 years ago when the National Audubon Society decided to start bringing nature education to people in urban areas. National Audubon recognized that the old model of nature centers out in beautiful areas, that people would drive to on the weekends and vacations, it wasn't going to work as we grow more and more intensely urban. About seven years ago the National Audubon Society, with very strong support from local Arizona chapter members who wanted this to happen, hired my boss to start a state office. And her state board recognized that the city of Phoenix was a prime candidate for an urban nature center of the kind that Audubon is currently working on across the country.

Ted Simons: Why was this particular location considered a good site for the center?

Sarah Porter: It was a perfect site for two main reasons. One is we got a chance to partner with the city of Phoenix and be the Interpretive Gateway for the City of Phoenix's fantastic, fabulous Rio Salado restoration habitat, a 600-acre restoration of Salt River habitat, running along the historic Salt River corridor between 16th Street and about 19th Avenue currently. That's one we know. The other reason it's a perfect site, we are right next to a huge number of Phoenix residents, people in south and downtown Phoenix now have the opportunity to come and do nature education. Those are the people we are really working on reaching. The national Audubon Society recognizes that it's very important for the conservation movement to reach out to more diverse audiences. The conservation movement hasn't done a very good job in the last 20 to 40 years of bringing in people of different colors and different traditions. So here we are in a historically more ethnically diverse part of Phoenix with a beautiful nature center next to a fabulous habitat.

Ted Simons: Talk more about that fabulous habitat. I had a chance to go down when it first opened up, haven’t been back since. I was amazed at all of the things that were going on, in a part of the valley where most people wouldn’t think anything was going on. 9

Sarah Porter: You are absolutely right. I think most people don't realize what a little gem the Rio Salado habitat is. If you haven't been there for a while, you would probably be amazed by the growth over the past few years. The plants planted down there, they are all authentic Sonoran riparian, seed stock carefully selected to be authentic to Salt River habitat at 2,000 feet of elevation. Once you put a little water in and a little native vegetation in, you attract the wildlife. Currently there are some 200 different species of bird that use the habitat over the course of time. The habitat has attracted mammals, including of course coyotes, jackrabbits, of course cottontails, javelinas, even beavers and muskrats have moved in where there's water to support them, and all the other wildlife that comes along with having native habitat.

Ted Simons: What about human life? Are folks discovering this or the word's still got to get out?

Ted Simons: I think the word needs to get out. I think the center is going to be something that helps that effort. We're a really nice amenity. We have bathrooms, we have cold water, vending machines. We also have interpretive exhibits and a program to help people understand how they can use the habitat. One of the activities that people from Audubon traditionally really love doing is bird-watching. I don't think so many people know until they have tried it how wonderful it is to take a walk with a pair of binoculars and a field guide. You can do this with your kids, with your friends, by yourself. You can really get into a habitat in a new way by discovering the wildlife.

Ted Simons: We got a little bit of a tour in terms of the green aspects of it. In terms of transportation, you've got all sorts of things going on there, bus lines, you’ve got showers for cyclists, these sorts of things.

Sarah Porter: We have a shower for the staff members who choose to ride their bikes or jog to work. We actually have members who are starting to get to work that way. We are doing our part.

Ted Simons: Okay. So if people want to check this out, if they want to go and see the restoration habitat as a whole, what's the best way to get there? How do they get more bang for the buck?

Sarah Porter: The best thing to do is come to the center at 3131 South Central Avenue. We have of course parking, a parking area, or they could take the bus. It runs right down along Central. We have a bike rack. They should come through the center, take in our exhibits. We are telling the story of the Salt River, a historically significant river for everyone who lives in Phoenix. We should know this story. We are talking about the story of riparian habitat in Arizona. Then they can connect with the habitat right out our back door.

Ted Simons: Excellent. Thank you very much for joining us, we appreciate it.

Sarah Porter: Thank you very much.

Climate Change Conference

  |   Video
  • A climate change conference was recently held at Arizona State University as part of a worldwide day of conferences, with results ultimately being forwarded to United Nations delegates. ASU professors Netra Chhetri and James Buizer took part in the conference, and will talk about the results.
  • Netra Chhetri - ASU Professor
  • James Buizer - ASU Professor
Category: Sustainability

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said today he plans to continue with his crime suppression sweeps, this despite losing federal authority to arrest illegal immigrants based solely on their immigration status. Arpaio says he believes the Department of Homeland Security removed that authority from the sheriff's department as a way to try to stop Arpaio's crime suppression sweeps. Arpaio opinions of the actions by the feds, "It's all politics." A citizens conference on climate change was held recently in 38 countries. Arizona State University hosted one of five of those forums here in the U.S. The one-day worldwide conference on global warming included a survey to help find consensus on climate change. The results will be forwarded to delegates who will meet at a United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen this December. Here now to talk about ASU's part in the recent worldwide forum is James Buizer, science policy advisor to ASU President Crow and Executive Director for Strategic Institutional Advancement, Office of the President. Also here is Netra Chhetri, assistant professor at the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, and the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes at ASU. Both attended the conference, and Chhetri organized the event. Thanks for joining us on "Horizon." Let's start with you. You helped organize this thing. What was the idea behind this?

Netra Chhetri: The idea is the seek the advice from citizens who otherwise have no chance to communicate their voice into the global political process, the global policy-making process. That's the reason why we organized it.

Ted Simons: Citizens, getting their reaction on something as volatile as climate change, is it wise? Or would you rather have experts?

James Buizer: The climate issue is important to everyone. We have experts and these experts have their voice. And in Copenhagen coming up later this year, they will have their voice. What's unique about this and why ASU has really cared about this, it's very important, in addition to the experts and government officials and corporate officials, that everyday citizens have a chance to have their voice heard, and in aggregate they will.

Ted Simons: Voices heard on I guess 12 questions in four thematic areas. What were the questions? Did you hear something different from Arizona residents than you heard worldwide?

Netra Chhetri: Well, there were several questions. For the major questions, such as addressing climate change, the voice was more or less similar with the global populations. 92% of Arizonans said that it's urgent.

Ted Simons: Was that a surprise to you, that Arizona residents were so in step with folks around the world?

Netra Chhetri: I was not totally surprised, as well, because as we are in a dry climate, arid climate, always the issue is scarcity of water issues. If something happens to our climate, we feel like our water resources will be in short supply. I was not totally surprised to have that number because it's the reaction to the local problem.

Ted Simons: Who were the participants? How were they chosen? Were they chosen? How did that process go along?

James Buizer: Netra is probably a better person to answer that. But in general, he hit the streets and went to the public markets and talked to people and tried to interest them in this process. He let them know they had an opportunity for a voice, and this voice could happen if they came to this event. The idea was to get a representative cross-section gender-wise, racially, economically, a cross-section of Phoenix so these hundred people could represent Phoenix.

Ted Simons: Things like rewarding compliance, cap and trade, taxing overconsumption seem to be very big among Arizonans. Does that show us in step with the rest of the world on those?

Netra Chhetri: Especially when it comes to taxing CO2. I would be surprised to see that Arizonans were up higher in that trend to tax, that was one thing I was surprised to see there.

Ted Simons: Also, one of the results from Arizona's end fossil fuel incentives as a way to allow the market to more work its way for renewables. Again, that seems like it makes sense, although I think some folks would say, let the market work and renewables are still at the bottom rung.

Netra Chhetri: What people are seeing here, if we keep on subsidizing for emitting fossil fuels, we are not going to solve this problem. So they are telling their government and their policy-makers we have to stop that subsidy, otherwise we are not going to be anywhere.

Ted Simons: How did ASU get involved in this?

James Buizer: ASU, through our president, is extremely committed to engaging our community. We are committed to having the University go beyond historically what has been an ivory tower kind of thing that generally universities are, to one that's embedded into the community and we can be responsive to the community. This is one of those ways we engage in literally thousands of ways with Arizonans and the Phoenix metro. We are also very, very committed to the sustainability of Arizona and the sustainability of Arizona. The future of people that live in this city, we're committed to understanding better climate change and the impacts of the climate change on our city. Put these three together, this was pretty much an obvious one for us.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, the results, you got the results from Arizona and all across the country, all across the world. Do they get shoved in a drawer somewhere? How do you get action from this?

James Buizer: I'll let Netra answer as far as when it comes to Copenhagen. We will be taking these results; The National Science Foundation has agreed to fund Netra and his team of scientists to help us better understand these results mean and take it further locally here and at ASU.

Netra Chhetri: We have sort of a strategic plan to take the regions from one level to different levels. At the local level what I'm going to do in late October and November, I'm going to go to different public libraries and share the research. People will be invited to participate and then, again, hear from me about the other countries, as well. At the national level we will make sure that the delegates will be representing the United States, and the U.N. summit would also be heard. At the global level, we will make sure that the host of the upcoming event in Copenhagen will get the results. In fact, the environment and energy minister from Denmark is the host and also the advisor of the worldwide views on global warming.

Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us, we appreciate it.

Netra Chhetri: Thank you.

James Buizer: Thank you.

LightWorks Research Initiative

  |   Video
  • Meet former BP Pacific and BP China President Gary Dirks who has been selected by ASU as director of LightWorks, a new initiative to position the university as a leader in solar power and other light-inspired research.
  • Gary Dirks - President of BP Pacific and BP China and ASU's Director of Lightworks
Category: Sustainability   |   Keywords: lightworks,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: "Lightworks" is an ASU initiative to help the university become a leader in solar power and other light-inspired research. The initiative will capitalize on ASU's strengths in renewable energy fields, including artificial photosynthesis, biofuels, and next-generation photovoltaics. "Lightworks" will eventually broaden to include other light-based projects, such as lasers for biomedical applications and energy efficient lighting. Joining us now is the new director of "Lightworks," Gary Dirks, a Ph.D. graduate in chemistry from ASU, and former head of BP China, and BP Asia-Pacific.

Ted Simons: Thank you for joining us.

Gary Dirks: Pleasure to be here.

Ted Simons: Is that what "Lightworks" pretty much is?

Gary Dirks: I think you've captured exactly what we would like to do with the initiative.

Ted Simons: Give us an example of light-inspired research.

Gary Dirks: There's a number of different examples that I could give. We have a lot of activity going on in that area. I'd like to make mention two because they are high on our list of priorities right now. One is a consortium we have just put together, called a sustainable biofuels consortium. It is over 30 institutions from around the United States and a few foreign ones. Our intention is to get a grant from DOE, about $70 million, and look at what it's really going to take to make algae an alternative source of fuel. For motor fuels, jet fuel, for the future of the country. That's one example, algae. Second example is a DOE project, again, solar to fuels. Leave the plant out, convert light directly to motor fuels.

Ted Simons: And ASU is leading the way on both of these projects.

Gary Dirks: We are in the lead on both of these projects as principal investigators.

Ted Simons: How much collaboration with other universities, industries, government agencies, these sorts of things?

Gary Dirks: There is a lot of collaboration. As broad and deep as we are, we can't do everything. In the case of algae, we have more than 30 partners, A good mix of national labs, two of the other co-leaders are national labs. Then we have business and universities, as well.

Ted Simons: Skeptics will say, sounds great, wonderful research, show me something; give me something tangible. Is there anything to show now? Will there be something to show in the near future?

Gary Dirks: There are things to show right now with algae. If you go to the web you can find any number of companies involved in algae-based research and producing specialty chemicals as well as fuels. It's happening now. They are very much at the demonstration level. The point of what we are going to try to do is actually create framework for other researchers to see what the pathway forward is going to be. What do you have to do, where do you have to make improvements so that we can really get this into the marketplace?

Ted Simons: You come from the business world. You are BP and all over the business world with BP Asia-Pacific and BP China. Renewables. We hear about solar this and sustainable that. There are some who say it's all pie in the sky, for lack of a better phrase. How do you get that kind of realistic attitude into something that right now has a lot of vision to it, but not much in the way of tangible process?

Ted Simons: I think the way you do it is very much the way we're approaching the algae biofuel consortium. You look at combining the economics with the research right up front, so that the kind of things we do in the research laboratory have sitting behind them information about the economics and why success at this particular experiment is going to improve the economics, and why success will improve the economics. That's the starting point for it. But I think at the same time we have to recognize that the energy system we have today is very large and very highly evolved. Not only is the production and distribution of energy highly evolved, but the way that it's used has co-evolved with it. Automobiles evolved with the corner gasoline station which evolved with pipeline distribution and technology to find and produce oil. It's going to take us time to replace that.

Ted Simons: It's going to take a new paradigm, in other words.

Gary Dirks: It's going to take a new paradigm, although the one that underlines us is to take advantage of some of the infrastructure that already exists. You could produce algae oil that can go into the refinery and then into the existing distribution system and then go into motors that operate today.

Ted Simons: As the head of BP Asia-Pacific, BP China, we constantly hear America is falling behind. The U.S. needs to catch up, especially with Asia, or we are going to be left behind in the dust. Not just the economy, but also research and R&D. Is that what you're seeing out there?

Gary Dirks: I don’t believe that we are falling behind in the way people sometimes have you believe. There's no question but the capacity to do research and the capacity to make investments have improved enormously, particularly in Asia, over the last decade. But I think we underestimate the research capacity that the United States has, the number of universities that can do world class research. The innovation we can bring to bear in finance and in the way that we get new inventions to the marketplace, there's very few countries in the world that can do that. But we can't take it for granted. We have to continue to invest in it and take advantage of it.

Ted Simons: Okay. Thank you very much for joining us.