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May 2, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Education Issues

  |   Video
  • An Education Nation Summit will be held in Phoenix to discuss Arizona education. Education Nation is an NBC program that looks at local education needs. Paul Luna of the Helios Education Foundation will talk about Arizona's education issues.
  • Paul Luna - Helios Education Foundation
Category: Education   |   Keywords: education, issuse, NBC,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. NBC, Education Nation, is a traveling event that brings together community leaders to look at education issues. It stops in Phoenix this week. Paul Luna joins us now, president and CEO of the Helios Foundation, Education Foundation I should say, which helped bring Education Nation to town.

Paul Luna: Great to be here.

Ted Simons: Give me a better definition of Education Nation.

Paul Luna: we're talking about shining a spotlight in Arizona on the issues of education through the lens of a national partner in NBC news, who has been doing this on a national basis but is now active in bringing this discussion and focus on issues of education to a community and to a state. The key I think is starting to focus also on the really positive things happening in education. Arizona has many activities to celebrate as well.

Ted Simons: That that what you mean by “a solutions focused discussion”?

Paul Luna: It's about bringing the voices of community leaders, students, teachers to the forefront to talk about how can we improve education in the system in our state? How do we make sure we're focusing our students to be college and career educated and ready in our current economy? We have some collaborative partnerships but there are challenges as well. We want to make sure we're addressing those issues.

Ted Simons: Recent stops in Detroit, New Orleans, now if Phoenix. How did Phoenix go ahead NBC education nation to stop here?

Paul Luna: Helios works in Arizona and Florida with a goal to help residents in both states be more successful in college and career. We had a chance to participate with Education Nation when it was in Miami last year. We began conversations and were able to become the lead sponsor to bring Education Nation to Phoenix to get this discussion going in Arizona.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about what the discussion will emphasize. What are the most pressing challenges and the most pressing opportunities if you will?

Paul Luna: I think what we would say is what's most important to understand is the need to ensure that our students are college and career ready when they graduate from high school. We're losing too many students as they come through the education system. When we think or they think that they have graduated from high school and are capable to move on to postsecondary education success they are not reaching those education goals. This is the attainment level of success the students need. The certificates, licensing, two and four year degrees. Those are what students need to be successful in career and in life.

Ted Simons: Is there a shift, though? I remember when I went to college I still -- this feeling that I went to college for a well-rounded education and to learn how to be an adult in many ways but also to be exposed to many things and take my life in the direction and to be like a lifelong -- these sorts of things seems like it's very much focused on career these days.

Paul Luna: I think education is still that lifelong learning. It begins in the earliest stages, with early care and education. We describe the education continuum from birth through career and beyond. I think that's important to understand. But it's also about making sure we're preparing students for the type of work force and careers and skill sets they are going to need to be successful in those careers. So it's also about learning but also about how do they do in a team environment? How collaborative are they? How are they thinking and problem solving, about making sure we're teaching the students the type of skills they need to be successful. There's an academic focus to that as well. The importance of STEM education plays into this, making sure they understand the concepts for the types of jobs we want in our state.

Ted Simons: Where does Arizona stand on academic excellence?

Paul Luna: There's a number of ways to position that. We like to say we want to create a world class education system in Arizona. To do that we have some improvements to make. Everyone needs to play a part. That's why it's so important to get the student voice and teacher voice into this dialogue. It's not about necessarily measuring our system and our students compared to other states. This is a global economy. Our students will be competing with students from around the world. The key is how do we create that type of education system that's going to prepare them for that 21st century environment.

Ted Simons: You mentioned students and teachers. How do you get parents involved? How best to engage Arizonans in general on education?

Paul Luna: That's exactly the point of education nation, to engage all Arizonans around the important topics of education. Parents are clearly an important voice and have an important role in supporting their students through this education continuum. Part of it is educating Arizonans to understand what a world class education system looks like. What's important? Why is it important for students to have high expectations, to want to pursue high academic achievement and to find the right type of career path. Not every career path is the same for every student. We need to make sure we have those multiple pathways as well.

Ted Simons: In terms of leadership and government agencies what are we seeing in Arizona?

Paul Luna: From our viewpoint and in terms of especially Helios perspective we believe to truly improve our education? It only happens through collaboration. We need the business community, governmental entities, Department of Education and others, philanthropic communities focused on what we need to do to improve education in our state. That's the only way we'll create the type of systemic change we need.

Ted Simons: Helios Education Foundation. Give us a definition.

Paul Luna: We're an education foundation that serves Arizona and Florida with the primary goal to help students be successful in postsecondary education.

Ted Simons: Good to have you here.

Paul Luna: Thank you very much.

Artist Lelija Roy

  |   Video
  • Denver-based artist Lelija Roy creates landscapes on canvas. Her work expresses her interactions with landscapes. Roy will talk about her art work on Arizona Horizon.
  • Lelija Roy - Artist
Category: The Arts   |   Keywords: landscapes,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona Art Beat looks at the landscapes of aspen trees and the spaces between those trees as depicted by Denver-based artist Lelija Roy. We welcome you to "Arizona Horizon." Thanks for being here.

Lelija Roy: This is great.

Ted Simons: Why landscapes, why aspen trees?

Lelija Roy: I get asked that a lot. I have been obsessed.

Ted Simons: Why?

Lelija Roy: Okay, first of all I thought they were Birches. I'm from New England. Black and white trees. Must be a Birch. I got corrected really fast. The interesting thing about aspen trees besides the fact they are beautiful is that you see a grove that's a single organism. When you're walking into a grove, you are actually walking into the heart of the sisterhood of aspen. To me that was just so cool that I started spending a lot of time in different groves, noticing how they change from season to season. The paper white that you get in winter. The almost opalescent in summer.

Ted Simons: Let's go to some of your work starting with something autumn glory is the first work we're looking at. Why paint? Why use paint as your chosen medium?

Lelija Roy: Well -- [laughter] I use acrylic paint mainly because of all the opportunities to push the medium, push the color. In the painting autumn glory what you have is you have paint, pastel, you have ink. You have four, maybe five different painted papers. Each of which has a different texture.

Ted Simons: Is this a collage?

Lelija Roy: About a 20-layer collage. Some of the collage elements are strictly for the color. Some are for the texture, some are for both. By the time I finish layering, it all becomes one surface.

Ted Simons: Let's look at your process here. There's a piece called solstice at dawn

Lelija Roy: Yes.

Ted Simons: What's happening here?

Lelija Roy: This is the same painting. All I did was move some of the lights in my studio.

Ted Simons: Oh.

Lelija Roy: So what you're seeing is how the metallics, the iridescents, interference paints will change. This is a commissioned piece. I talked to the party that wanted it. It's a large piece, three feet by five feet. They fell in love with a nine inch by -inch painting. That was the other challenge. But I knew that light in their home was going to come from different sources during the day. It was a big, open space. So I wanted to make sure that the painting remained very interesting as the light sources changed.

Ted Simons: As we watch the light sources change and the painting change and we end up with a final product, how do you know you have the final product? When do you know to stop?

Lelija Roy: Magic?

Ted Simons: Well, maybe --

Lelija Roy: It's a hard question. There are times that I'll finish and then I literally need to leave it alone for several days. I'll work on one of these pieces probably over a three or four week period. Each of these 20 layers needs to dry before I add the next one. As it dry it is changes. So it's a process of looking at it, changing the lights. Knowing in this case I knew where it was going, I knew the colors around it. But you kind of just get to the point where you say, I'm happy. That's my first criteria. I have to be happy with the piece. If I'm not happy it doesn't go on to a gallery wall.

Ted Simons: There's one called river reflections. This is very interesting, more of a vertical thing here. Again, it's representational to a point. How do you know it's reputational enough? Perhaps too representational?

Lelija Roy: Tough question. I usually think things are much more representational than someone who didn't spend three weeks doing the painting. River reflections is a memory of sitting on a riverbank watching the sunset, watching that dance among the rocks and everything else, and then it starts with some very, very different colors. So that painting started with just purples and Greens.

Ted Simons: Like what we saw with the solstice.

Lelija Roy: Yes. Then it changes. Then it continues to change. Even as you brought down and scrolled down you can get lost. Part of what you alluded at the beginning talking about the spaces, where does the aspen start, where does it end? Where does the reflection start, where does it end? This is inviting you into that space. That's what I'm trying to do. I'm not trying to show you a river. A photographer would do a much better job with that particular scene. I'm inviting you into that space. As you enter that space, you're following that emotion, that feeling I had that beauty, that hope, that wonderful feeling of seeing the river and knowing that it was a wonderful day.

Ted Simons: Must be a wonderful sense of accomplishment. Where can we see your work?

Lelija Roy: On tomorrow evening, Friday, I'll have an opening at James Ratliff gallery in Sedona at the Hills Top Center from 5 to 9. I'll be doing an artist talk at 6. They have about of my paintings. I invite everyone to come and join my aspen world.

Ted Simons: Again, it's wonderful work. It's good speaking with you. I love speaking with artists, finding out what they are thinking. Half the time they enjoy talking about it.

Lelija Roy: I always enjoy talking about it.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.

Lelija Roy: Thank you.

Living off the Grid

  |   Video
  • Former University of Arizona professor Guy McPherson left his tenured full professorship in 2009 to live off the grid. He moved into a straw-bale house in New Mexico and lives a sustainable lifestyle, with organic gardening, and raising small animals for eggs and milk. McPherson’s life has been made into a film titled "Somewhere in New Mexico before the End of Time,” which will debut in Tucson on May 4. McPherson will talk about his life and the film.
  • Guy McPherson - Former Professor, The University of Arizona
Category: The Arts   |   Keywords: film, UA, grid, sustainability,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: In 2009 Guy McPherson left his tenured full professorship at the University of Arizona to live off the grid in a straw bail house in New Mexico. McPherson's life has been made into a film entitled, Somewhere in New Mexico Before the End of Time, which debuts this weekend in Tucson. Joining us now is Guy McPherson. We talked to you back in 2008 when you still were a professor at U of A. Why did you leave?

Guy McPherson: I went to somewhere in New Mexico, ergo the name of the the film. I left the easy life of a tenured professor after 20 years to the day at the University of Arizona to go back to the land. I left as an act of conscience because the industrial economy is destroying every aspect of the living planet. I didn't want to be part of that any more so I walked away.

Ted Simons: We talked about that in 2008. We keep hearing you're living off the grid. What does that mean?

Guy McPherson: We have solar panels that provide our limited electricity. We also have two goats. I suspect I'm the only person in the room who milked goats this morning.

Ted Simons: Probably.

Guy McPherson: We have several chickens and ducks and a goose that lays eggs. We grow a vast majority of the food we eat as well as using solar panels to get water off the ground.

Ted Simons: The house is heated and cooled with solar energy?

Guy McPherson: It's passive solar heated. It provides almost all the heat we need by aligning the south facing windows and getting the eves right. It's a straw bale house, very well insulated. The thermal mass is a concrete floor. It has a woodstove in it. We burn a little bit of wood on the coldest winter nights. No artificial heating. We just open the doors and windows.

Ted Simons: There you are in the wilds of New Mexico?

Guy McPherson: Not far from Silver city, about feet elevation.

Ted Simons: You did this as an act of conscience. We have talked back in 2008 about your idea that you said at the time by 2015 a depression will seem like the good old days. I don't know if that's going to happen but you still see a collapse, don't you?

Guy McPherson: I see two collapses going on simultaneously. I see collapse of the industrial economy and witness events in the European union. For example, things are falling apart. Things are falling apart everywhere because oil is very expensive. It's hard to maintain a well-oiled industrial economic machine at $100 oil. I see a collapse of the environment as well. We're driving some species a day to extinction. Environmental decline is proceeding apace. We're destroying the air we need to breathe and water to drink and climate change every single day so according to the latest projections it seems we're heading for human extension as early as 2030.

Ted Simons: You mentioned for a first collapse seemed like it was coming up the pike. It's getting closer, but I think critics would say, this doesn't seem realistic that you're obsessed with collapse and human ingenuity always seems to find a way.

Guy McPherson: Human ingenuity so far has managed to enable us to increase the rate of extinctions every single year, to increase the rate of erosion into the world's oceans every year. To increase the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We're going to blow through 400 parts per million in carbon dioxide. Last time that happened was before human beings walked the planet in any form. It's a big deal. Human ingenuity may get us through and already has gotten us farther than I thought we would in terms of economic collapse, but everything we're doing in terms of ingenuity is making the environmental situation worse. We're conquering nature.

Ted Simons: Right.

Guy McPherson: That has consequences.

Ted Simons: But how do you avoid conquering nature if you are a human being and need -- I imagine there's a duck out there thinking you're conquering him right now.

Guy McPherson: Exactly. We did live in a reasonably sustainable manner for the first two, two and a half million years of the human experience. It was only with arrival of the first civilization a few thousand years ago we went into human population overshoot that we began to contain nature it was ours to tame. In fact I had a visit with a primitivist this morning who lives not far from me who has been living as indigenous people do for the last 34 years of his life. I suspect he would not view favorably me putting those goats and ducks and chickens in every night. He lives literally on the land. He's a hunter gatherer.

Ted Simons: Why, though, back to the idea of adapting, why can't societies adapt? Why can't individuals adapt? Obviously you have adapted in your own way. But is there a way to adapt where you can still have some progress? I think a lot of people think of primitivist, they think of collapse, doomsday type folks. Doesn't sound like a heck of a lot of fun, good way to live for them.

Guy McPherson: Right. I absolutely agree life is easier when you live in a big city. Extract all your materials from elsewhere. Think about what happens in Tucson, Phoenix, any major metropolitan area. You extract your water sometimes as far away as 300 miles across the desert uphill. You import your food in. What do you return? Garbage and pollution. With fewer than 5% of the world's population in the United States produces a quarter of the world's pollution, quarter of the carbon dioxide emissions, a quarter of the inmate population and so on. There are consequences for the way we live. We keep ratcheting up the stakes and losing those species we need to survive, dirtying the water, fouling the air. We need that stuff. We do. We don't need smart phones but we're willing to trade smart phones for a couple hundred species a day. It's a bad trade.

Ted Simons: Can we as a society recycle more or to the point where a sustainable, some form -- is sustainability even possible as you see things?

Guy McPherson: At this point, far into human population overshoot. A problem we ratchet up to the tune of about 217,000 people a day, birth minus death. At this point we are so far into human population overshoot, I strongly suspect the only way out of that is to have happen to us what happens to every other animal that goes into human population overshoot. A decline or crash. Ingenuity got us here. Is what allowed us to keep kicking the can down the road in the name of progress. But we can't have infinite growth on a finite planet.

Ted Simons: What do you see happening?

Guy McPherson: Well, I'm going to give you a couple quotations here. On a planet four degrees hotter than baseline, about one degree ago, baseline is about 1850, or the industrial revolution, all we can prepare for is human extinction. That's from an article in the guardian from 2008. Five years ago. That provided a synthesis of climate change literature to that point. Five years ago we knew degrees centigrade hotter was human extinction. According to an informed assessment of B.P.'s energy outlook 2030, which came out in January of this year. We'll hit that four degrees centigrade mark by 2030 . So it seems that the last people on the planet will meet their end in about 2030 maybe a little later. Those people won't be living here, by the way, in the northern hemisphere. Human habitat will be gone from the northern hemisphere or 10 or 15 degrees earlier than in the southern hemisphere because there's so much land relative to amount of water.

Ted Simons: You're talking 17 years.

Guy McPherson: Yes, I know.

Ted Simons: Okay.

Guy McPherson: I have limited math skills but I worked that one out.

Ted Simons: Me too. I'm thinking years, I can think of years back and that's a huge change.

Guy McPherson: Absolutely. We have triggered 12 self-reinforcing feedback loops. There's been one assessment of one of those, methane release in the arctic. The White House recently admitted today I believe that all the arctic ice will be gone within two years. Actually, that statement was released today but made in June. That's the planet's air conditioner is arctic ice. So somebody has studied scientifically one of those feedback loops, methane release in the arctic. Their conclusion was loss of all life on earth by mid-century. In the northern hemisphere, by about 2030.

Ted Simons: I don't want to go without a quick question. Simple response perhaps. Are you optimistic?

Guy McPherson: I used to be very optimistic. Up until the scientific evidence behind these feedback loops just overwhelmed me. So I'm pretty realistic I think about the prospects for human to be sustained into the future.

Ted Simons: Guy, good to have you here.

Guy McPherson: Great to be back.

Ted Simons: disquieting conversation but good to have you.

Guy McPherson: I'm not depressed but I'm a carrier, apparently. Thank you.