Archaeologists lend long-term perspective to food security and climate shock

February 17, 2014

What role does pre-existing vulnerability play for people who experience a climate shock? Does it amplify the effect of the climate shock, or is the effect negligible?

Four Arizona State University archaeologists are looking into this as part of an international team examining how people can be most resilient to climate change when it comes to food security. ASU President's Professor Margaret Nelson Download Full Image

The group questioned whether vulnerability to food shortages prior to a climate shock – not the actual experience of the food shortage – is related to the scale of impact of that shock. The researchers found a strong relationship.

The team used long-term archaeological and historical data from the North Atlantic Islands and the U.S. Southwest to form the basis of their understanding of changing dynamics in these areas. Each case in their study included information on evolving social, political and economic conditions over centuries, as well as climate data.

The extended timeframe and global scope allowed them to witness changes in the context of vulnerabilities and climate challenges on a wide scale.

“The pattern is so consistent across different regions of the world experiencing substantially different climate shocks that the role of vulnerability cannot be ignored,” said Margaret Nelson, ASU President’s Professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

Nelson made her comments Feb. 16 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago.

The other ASU archaeologists involved in the study are professors Keith Kintigh, Michelle Hegmon and Kate Spielmann, all of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Their findings support the argument for focusing on reducing vulnerabilities to climate shocks to boost resilience, which will ultimately lead to fewer required recovery efforts when crises occur. Nelson said that most often, disaster management does not address vulnerabilities prior to shocks, but instead focuses on returning a system to its previous condition following a disaster.

“Exposures to climate challenges and other environmental risks are not the sole causes of disasters,” she said. “People have unintentionally built vulnerabilities through decisions and actions in social, political and economic realms.”

Nelson’s project is funded by the National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and includes collaborators from such diverse institutions as the National Museum of Denmark and the North Atlantic Biocultural Organization.

Rebecca Howe

Communications Specialist, School of Human Evolution and Social Change


Solar energy leaders come together for 4th Arizona Solar Summit

February 17, 2014

The Arizona Solar Summit brings together people and organizations to advance the solar industry on both the regional and national levels, creating a network to propel Arizona to national prominence in the industry.

The fourth annual Arizona Solar Summit, part of the 2014 Sustainability Solutions Festival, will focus on introducing innovative policies, programs and technologies that are critical to reshaping Arizona’s energy markets. Arizona Solar Summit IV Download Full Image

Participants will gain a better understanding of Arizona’s current energy market conditions, solar energy’s place in regional and national markets, and ideas for accelerating the penetration of clean technologies into this market.

What: Arizona Solar Summit IV

When: 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 20

Where: ASU SkySong, 1475 N. Scottsdale Rd. RM 150, Scottsdale, 85257

Cost: $175 standard registration; $75 non-profit and community partners; $35 student registration


Media Opportunities:

Attending members of the media will have the following opportunities to engage with speakers and participants at the Arizona Solar Summit:

  • Discuss current issues at roundtable discussions
  • Capture address from keynote speaker, Bill Harris, CEO and president of Science Foundation Arizona
  • Observe multiple panel discussions with industry and thought leaders
  • Participate in industry networking sessions
  • Interact with solar energy exhibitors, including startups and research organizations
  • Interview speakers following panel discussions


Full details are available online at Highlights include:

  • 7:30-9 a.m.: Roundtable discussions being led by ASU experts on a variety of renewable and solar energy topics, including policy and scientific developments at ASU, and water/energy nexus issues
  • 9:15-10:30 a.m.: Kris Mayes, director of the Utility of the Future Center, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law professor and former chairman on the Arizona Corporation Commission moderating Panel I: Utility of the Future: How New Technology Is Bringing Change and Opportunity to Electric Companies and Their Customers. This panel features:
    • Charles Bayless, North America Energy Holdings
    • Bob Graham, Southern California Edison (retired)
    • Tim Berg, Sacramento Municipal Utility District
    • Meghan Nutting, Solar City
  • 10:45 a.m. - noon: Gary Dirks, director of the Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU and director of LightWorks moderating Panel II: De-Carbonizing the Energy System. This panel features:
    • Charles Bayless, North America Energy Holdings
    • Tim Berg, Sacramento Municipal Utility District
    • Kerry Smith, W.P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University
    • Ellen Stechel, LightWorks, Arizona State University
  • 12:20-1 p.m.: Bill Harris, CEO and President, Science Foundation Arizona, keynote speaker
  • 1-1:15 p.m.: Sethuraman Panchanathan, senior vice president, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, ASU will give an address
  • 1:30-2:45 p.m.: Harvey Bryan, professor at the Design School and School of Sustainability, ASU moderating Panel III: Deep Energy Retrofit Financing. This panel features:
    • Daniel Hunter, account executive, Ameresco
    • Dimitrios Laloudakis, energy manager, City of Phoenix
    • Scott Muldavin, Rocky Mountain Institute
  • 3-4:15 p.m.: Leisa Brug, energy policy advisor to Governor Jan Brewer and director, Arizona Governor's Office of Energy Policy moderating Panel IV: National Governors Association Policy Academy Targeting Clean Energy for Economic Development and Briefing on the Arizona Master Energy Plan. This panel features:
    • Bennett Curry, Arizona Commerce Authority
    • Representative Frank Pratt, Arizona State House
    • Senator Bob Worsley, Arizona State Senate
  • 4:15-4:30 p.m.: Closing remarks by Gary Dirks and Todd Hardy, vice president of assets, ASU Foundation for a New American University and senior economic development adviser, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, ASU
  • 4:30-6 p.m.: Reception, Networking & Technology Showcase

Learn more at