Dutch delegation visits ASU to strengthen partnerships for a more sustainable world

May 3, 2013

Community and business leaders from Haarlemmermeer, a municipality bordering Amsterdam in the Netherlands, recently visited Arizona State University as part of the municipality’s partnership with ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS).

Haarlemmermeer, home to Amsterdam’s Schipol International Airport, is the first Global Sustainability Solutions Center (GSSC) to be established under GIOS’ Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives. Download Full Image

The partnership was launched Jan. 22 to serve as a platform for ASU to research, implement and collaborate on sustainability solutions throughout the region and across Europe using the expertise of its faculty and students.

The long-term goal is to support the municipality’s ambition to become one of the most sustainable sites for businesses, community organizations, individuals and visitors in the Netherlands.

"The GIOS-Haarlemmermeer partnership represents the future of sustainability – a future that is based on integrating thorough, outcome-based research with sound policy decisions,” said ASU President Michael Crow. "As we move forward and make progress, we want to leave behind a legacy of personal, political and business decisions that took into consideration their impact on the environment. The collaboration supports Haarlemmermeer’s efforts to become a sustainability leader in the Netherlands and provides ASU students and faculty opportunities to address real sustainability challenges from a global perspective.”

Rob Melnick, executive director and CEO of GIOS, said the partnership enables Haarlemmermeer and ASU experts to build a solutions-oriented urban environment from the ground up.

“The municipality of Haarlemmermeer is new and still growing,” Melnick said. “They are planning for a future that places high priority on sustainability. We’re excited to be a part of that process.”

The Dutch delegation was comprised of aldermen Arthur van Dijk and John Nederstigt, sustainability programs manager Debby de Rijk, and higher education programs manager Wendy van Vliet from the municipality of Haarlemmermeer, Delta Development Group CEO Coert Zachariasse, Schiphol Area Development Company Project Director Dick van der Harst, Monique Hallegraeff and Guus Daanen from the Catholic Comprehensive School in Hoofddorp, and Fonz Dekkers, site coordinator for the Walton Initiatives’ Global Sustainability Solutions Center.

During the visit, Dekkers presented a case study in monitoring sustainable urban development, while aldermen Nederstigt and van Dijk discussed how the region is becoming the Dutch pioneer in sustainable innovation and economic development.

The delegates also met with ASU’s sustainability scientists and learned about their research on sustainable biofuels, energy and environmental assessment of transportation and land use, sustainable consumption, and institutional dynamics in the context of urbanization. Additionally, the guests received information regarding ASU programs and collaborative projects such as Energize Phoenix, Reinvent Phoenix, LightWorks, Sustainable Cities Network and other university sustainability initiatives.

“The visit helped them better understand the ways in which ASU can contribute to Haarlemmermeer’s vision of becoming a regional model for sustainability,” GSSC program manager Marta Hulley Friedman said. “We’ve also identified opportunities that will help ASU students and researchers learn from the programs and initiatives that are already underway.”

Dick van der Harst, a member of the delegation and project director of Schiphol Area Development Company in the Netherlands, said the potential for forming academic, business and community partnerships at GIOS is unparalleled.

“We have world-renowned universities in the Netherlands that combine knowledge with application; what we don’t have is an umbrella organization that brings together researchers from different disciplines to find solutions to a problem using different approaches,” van der Harst said. “GIOS is home to 260 scientists with backgrounds in the natural and social sciences, medicine, engineering, mathematics, humanities and the arts who are doing just that. That is remarkable.”

In addition to touring various ASU facilities such as the Decision Theatre, Wrigley Hall and SkySong, a few members of the delegation visited the Bioscience High School in Phoenix. GIOS’ Sustainability Science for Sustainable Schools program is working with the school to engage their students and teachers in sustainability projects.

Guus Daanen, a geography teacher at the Catholic Comprehensive School in Hoofddorp, said his school hopes to replicate the innovative program.

“The program lets high school students get involved in research projects that will have a real impact on their communities,” Daanen said. “Adopting a similar approach would help raise awareness regarding sustainability issues from a very young age and train future scientists.”

Members of the Dutch delegation also participated in a working session with ASU representatives to develop a collaborative project based on the Netherlands’ first cradle-to-cradle business park that requires all building materials to be designed for continuous recovery and reuse. They also met with representatives from the City of Phoenix to learn about Phoenix 40 by 20, a project that aims to increase the city’s solid waste diversion rate to 40 percent by 2020.

Haarlemmermeer alderman Nederstigt said integrating sustainability into everyday decisions is a major challenge but one that can be overcome by working together.

“The range and depth of sustainability research and knowledge resources available at ASU go much further than just mounting solar panels on a roof; they lead to sustainable development,” Nederstigt said. Haarlemmermeer hopes to use this knowledge to become an example and inspiration to the rest of the Netherlands and Western Europe.”

“We hope the future will bring diverse projects that will help position Haarlemmermeer as the regional leader in sustainable practices,” Melnick said. “This partnership also brings ASU one step closer to establishing Global Sustainability Solutions Centers in Asia and Latin America, and finding practical solutions to the world’s environmental, economic and social challenges.”

Iti Agnihotri

Director of Strategic Marketing and Communications, Learning Enterprise


New book examines the exit from Afghanistan

May 3, 2013

“Narrating the Exit from Afghanistan” examines the story of the war in Afghanistan, a conflict that leaves many Americans and the majority of Afghans confused as to the war’s current purpose.

“Reasons for going to war with Afghanistan were clear for Americans post 9-11, but the majority of Afghan citizens aren’t clear on what we’re doing there, what the horrors of 9-11 consisted of and how this event affected America,” said Steven R. Corman, author of the book and Hugh Downs School of Human Communication professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University. Download Full Image

“Narrating the Exit from Afghanistan” examines the story of the war in Afghanistan by viewing the conflict from varied perspectives through chapters authored by historians and scholars, who compare the exit to the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, draw parallels to lessons learned from the Vietnam War and view the conflict through the lens of the Taliban and their messages to the Afghan people. The book also examines historical narratives and collective memory as well as concluding the war with a fitting end.

“With withdrawal coming up, the narrative is not too clear for us or for Afghanistan,” Corman said. “In the U.S., it was clear until 2004 why we went there after 9-11, to get rid of Al Qaeda and their Taliban hosts. Once that happened, the war just kind of drug on there.”

The story is even more surprising from an Afghan point of view. Corman recalls watching a PBS show where a crew traveled to Afghanistan and showed people pictures of 9-11. No one knew what it was except for one police officer, he said. A 2010 survey by ICOS showed that 92 percent of Afghan citizens in the south regions of the country were unaware of 9-11 events and a majority did not know why the foreigners were there.  

“Many of them don’t know at all about the events of 9-11, so they don’t know why we’re there in the first place,” Corman said. “Some of them think we’re Russians,” he said.

Lessons learned from Vietnam shouldn’t be repeated, Corman said. “The exit from Vietnam was one that worked out particularly badly for the U.S. from a narrative point of view. That was widely regarded as a disaster.”

Leaving Afghanistan in such a matter could prove disastrous in the future in terms of policy. The closest analogy to the current situation Afghanistan is the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from the country. “They did everything right. They supported a functional government until the Soviet Union collapsed. That’s when the Taliban basically overthrew the government and took over,” he said.

Another chapter explores the role of the Taliban and the narrative story they are communicating to the Afghan people as they seek to position themselves to return to power after U.S. and NATO allies leave the country.  

Corman closes the book by evaluating the current plan for exit by the International Security Assistance Force, the risks involved and how to mitigate those risks. Exiting Afghanistan shouldn’t be viewed as the end of the narrative, he said.

“The end of combat and the end of the narrative are not the same: The narrative of the war will extend beyond the operational end and ultimately determine its success or failure in the eyes of history,” writes Corman in the book.

Losing interest could mean a repeat of history. Another important goal is to undermine the Taliban’s “kinder, gentler” narrative.  It’s also crucial to repair our existing narrative in Afghanistan and in the United States, he added.

From “Narrating the Exit from Afghanistan:” Because historical narratives are selective, repairing the existing narrative of the Afghanistan war is possible, given thoughtful effort. Undermining the Taliban narrative and guarding against a repeat-of-history scenario supports a projected resolution in which both Western and Afghan audiences can participate.

Steven R. Corman is the director of the Center for Strategic Communication at Arizona State University