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Report outlines Arizona's sustainability needs

December 07, 2007

With Arizona’s population reaching 6 million people, and the world’s population now exceeding 6.5 billion, sustainability is a frequent topic of conversation.

But the concept means many things to many people. The new Arizona Policy Choices report, titled “Sustainability for Arizona: The Issue of Our Age,” defines the concept and reveals how it relates to Arizona’s past, present and future.

The report is a joint project of the Morrison Institute for Public Policy and the Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS).

“Sustainability is about more than just being ‘green,’ ” says Rob Melnick, director of the Morrison Institute. “It’s about making policy choices that take the economy, society and the environment into account.”

The report, the first of its kind, is a primer on the subject – and a targeted analysis for Arizona. In addition to thoughtful examinations of the state’s history, economy, environment and society, “Sustainability for Arizona” presents the views of leading policy thinkers in Arizona and across the country, including:

• Bruce Babbitt, former U.S. Secretary of State.

• Brad Casper, chief executive officer of Dial Corp.

• Allen Affeldt, owner of La Posada Hotel and mayor of Winslow.

• Mandy Roberts Metzger, a Flagstaff-area rancher and president of Diablo Trust.

With essays from civic leaders, ranchers, developers, educators, business leaders, scholars and others, the topics include water resources, education, historic preservation, innovation, health care, green building and urban planning to present unique perspectives on sustainability’s implications for Arizona.

“Sustainability for Arizona” answers critical questions about sustainability, such as:

• Is Arizona sustainable now?

• Can a sustainable economy be a competitive economy?

• Does sustainability mean bridging the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots”?

• Will inaction and growth hinder sustainability and environmental efforts?

• How can Arizona keep score on sustainability?

The report’s contributing authors reveal that Arizona can be an ideal test bed for sustainability, and they also point out the ways in which sustainability efforts have the potential to connect the state with the rest of the world.

“Rapidly growing places can learn from each other about how best to design sustainable cities from scratch,” says Jonathan Fink, the Julie A. Wrigley director of GlOS and university sustainability officer. “The same pressure we face in Arizona – immigration, urban heat island, limited water supply and vulnerability to energy disruption – are problems that millions of the world’s urban dwellers either confront now or will soon.”

In addition to these insights, the report highlights nearly 30 examples of public, private and public-private partnerships that embody sustainability in action. Examples include the program of an oil company to combat malaria in Africa, a carpet manufacturer’s success at reducing waste and energy while growing sales, a micro-lending program to reduce poverty, the use of “green” roofs in Chicago to curb pollution, and the development of national economic “report cards” that account for environmental impact as well as growth in goods and services. Such tangible examples make the far-reaching concepts of sustainability both attainable and real.

As the sixth edition of Morrison Institute’s “Arizona Policy Choices” series, “Sustainability for Arizona” concludes with ideas for Arizona’s decision-makers.

ASU President Michael Crow, who writes about Arizona’s sustainable future, says that sustainability should be a new organizing principle for the 21st century. He makes the case that “sustainability is a concept with as much transformative potential as justice, liberty, and equality.”

To download a copy of “Sustainability for Arizona: The Issue of Our Age,” visit the Web sites or under the “news” link.

Nicole Haas, (602) 496-0202