Global journalists to share lessons from abroad at ASU speaker series

Cronkite Global Conversations feature 12 media professionals from around the world

January 10, 2018

Journalists and media professionals from around the globe will share their perspectives on major international issues as part of an annual speaker series at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“Cronkite Global Conversations” features members of the school’s Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program, a U.S. State Department-funded initiative that brings 12 working media professionals from around the world for nearly a year of intensive study at Cronkite. Fellows take classes, develop leadership skills and collaborate with other media professionals. Humphrey Fellows The journalists from the “Cronkite Global Conversations” series. Download Full Image

The series kicks off Jan. 24 with a discussion on the global refugee crisis and ends Feb. 28 with a talk on governments at war with the media. Other topics cover Russia’s influence in Eastern and Central Europe and the explosive growth of China and India.

“‘Cronkite Global Conversations’ spotlights important ongoing global issues that can get overshadowed by breaking news,” said Assistant Dean B. William Silcock, director of Cronkite Global Initiatives. “We’re excited to hear from our outstanding fellows and encourage you to participate in these talks.”  

This year’s Humphrey fellows are from Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, China, Croatia, Egypt, Estonia, Hungary, India, Kenya, South Africa and Uruguay. The fellows offer global perspectives to Cronkite students through the speaker series, classes and informal talks during their 10-month stay.

The hourlong “Cronkite Global Conversations” are open to the public. Sessions begin at noon on select Wednesdays through February. They are held in room 444 on the fourth floor of the Cronkite School on the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus.

Spring 2018 'Cronkite Global Conversations' schedule

Jan. 24: “Refugees: Risks, Challenges and Opportunities”

The global refugee crisis has displaced tens of millions of people. Ahmed Elashry, who served on communications teams of three Egyptian prime ministers; Marina Ridjic, a leading journalist from Bosnia and Herzegovina; Kazi Mohua, a prime-time news anchor from Bangladesh; and Paul Udoto Nyongesa, a communications expert from Kenya, share their perspectives on refugee and migration issues.

Feb. 7: “Powerhouses of the East: India and China”

With large populations and booming economies, China and India are becoming major influencers on the global stage. Xiaofeng Wang, a veteran journalist from China, and Kiran Somvanshi, who manages the research bureau at The Economic Times in India, discuss the future of the East and how the two countries can work together to promote regional prosperity and stability.

Feb. 14: “The Kremlin’s Influence in Central and Eastern Europe”

Eastern Europe has long complained about meddling by Russia. Veteran journalists Mila Moralic from Croatia, Holger Roonema from Estonia, and Szabolcs Panyi from Hungary present eye-opening cases of Russian interference in their countries and share what the U.S. can learn from their experiences.

Feb. 28: “Governments at War with the Media”

Attacks on the press extend far beyond the White House. Global journalists Daneel Knoetze from South Africa, Bopha Phorn from Cambodia, and Martín Aguirre from Uruguay share their experiences and important lessons on covering governments that are hostile toward journalists.

Communications manager, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication


Research outlines interconnected benefits of urban agriculture

Led by ASU and Google, the study assesses the value of urban agriculture and quantifies its benefits on a global scale

January 10, 2018

From a vacant plot in a blighted neighborhood spring neatly combed rows of plants put in by the neighbors. They meticulously care for this small piece of land, and among the drab-looking buildings sprouts a patch of green. Cultivating the land may have started as a way to unite a neighborhood, to give pride to place, or it might be the project of a local high school to teach land stewardship.

The urban agriculture phenomenon has grown over the years for many reasons, each specific to the plot of land or rooftop it covers. While most of the benefits from these efforts seem to be limited and very local, when taken collectively the result is a significant environmental impact. Urban Garden The Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis campus garden. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons Download Full Image

Now a team of researchers led by Arizona State University and Google has assessed the value of urban agriculture and quantified its benefits at a global scale. They report their findings in “A Global Geospatial Ecosystems Services Estimate of Urban Agriculture,” in the current issue of Earth’s Future.

Crunching the numbers

“For the first time, we have a data-driven approach that quantifies the ecosystem benefits from urban agriculture,” said Matei Georgescu, an ASU associate professor of geographical sciences and urban planning and corresponding author of the paper. “Our estimates of ecosystem services show potential for millions of tons of food production, thousands of tons of nitrogen sequestration, billions of kilowatt hours of energy savings and billions of cubic meters of avoided storm runoff from agriculture in urban areas.”

The researchers analyzed global population, urban, meteorological, terrain and Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) data sets in Google Earth Engine to come to their global scale estimates. They then aggregated them by country.

Overall, the researchers estimated the annual value of four ecosystem services provided by existing vegetation in urban areas to be on the order of $33 billion. In this scenario, they projected an annual food production of 100 million to 180 million tons, energy savings of 14 billion to 15 billion kilowatt hours (insulation properties provided by soil on roofs), nitrogen sequestration between 100,000 to 170,000 tons and avoided storm runoff of 45 billion to 57 billion cubic meters annually.

With intense urban agriculture implementation, the researchers estimate the overall annual worth of urban agriculture could be as much as $80 billion to $160 billion. Importantly, urban agriculture could help feed a world that may face future challenges in industrial agriculture as a result of climate change.

“We’ve known there are benefits to having these small plots of land in our cities, but we found that the benefits extend well beyond having fresh food in the hands of those who will consume it,” explained lead author Nicholas Clinton of Google.

“By integrating across elements that comprise the food-energy-water nexus, our work characterizes the heterogeneous nature of ecosystem services. It is a benchmark global scale assessment,” added Georgescu, who also is a senior scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU.

In addition to Georgescu and Clinton, co-authors of the paper are Albie Miles of the University of Hawaii; Peng Gong of Tsinghua University, Beijing; ASU graduate students Michelle Stuhlmacher, Nazli Uludere and Melissa Wagner; and Chris Herwig of Google.

Urban agriculture’s full effect

“The most obvious benefit of urban agriculture is that it improves access to healthy foods,” Stuhlmacher said. “In addition to considering yield, our analysis evaluates the potential ecosystem services — such as urban nitrogen fixation, pollination, biological control of pests, control of damaging stormwater runoff and energy conservation — that result from urban agriculture.”

The work, the researchers say, provides more than an accounting of the effect of urban agriculture in one scenario. It can be used as a tool for future assessments of the changing urban agriculture landscape to better understand tradeoffs between urban design strategies.

“The value of this approach to the global community — research, governmental organizations, political groups — is that it provides local stakeholders with a quantitative framework that they themselves can use. For example, they can assess local implications of varying urban agriculture deployment scenarios based on current or projected urban extent, current or projected building height and facades, different yields, etc., that are all specific to the location under consideration,” Clinton explained.

“The global estimates that we provide are useful because they provide a benchmark for other researchers but the societal benefits extend well beyond that because of the implementation of Google’s Earth Engine platform,” Georgescu added. “Anyone on the planet who wants to know whether and how much urban agriculture can provide for their locality can now do so using open data and code provided with the paper.”

Looking at the future of urban agriculture, Clinton said countries that have the most incentives to encourage it share two primary characteristics — sufficient urban area, and a national-scale mixture of crops that lends itself to urban cultivation. 

“Relatively temperate, developed or developing countries with the right mix of crops are expected to have the greatest incentives for urban agriculture,” he said. “These would include China, Japan, Germany and the U.S.”

Seeing the whole picture

“Analysis of the food-energy-water nexus sometimes leaves the impression that benefits are concentrated in one place and costs in another,” said Tom Torgersen, program director for the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Water, Sustainability and Climate program, which supported the research. “But that’s not always the case. Urban agriculture, for example, is an underdeveloped industry that could produce food, sequester urban nitrogen, generate energy savings, help moderate the urban climate and reduce stormwater runoff, as well as provide more nutritious foods.”  

In addition to the NSF, funding for the project came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a National High Technology Grant from China and Google Inc.

Director, Media Relations and Strategic Communications