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Could climate change affect national security?

November 7, 2019

Retired lieutenant general discusses threats the American military must prepare for at ASU lecture

Climate change and national security are two topics most people don’t connect.

But a retired Air Force leader connected the dots between the two at a lecture at Arizona State University on Thursday.

“I’m not here to convince you about climate change,” said Lt. Gen. Dirk Jameson. “I’m past that.” The science is definitive, he added. With all the data produced to date, objections are political, not scientific.

The talk was cosponsored by the American Security Project, a bipartisan group of retired military leaders and senior business leaders concerned about long-term planning for national security interests, and ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

Jameson served as deputy commander in chief and chief of staff of U.S. Strategic Command before retiring from the U.S. Air Force in 1996 after more than three decades of active service. Prior to his StratCom assignment, he commanded the 14,500 men and women of the U.S. 20th Air Force and was responsible for all U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles, seven major subordinate units, operational training, testing, security and readiness.

There are two types of threats the military sees in climate change, he said. The first is the threat to the armed forces’ 500 installations worldwide, comprising about 300,000 buildings.

Jameson described a March visit to a flooded Air Force base in Nebraska where planes couldn’t take off or land. Another instance of extreme weather came in October 2018 when Hurricane Michael, one of the strongest recorded hurricanes ever to hit the continental U.S., damaged or destroyed every building at Tyndall Air Force Base in the Florida panhandle. Damage was estimated at $5 billion.

ASU researchers are working on base resilience, most recently in an exercise at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay on Oahu.

The second type of threat is what climate change can unleash against the military in terms of political climate. The term for it is “accelerant of instability” or a “threat multiplier.” The Syrian civil war’s origins lie partly with the most intense drought ever recorded in the country. It lasted from 2006 to 2011 and resulted in widespread crop failure, an increase in food prices and a mass migration of farming families to urban centers, straining already overburdened infrastructure.

Areas at risk around the globe include Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal, the Pacific, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. As an example, Jameson showed photos of Lake Chad, the biggest lake in sub-Saharan Africa. The lake is a quarter of the size it was in 1972. Thirty million people are dependent on its water.

The military does not wait to act until there’s a 100% chance of a threat. One percent is enough cause for readiness, a doctrine attributable to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

“I’m not happy with what’s going on at the national level,” Jameson said. “The world is desperate for American leadership.”

What can individuals do?

“You have to put the finger on your elected officials to say, ‘This is an urgent circumstance,’” Jameson said.

Top art by Alex Cabrera, Media Relations and Strategic Communications Visual Communications.

This event was part of Salute to Service, an annual celebration of Veterans Day in which Arizona State University proudly honors veterans and active members of the military with a series of events across the metro Phoenix campuses.

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


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ASU scholars offer a spectrum of resources to local and state tribes

November 7, 2019

‘Doing Research in Indian Country’ conference showcases university's research in Indian Country

Some of the most innovative and groundbreaking research at Arizona State University is taking place in indigenous communities and on reservations around the Copper State and beyond.

“Tribal nations and communities are becoming more and more interested and embedded in the research process in its entirety, from the research design and implementation to large questions of data use and ownership. More importantly, they are engaged in the institutional review process,” said Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, President’s Professor, director of the Center for Indian Education and ASU’s special adviser to the president on American Indian Affairs. 

The university has a wide breadth of research and interaction taking place in Indian Country, which was showcased at the “Doing Research in Indigenous Communities” conference held Nov. 4-5 at ASU SkySong.

“Part of our work during this conference is to hear from these tribes and communities and to connect them with universities and researchers with the hopes that some synergies will emerge and so that researchers and institutions better understand the needs and wishes of tribes in the larger arena of research," Brayboy said.

Now in its third year, the conference featured more than 130 ASU scholars, researchers, staff and students making an impact in indigenous communities in the fields of history, health care, language preservation, molecular science, sustainability research methodologies and higher education experiences.

Keynote speaker Malia Villegas, who helped Brayboy with the conception and birthing of the conference several years ago, said it was like watching a child grow quickly.

“I think it’s phenomenal to see how this conference has taken off. ASU has proven they are leaders when it comes to Native American research and is a place that others look to for inspiration,” said Villegas, an enrolled member of the Native Village of Afognak in Alaska who serves as the vice president of community investments at Afognak Native Corporation, overseeing shareholder services. “Looking at this from a tribal industry lens, I’m excited to see business and industry people here, tribal members, students and faculty, all showcasing the great success across Indian Country and inviting people to take a look into the research space.”

There was no shortage of research to offer up, including a first-of-its kind look on technology use on Indian lands. The paper, “Tribal Technology Assessment: The State of Internet Service on Tribal Lands,” was released last month through the American Indian Policy InstituteThe American Indian Policy Institute is now a unit within the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. . It showed that many Native Americans do not have equal access to the internet and that most are using smartphones to go online, albeit at much slower speeds.

“This study gives us a clearer picture of what tribal connectivity looks like,” said Brian Howard, a research and policy analyst with the American Indian Policy Institute. “We also looked at things like affordability issues that would prevent tribal residents from accessing internet service.”

The study not only identified the issue but came up with several recommendations. They included a dedicated tribal office in the Federal Communications Commission with a permanent budget allocation, a Tribal Broadband Fund, prioritize funding for tribal lands and encouraging the FCC to engage with tribes and sovereign nations on the issue.

For Lance Sanchez, a 24-year-old member of the Tohono O’odham Nation and a senior at ASU, his focus is more on saving teen lives and getting them more socially and politically engaged.

Sanchez, who is double majoring in American Indian studies, and community advocacy and social policy, said Native Americans have the highest teen suicide rates in the country.

“I am looking for ways to empower youth through leadership building as well as creating different programs that focus on them bettering themselves within the community,” said Sanchez, who is also a member of the National Congress of American Indians Youth Commission and United National Indian Tribal Youth. “The work has paid off because Native Americans are now taking the charge in continuing with higher education. We need more Native teachers, lawyers, nurses, doctors and researchers. This conference helps create those partnerships in tribal communities.”

Denise Bates, assistant professor of leadership and interdisciplinary studies in the College of Integrative Science and Arts, is nation-building through her work by helping other tribes in the Southeast document their histories through community-driven initiatives.

“Many southern tribal communities have not been well documented, particularly during the 20th century,” Bates said. “Colonialism and racial segregation had a huge impact on southern indigenous peoples, and it has only been recently that many tribes from this region have been actively looking for opportunities to engage the public with their histories — and on their own terms.”

Bates has been working with the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana for the past decade through a variety of mediums, including accessing and digitizing archival material and recording oral histories. Bates has also a written book, “Basket Diplomacy,” (University of Nebraska Press, 2020), documenting how the Coushatta community worked together through multiple generations and leveraged opportunities so that existing and newly acquired knowledge, timing and skill worked in harmony to ensure their survival. The Coushatta is now one of the top private employers in Louisiana through their economic endeavors.

“ASU is an institution that has a lot of resources and helping other tribal nations should not be a regionally focused mission,” Bates said. “It impacts all of us because a lot of best practices often come up as a result of intertribal coalitions and support.”

In addition to nation-building, there was plenty of trust-building, said Bates. Last year ASU brought a Coushatta tribal elder and former chairman, Ernest Sickey, to the Valley to speak to faculty and staff. In return, Bates said, the Coushatta Tribe is encouraging their students to attend ASU.

“They know that ASU is a supportive place, one that not only supports its students but offers the potential to help tribal nations envision a future for their communities,” Bates said.

Top photo: Devin Hardin, with the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community Education Division, and others listen to speakers at the "Doing Research in Indigenous Communities" conference, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, at ASU SkySong. More than 130 people from around the state took part in the third annual conference featuring scholars, researchers, staff and students and their impact in indigenous communities in the fields of history, health care, language preservation, molecular science, sustainability research methodologies and higher education experiences. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU Now