Humanities field helps scholars address sustainability issues

May 9, 2008

Most people don’t think about the humanities and arts as playing a role when talking about sustainability. However, a group at the Polytechnic campus is showing the interconnectedness of both in discussions surrounding this topic.

The Polytechnic Sustainability Research Group, organized in April 2007 and co-led by Joni Adamson and Christopher Wharton, explores how scholars in the humanities are working with scholars in other fields to address the interdisciplinary challenges, opportunities and realities of creating a socially and ecologically sustainable world. Download Full Image

“We are breaking down boundaries between the arts, humanities and the sciences, at least as those boundaries are perceived in conversations about sustainability,” says Adamson, associate professor in Humanities and Arts in the School of Applied Arts and Sciences.

The group of 20 faculty, staff and students from several academic areas is brainstorming projects, seeking funding opportunities and pursuing grants for projects that will take place over the next several years.

Some of the projects the humanities and arts members have started include Joe Herkert’s work on the interplay between engineering ethics and sustainable development.

“Through this effort I am examining how engineers and professional engineering societies attempt to address sustainability in their work, including social and macroethical issues, such as social equity, cultural diversity and public participation,” says Herkert, Lincoln Associate Professor of Ethics and Technology.  “The study of ethics, history, literature, and art can shed light on the human condition and the value choices/changes necessary for sustainable development.”

In June, Herkert will present on “Engineering Ethics and Climate Change” at the annual conference of the American Society for Engineering Education.

In addition, April Summitt, assistant professor of history, is writing a book about the Colorado River and why environmental histories are key to discussions surrounding sustainability.

“Understanding metropolitan culture and how cities have used water over time helps scientists find solutions for the future,” argues Summitt.

“Tracing the ongoing struggle over allocations between states, tribal governments and agribusiness is essential to solving sustainability challenges for the Southwest.”

This month, Adamson presents “Coming Home to Eat: Re-imagining Place in the Age of Global Climate Change” at the Fourth International Conference on Ecodiscourse in Tamshui, Taiwan. (See “Eco-focused literature is the subject of Taiwan lecture tour” on page H3.)

The group also established a Community Sponsored Agriculture group, and is working with the Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS) to create and fill a new position called the “sustainability desk” that will examine opportunities for creating a more sustainable culture at the Polytechnic campus.  

And a recent public showing of “The Real Dirt on Farmer John,” an “artistic docudrama” about community sponsored farming, was used to help students understand food culture, politics and policies.

Wharton, an assistant professor in nutrition who focuses on issues surrounding policy and obesity, led a discussion after the  movie, noting that documentaries such as “Farmer John”  play an important role in the kind of message framing that can potentially change human behaviors and perceptions.

“For this reason, understanding the role the humanities and arts play when we address environmental issues is key to  building a sustainable culture and society in the future,” he says.

For more information contact Adamson at (480) 727-1562 or joni.adamson">">

Johnson claims heptathlon at Pac-10 multis

May 10, 2008

Jacquelyn"> Johnson won the women's heptathlon with a record score and Kyle">">Kyle Hitchcock placed 10th in the decathlon to lead the Arizona State University track and field team at the conclusion of the multi-events on Joe Selleh Track at Sun Angel Stadium in Tempe Saturday night at the 2008 Pac-10 Track & Field Championships presented by 76 Gasoline. The heptathlon and decathlon were held this weekend with the remaining events taking place in Tempe next weekend.

The events were scored toward the team race with the ASU women taking an early lead with 10 points and is followed by Oregon and Stanford, both of which have nine. The men's race has Oregon in front with 19 points while Washington State (eight) and Stanford (six) round out the Top 3. ASU has not scored yet on the men's side. Download Full Image

Johnson, a six-time NCAA champion, scored 6,307 points to win her third crown to become only the third woman in Pac-10 history to capture the heptathlon three times. Her point total also breaks the Pac-10 record of 6,205 set by Diana Pickler (WSU) last year, the Pac-10 meet record of 6,018 scored by Pickler last year and the stadium record of 6,129 points scored by ASU's Gea Johnson in 1990.

The younger Johnson reached her record total by hitting a jump of 6.30m on her first, and only, attempt in the long jump to score 943 points and break the previous heptathlon record of 6.24m held by Gea since 1990. Johnson then threw the javelin 48.50m on her first attempt to pick up 831 points and break her own school and heptathlon record in the event by nearly eight feet. In the final event, Johnson placed third in the 800m run in 2:19.33 to score 833 points and win the overall title by 551 points (Brianne Theisen, Oregon, 5765 points).

In the decathlon, Hitchcock opened the day with a personal best time of 16.34 in the 110m hurdles for 659 points before throwing the discus 35.99m for another 584 points. After clearing 3.35m in the pole vault to collect 444 points, Hitchcock closed out the day with a mark of 43.02m in the javelin (486 points) and a time of 5:28.02 in the 1,500m run (409 points). Overall, Ashton Eaton of Oregon won with 7,604 points and was followed in the Top 3 by Rickey Moody (WSU) and Josh Hustedt (Stanford), who scored 7,395 points and 7,181 points, respectively.

The Championships continue next Friday and Saturday in Tempe with the remaining individual events. The hammer leads off the competition each day at 10:30 a.m. with the remaining events starting both days at 5 p.m.