Matching Items (640)
- All Subjects: Sustainability
- Member of: Theses and Dissertations
- Status: Published
The past and future of biofuels a case study of the United States using the institutional analysis and development framework
In recent years, the world has debated the idea of biofuels as a solution to energy security, energy independence, and global climate change. However, as the biofuels movement has unfolded, crucial issues emerged regarding biofuels efficacy and efficiency. The deployment of biofuels of marginal benefit has raised questions about how countries like the USA may have found themselves so invested in a potentially failing technology. In order to better understand and evaluate these issues, this study utilizes the Ostrom Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework to better evaluate these issues and analyze interacting institutions that shape US biofuel policy. The IAD framework is a model that enables one to study, conceptualize, compare, and make connections across decision arenas that would otherwise be distinct from each other. By analyzing the interactions of relevant institutions, one can see how different dynamic interests interacted to shape biofuel policy in the USA today. Conclusions from this analysis include: the IAD framework is ideal for analyzing the political and economic case for biofuels. The five action arenas identified in this thesis are sufficient to understand corn bioethanol policy. A compelling case for supporting bioethanol is not made. An international agreement to reduce GHG emissions could change the landscape for biofuels. Finally, there is little prospect for biofuels playing a significant role in the near term without greater alignment among the action arenas.
A Six Sigma-based approach to leadership in energy and environmental design for existing buildings: operations and maintenance
With increasing interest in sustainability and green building, organizations are implementing programs such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (LEED-EB) in order to focus corporate sustainability goals on the operations of a facility and the practices of the building occupants. Green building programs help reduce the impact of a facility and bring about several environmental benefits including but not limited to energy conservation, water conservation and material conservation. In addition to various environmental benefits, green building programs can help companies become more efficient. The problem is that organizations are not always successful in their pursuits to achieve sustainability goals. It frequently take years to implement a program, and in many cases the goals for sustainability never come to fruition, when in the mean time resources are wasted, money is spent needlessly and opportunities are lost forever. This thesis addresses how the Six Sigma methodologies used by so many to implement change in their organizations could be applied to the LEED-EB program to help companies achieve sustainability results. A qualitative analysis of the Six Sigma methodologies was performed to determine if and how a LEED-EB program might utilize such methods. The two programs were found to be compatible and several areas for improvements to implementing a LEED-EB program were identified.
Environmental change and natural hazards represent a challenge for sustainable development. By disrupting livelihoods and causing billions of dollars in damages, disasters can undo many decades of development. Development, on the other hand, can actually increase vulnerability to disasters by depleting environmental resources and marginalizing the poorest. Big disasters and big cities get the most attention from the media and academia. The vulnerabilities and capabilities of small cities have not been explored adequately in academic research, and while some cities in developed countries have begun to initiate mitigation and adaptation responses to environmental change, most cities in developing countries have not. In this thesis I explore the vulnerability to flooding of the US-Mexico border by using the cities of Nogales, Arizona, USA and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico as a case study. I ask the following questions: What is the spatial distribution of vulnerability, and what is the role of the border in increasing or decreasing vulnerability? What kind of coordination should occur among local institutions to address flooding in the cities? I use a Geographic Information System to analyze the spatial distribution of flood events and the socio-economic characteristics of both cities. The result is an index that estimates flood vulnerability using a set of indicators that are comparable between cities on both sides of the border. I interviewed planners and local government officials to validate the vulnerability model and to assess collaboration efforts between the cities. This research contributes to our understanding of vulnerability and sustainability in two ways: (1) it provides a framework for assessing and comparing vulnerabilities at the city level between nations, overcoming issues of data incompatibility, and (2) it highlights the institutional arrangements of border cities and how they affect vulnerability.
This document outlines the formation and development of Worth the Weight, or WTW, a platform that seeks to sustain the Breaking community in Phoenix, Arizona and connect the generations by bringing them together in a newly and never before seen event in Breaking, an all weight class and division competition. In the last five to ten years there has been a noticeable decline in the local Breaking community, in part due to the introduction of new dance categories, economic and social changes, the cross over of academia and traditional studios in Phoenix; all combining to create a lack of longevity in veterans of the culture to pass on the tools of the trade to the next generation.
WTW is an event that occurs monthly for three consecutive months followed by a month off, totaling nine events and three seasons per calendar year. At each event dancers go head to head in battle in a single elimination style bracket, where they will add a loss or win to their overall season record. The goals of WTW are self-empowerment as well as ownership and investment in the community by those involved through participation in both the event and the planning process; all built on a foundation of trust within the Breaking community. This researcher has thirty years of direct involvement in the Breaking culture with twenty-two of those years as a practitioner in Phoenix, Arizona and co-founder of Furious Styles Crew, Arizona’s longest running Breaking crew. The development of WTW was drawn from this experience along with interviews and observations of Breaking communities worldwide. WTW intends to provide a reliable and consistent outlet during a time of instant gratification, allowing a space for self-discovery and the development of tools to be applied beyond movement. It is hoped that the format of WTW will be a model that can be adapted by other Breaking communities worldwide.
Green economy governance: transforming states and markets through the global forest carbon trade in California and Chiapas
This dissertation explores the intersection of two major developments in global
environmental governance: the vision for a Green Economy and the growing influence of non-state actors. The work draws on multi-sited thick description to analyze how relationships between the state, market, and civil society are being reoriented towards global problems. Its focus is a non-binding agreement between California and Chiapas to create a market in carbon offsets credits for Reducing Emissions for Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD). The study draws on three bodies of scholarship. From the institutionalist study of global environmental politics, it uses the ideas of orchestration, civil regulation, and private entrepreneurial authority to identity emerging alignments of state and non-state actors, premised on an exchange of public authority and private expertise. From concepts borrowed from science and technology studies, it inquires into the production, certification, and contestation of knowledge. From a constitutionalist perspective, it analyzes how new forms of public law and private expertise are reshaping foundational categories such as territory, authority, and rights. The analysis begins with general research questions applied to California and Chiapas, and the international space where groups influential in these sites are also active: 1) Where are new political and legal institutions emerging, and how are they structured? 2) What role does scientific, legal, and administrative expertise play in shaping these institutions, and vice versa? And 3) How are constitutional elements of the political order being reoriented towards these new spaces and away from the exclusive domain of the nation-state? The dissertation offers a number of propositions for combining institutionalist and constructivist approaches for the study of complex global governing arrangements. It argues that this can help identify constitutional reconfigurations that are not readily apparent using either approach alone.
The complexity and interconnectedness of sustainability issues has led to the joining of disciplines. This effort has been primarily within the sciences with minimal attention given to the relationship between science and art. The exclusion of art is problematic since sustainability challenges are not only scientific and technical; they are also cultural, so the arts, as shapers of culture, are critical components that warrant representation. In addition to contributing to the production of culture, arts have also been credited as catalysts for scientific breakthroughs; thus it stands to reason that understanding art-science integration will benefit sustainability’s focus on use-inspired basic research. I focus on placing art and science on equal footing to enhance understanding of how individual artists-scientists and collaborative artist-scientist teams creatively address sustainability challenges. In other words, I address the question “What does it take to develop high functioning artists-scientists or artist-scientist collaborations?”
To answer this question, I used a multipronged approach to triangulate a richer understanding of what art-science synthesis offers sustainability and how it functions. First, I performed an historical analysis of a maladapted wilderness aesthetic and turned to the work Aldo Leopold – an exemplar of an artist-scientist – for a new sustainability aesthetic. Then, I engaged in an individual contemporary art practice, culminating in a gallery exhibit, which displayed ecologically-informed work from a three year study of my backyard. Finally, I conducted small group research of artist-scientist teams tasked with developing interpretive signage for the Tres Rios wetland site. For this final element, I collected survey, wearable sensor, and ethnographic data.
Through this composite research, I found that successful art-science practices require significant energy and time investment. Although art-science is most intensive in an individual practice where the person must become “fluent” in two disciplines, it is still challenging in a group setting where members must become “conversational” in each other’s work. However, successful art-science syntheses appear to result in improved communication skills, better problem articulation, more creative problem solving, and the questioning of personal and disciplinary mental models. Thus, the outcomes of such syntheses warrant the effort required at both the individual and collaborative level.
Optimization model for design of vegetative filter strips for stormwater management and sediment control
Vegetative filter strips (VFS) are an effective methodology used for storm water management particularly for large urban parking lots. An optimization model for the design of vegetative filter strips that minimizes the amount of land required for stormwater management using the VFS is developed in this study. The resulting optimization model is based upon the kinematic wave equation for overland sheet flow along with equations defining the cumulative infiltration and infiltration rate.
In addition to the stormwater management function, Vegetative filter strips (VFS) are effective mechanisms for control of sediment flow and soil erosion from agricultural and urban lands. Erosion is a major problem associated with areas subjected to high runoffs or steep slopes across the globe. In order to effect economy in the design of grass filter strips as a mechanism for sediment control & stormwater management, an optimization model is required that minimizes the land requirements for the VFS. The optimization model presented in this study includes an intricate system of equations including the equations defining the sheet flow on the paved and grassed area combined with the equations defining the sediment transport over the vegetative filter strip using a non-linear programming optimization model. In this study, the optimization model has been applied using a sensitivity analysis of parameters such as different soil types, rainfall characteristics etc., performed to validate the model
Integrating sustainability grand challenges and active, experiential learning into undergraduate engineering education
Engineering education can provide students with the tools to address complex, multidisciplinary grand challenge problems in sustainable and global contexts. However, engineering education faces several challenges, including low diversity percentages, high attrition rates, and the need to better engage and prepare students for the role of a modern engineer. These challenges can be addressed by integrating sustainability grand challenges into engineering curriculum.
Two main strategies have emerged for integrating sustainability grand challenges. In the stand-alone course method, engineering programs establish one or two distinct courses that address sustainability grand challenges in depth. In the module method, engineering programs integrate sustainability grand challenges throughout existing courses. Neither method has been assessed in the literature.
This thesis aimed to develop sustainability modules, to create methods for evaluating the modules’ effectiveness on student cognitive and affective outcomes, to create methods for evaluating students’ cumulative sustainability knowledge, and to evaluate the stand-alone course method to integrate sustainability grand challenges into engineering curricula via active and experiential learning.
The Sustainable Metrics Module for teaching sustainability concepts and engaging and motivating diverse sets of students revealed that the activity portion of the module had the greatest impact on learning outcome retention.
The Game Design Module addressed methods for assessing student mastery of course content with student-developed games indicated that using board game design improved student performance and increased student satisfaction.
Evaluation of senior design capstone projects via novel comprehensive rubric to assess sustainability learned over students’ curriculum revealed that students’ performance is primarily driven by their instructor’s expectations. The rubric provided a universal tool for assessing students’ sustainability knowledge and could also be applied to sustainability-focused projects.
With this in mind, engineering educators should pursue modules that connect sustainability grand challenges to engineering concepts, because student performance improves and students report higher satisfaction. Instructors should utilize pedagogies that engage diverse students and impact concept retention, such as active and experiential learning. When evaluating the impact of sustainability in the curriculum, innovative assessment methods should be employed to understand student mastery and application of course concepts and the impacts that topics and experiences have on student satisfaction.
Urban areas face a host of sustainability problems ranging from air and water quality, to housing affordability, and sprawl reducing returns on infrastructure investments, among many others. To address such challenges, cities have begun to envision generational sustainability transitions, and coalesce transition arenas in context to manage those transitions. Transition arenas coordinate the efforts of diverse stakeholders in a setting conducive to making evidence-based decisions that guide a transition forward. Though espoused and studied in the literature, transition arenas still require further research on the specifics of agent selection, arena setting, and decision-making facilitation. This dissertation has three related contributions related to transition arenas. First, it describes a process that took place within Phoenix that focused on identifying, recruiting, and building the capacity of potential transition agents for a transition arena. As part of this, a first draft suggestion of plausible steps to take for identifying, recruiting, and building a team of transition agents is proposed followed by a brief discussion on how this step-by-step process could be evaluated in subsequent work. Second, building on such engagement, this dissertation then offers criteria for transition agent selection based on a review of the literature that includes the setting in which a transition arena occurs, and strategies to support successful facilitation of decision-making in that setting. Third, those criteria are operationalized to evaluate the facilitation of a specific decision (draft of a new transportation plan) in a specific transition arena: the Citizens Committee for the future of Phoenix Transportation. The goal of this dissertation is to articulate a first-draft framework for guiding the development and scientific evaluation of transition arenas. Future work is required to empirically validate the framework in other real-world transition arenas. A feasible research agenda is provides to support this work.
Perceptions of climate variability and change reflect local concerns and the actual impacts of climate phenomena on people's lives. Perceptions are the bases of people's decisions to act, and they determine what adaptive measures will be taken. But perceptions of climate may not always be aligned with scientific observations because they are influenced by socio-economic and ecological variables. To find sustainability solutions to climate-change challenges, researchers and policy makers need to understand people's perceptions so that they can account for likely responses. Being able to anticipate responses will increase decision-makers' capacities to create policies that support effective adaptation strategies. I analyzed Mexican maize farmers' perceptions of drought variability as a proxy for their perceptions of climate variability and change. I identified the factors that contribute to the perception of changing drought frequency among farmers in the states of Chiapas, Mexico, and Sinaloa. I conducted Chi-square tests and Logit regression analyses using data from a survey of 1092 maize-producing households in the three states. Results showed that indigenous identity, receipt of credits or loans, and maize-type planted were the variables that most strongly influenced perceptions of drought frequency. The results suggest that climate-adaptation policy will need to consider the social and institutional contexts of farmers' decision-making, as well as the agronomic options for smallholders in each state.