Diane Boudreau: Welcome to ASU KED talks the pod­cast. I’m your host Diane Boudreau, and I’m here today with Duke Reiter, Senior Adviser to the President at ASU, Executive Director of the University City Exchange, and founder of the Ten Across project. Thanks for join­ing us.

Duke Reiter: Glad to be here. 

Boudreau: So first of all, tell me what this University City Exchange is.

Reiter: The University City Exchange is pret­ty much as it sounds in the title. What’s the rela­tion­ship between the uni­ver­si­ty and the met­ro­pol­i­tan area? How can we find mutu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial rela­tion­ships? The down­town Phoenix cam­pus being a per­fect exam­ple. What was the city look­ing for in terms of urban vital­i­ty? What were we look­ing for in terms of posi­tion­ing some of our best pro­fes­sion­al pro­grams in the envi­ron­ments where those things take place? Like jour­nal­ism, like gov­ern­ment. And we estab­lished an extra­or­di­nary rela­tion­ship with Phoenix in that regard. We’ve done the same with Mesa, with Scottsdale, oth­er com­mu­ni­ties in the valley—obviously Tempe. And so the University Exchange makes sure that we nev­er lose sight of the fact that our futures are inex­tri­ca­bly linked. 

Boudreau: And then tell me a lit­tle bit about the Ten Across project that you found­ed, correct?

Reiter: So if the University City Exchange is some­what local, or region­al (although we are think­ing about where we are in the rest of the coun­try) the Ten Across project is expan­sive for sure. So it’s a twenty-four-hundred mile-long stretch of high­way, obvi­ous­ly on the I‑10, that goes from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic and all the major cities in between. Looking at those cities, Phoenix includ­ed of course, the Phoenix metro area, we think we see a lab­o­ra­to­ry for the future in those places.

Boudreau: When you say a lab­o­ra­to­ry for the future what kinds of issues and top­ics of the future are we talk­ing about?

Reiter: Well I think the most press­ing issues of the day are shown in their high­est relief in these places. Take for example—obviously, what’s in the news right here in Phoenix? Water, or lack there­of. Probably could­n’t have a more exis­ten­tial­ist issue.

On the oth­er hand, if you’re in the Gulf region, water is equal­ly impor­tant but for anoth­er rea­son. They’ve got sim­ply too much of it and cities are being inun­dat­ed and water sup­plies are being threatened. 

So just water alone is one of those top­ics as being emblem­at­ic of where we’re going and how we’re going to have to han­dle things, and well rep­re­sent­ed in this cor­ri­dor. But the same is true for ener­gy, with the ener­gy cap­i­tal of Houston obvi­ous­ly being in this tran­sect. Global trade; think about all the dis­cus­sion now about tar­iffs and oth­er things. That cer­tain­ly affects the port of Los Angeles, as well as the oth­er major ports in this area. Immigration and migra­tion, prob­a­bly, again right in the news. And where could you go to under­stand this bet­ter than El Paso-Ciudad Juárez. 

So we just think all the major top­ics of the day seem to be again demon­strat­ed in extra­or­di­nary ways on this tran­sect. So along the I‑10, which is why we’re call­ing it Ten Across. 

Boudreau: How was this idea born? 

Reiter: The idea was born of the fact that I spent ten years of my life in New Orleans. Grew up in Ohio. Wanted to go a place that was as dif­fer­ent as I could find. New Orleans was cer­tain­ly all that. A sin­gu­lar city. But it was clear that the city, while it was aware? that was it in a hur­ri­cane zone, and the waters were ris­ing all the time, its infra­struc­ture was inad­e­quate to meet those con­di­tions. And so you could see the future in the infra­struc­ture. And one always won­dered why we did­n’t do more, know­ing what was going to hap­pen there. And sure enough, in 2005 Katrina came. Hurricanes came to Orleans almost every year and this one real­ly demon­strat­ed the inad­e­qua­cies of that infrastructure.

Now that I live in Phoenix, I see some sim­i­lar­i­ties even though the cir­cum­stances are dif­fer­ent. Again around water. But are we ful­ly pre­pared? And as I men­tioned ear­li­er that top­ic is in the news, to address the future. So the project was born of look­ing at places that can see their future and maybe don’t quite grap­ple with it in the way that they should. That’s prob­a­bly true of all of us in a lot of dif­fer­ent places as well. 

Boudreau: When we spoke ear­li­er you men­tioned that New Orleans actu­al­ly now has a resilien­cy plan.

Reiter: That’s true. So, Katrina clear­ly caused peo­ple to think about what’s impor­tant about cities, and that one in par­tic­u­lar. It’s irre­place­able; it’s a very spe­cial place. So fol­low­ing that, there was much more atten­tion paid to prepa­ra­tion. And what that city means to not only the res­i­dents who live there but the coun­try as a whole. And the Rockefeller Foundation has a pro­gram called 100 Resilient Cities, and New Orleans is one of those cities. Rockefeller was down in the city, as were many oth­er foun­da­tions and oth­er orga­ni­za­tions try­ing to help rebuild it. 

And so they pro­vid­ed a resilience offi­cer, as they did with oth­er cities on the I‑10 cor­ri­dor. El Paso would be one, Los Angeles is anoth­er. In fact, post-Harvey, Houston was just des­ig­nat­ed as the hundred-and-first resilient city in that program. 

So that affirms that the stretch that we’re look­ing at is the place where you can under­stand resilien­cy, sus­tain­abil­i­ty, adapt­abil­i­ty. And so New Orleans prob­a­bly built, because they were high­ly moti­vat­ed, one of the most com­pre­hen­sive and well-organized resilien­cy plans in the coun­try. It was done espe­cial­ly under Mayor Landrieu’s admin­is­tra­tion, with a gen­tle­man named Jeff Hebert who’s one of our best part­ners in the Ten Across project.

Boudreau: What does a resilien­cy plan include? What kinds of things?

Reiter: It can range…and we’ve stud­ied resilien­cy plans on all the cities in the 10X area. We’ve looked at all their doc­u­men­ta­tion and we’ve got about 400 pages of notes. It goes from the most imme­di­ate: how do you address a dis­as­ter and what peo­ple need in the here and now? And then these plans begin to look a lit­tle fur­ther and fur­ther and fur­ther into the future. What do we need to be doing to man­age water sys­tems, ener­gy sys­tems, food secu­ri­ty? Well-being in all aspects of life. Health and wellness. 

And the cities that have got­ten the fur­thest out there are real­ly think­ing now gen­er­a­tional­ly. What should we be doing now to pre­pare a place for our chil­dren, and our fam­i­lies, and oth­ers to real­ly be able to be in this place at the very least but also thrive in that? And that can include eco­nom­ic resilien­cy as well. What hap­pens if there’s an eco­nom­ic down­turn? How quick­ly does your city recover? 

Boudreau: So is Phoenix think­ing about doing a resilien­cy plan? Or do we have one?

Reiter: Phoenix is not one of the hun­dred resilient cities, in the Rockefeller pro­gram. But that does­n’t keep you from doing the work. And Phoenix has been very focused on this issue. It has a Chief Sustainability Officer. You can’t think about Phoenix and not think about the avail­abil­i­ty of water. I know Kathryn Sorenson, who’s the head of the water depart­ment for the city of Phoenix, is very focused on this, of course, as you would expect. 

And Phoenix has been look­ing at itself and what it needs to do around a vari­ety of issues. Take one for exam­ple that would be very much Phoenix, which would be heat. And so they’re look­ing at heat island affects and how the con­struc­tion of our cities and the mate­ri­als that hold heat impact tem­per­a­ture, espe­cial­ly the reduc­tion of night-time tem­per­a­tures. Also what it means for water and evap­o­ra­tion. What it means for health. What it means for secu­ri­ty for peo­ple. So Phoenix is very much focused on sus­tain­abil­i­ty and heat would be but one example. 

Boudreau: Well it’s good to know we’re think­ing about it. 

Reiter: Yes.

Boudreau: So, your back­ground is in archi­tec­ture, right? How did you come to study resilient cities? How did you get into this area of work?

Reiter: I think by being an archi­tect, you take cues from the built envi­ron­ment. So, whether you’re look­ing at New Orleans, or Phoenix, or even places like Detroit that have suf­fered down­turns, you can see the begin­nings of what’s going on in a com­mu­ni­ty by the built envi­ron­ment, what it’s telling you. So if you’re an archi­tect who’s both designed build­ings but also attuned to look at them for cues about what’s hap­pen­ing in com­mu­ni­ties, I think that’s been real­ly help­ful expe­ri­ence and exper­tise to under­stand what the built envi­ron­ment is telling us that we need to attend to. So for me it was a nat­ur­al tran­si­tion, and going from let’s say indi­vid­ual build­ings to whole com­mu­ni­ties, that was very much the tran­si­tion I made when I came here as Dean of the College of Design, from maybe design­ing build­ings to think­ing about let’s say the down­town Phoenix cam­pus. How do you knit a whole area togeth­er? They’re all design projects, if you think about it.

Boudreau: And then when we met to dis­cuss your KED talk you also men­tioned doing your the­sis work on mon­u­ments to the future. And that phrase real­ly intrigued me. Can you tell us a lit­tle bit more about that?

Reiter: Sometimes it’s eas­i­er to think about a place once you’ve left it. Because when you’re in it every­day it’s just part of your being. So when I left New Orleans after ten years… I’d not only went school there but I worked on the last World’s Fair ever held in the United States. And after that I was for­tu­nate enough to go to Harvard and grad­u­ate school. And my the­sis project there looked back to New Orleans and talked about how maybe instead of build­ing mon­u­ments to the past (New Orleans is very much a place that thinks about its past; it’s an extra­or­di­nary one involv­ing many cultures)could you build or con­ceive of mon­u­ments that would remind you every day you should be think­ing about the future as well? And so as you move through the city on your way to work or wher­ev­er it was, you would see some­thing—and they would­n’t be con­ven­tion­al let’s say stat­ues on pedestals—but some indi­ca­tor that the future was right around the cor­ner and you would do well to attend to it?

So while I think we know what mon­u­ments to the past are…we build them all the time…how would you build an indi­ca­tor that sug­gests that the future is equal­ly if not more impor­tant, and would require you to do some­thing dif­fer­ent­ly? Maybe in your indi­vid­ual lives, in your com­mu­ni­ty, or maybe at the city, state, or region­al scale. What should we be doing? And I think we need those reminders.

Boudreau: So what would that look like? Do you have ideas about that?

Reiter: So when I looked at the New Orleans cir­cum­stance, I actu­al­ly designed—again I’m an archi­tect, also heav­i­ly involved in the visu­al arts—a series of ele­ments that as peo­ple moved into the city, as they got clos­er and clos­er to city they saw indi­ca­tors that remind­ed them that this is a water place. It’s a place born of water. New Orleans had to hap­pen. There was always going to be a great city at the mouth of the Mississippi River. So it was absolute­ly the place where a city had to be, and it’s one of the worst places to build a city. It’s a swamp. And now, much of it below sea level.

So that dichoto­my sort of drove what the design of these things were remind­ing us that we’d made a deci­sion to be here, and pre­sum­ably for a long time. What do we need to be doing? And these struc­tures were in var­i­ous ways, shapes, and forms, as you could imag­ine. And then they sort of reached a crescen­do when you got to the city. It said: here we are; this is the place that we were des­tined to cre­ate; what are we gonna do about it? 

It’s also quite inter­est­ing that Mayor Landrieu got involved heav­i­ly in the issue of mon­u­ments, as all of you know, hav­ing tak­en down a num­ber of mon­u­ments in the city, four in par­tic­u­lar that were reminders of the past…sorta kind of. They were maybe not quite accu­rate depic­tions of the past but he real­ized the impor­tance of mon­u­ments as well, and what they meant to var­i­ous peo­ple. So New Orleans has a his­to­ry of think­ing about this. 

Boudreau: Going back to Ten Across. Ten Across held its first sum­mit this year in baton Rouge, is that right?

Reiter: That’s right. 

Boudreau: Can you tell us why Baton Rouge?

Reiter: Sure. So again, think about this tran­sect coast to coast. Eleven or more major cities. All the issues I described that are of real impor­tance, and what could be more so than water? And so as we thought about our water cir­cum­stance here in Phoenix, which is clear­ly one of access to it in the future. Which is to some degree uncer­tain. We’re going to have to work real­ly hard to make sure that that’s the case. Having spent time in the Gulf area, I was well aware of what was hap­pen­ing with regard to water in that area, in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. And it’s about inun­da­tion. Waters are ris­ing, and every time there’s a major storm the waters come even fur­ther inland than they ever did before. They’ve lost 2,000 square miles recent­ly of land. And peo­ple are actu­al­ly retreat­ing. People are actu­al­ly hav­ing to be moved. 

And in the case of Baton Rouge, their aquifers, where they get their water, is being infil­trat­ed with salt water. Which could real­ly threat­en that city to some extent. So they had built a won­der­ful facil­i­ty called the Water Institute of the Gulf, perched right on the Mississippi River, look­ing at the bridge that is the I‑10. You could not find a bet­ter place to bring this all togeth­er. So, think­ing that water was some­thing that every­body under­stands, every­body needs, obvi­ous­ly to sus­tain life, we would use that as our first top­ic and we would hold our event not here in Phoenix but in a place that was already think­ing about it, had built a facil­i­ty ded­i­cat­ed to it, includ­ing a scale mod­el of the Mississippi River Delta that shows the future of what that is going to be. 

So we thought that they were like-minded. We approached them. They…were all over this top­ic. They have embraced 10X like no oth­er area. I real­ly want cred­it John Davies in the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. He has tak­en 10X into his own, into his orga­ni­za­tion, and they con­tin­ue to help us to this day. And they will be involved in every 10X water project that we hold because they believe in it. 

It turns out that the exchange of infor­ma­tion amongst peo­ple inter­est­ed in a top­ic like water is facil­i­ta­tive not accel­er­a­tive when the top­ics are lit­tle dif­fer­ent, mean­ing drought or flood­ing. And the flow of infor­ma­tion at this con­fer­ence was unlike any­thing I’d ever seen. 

Boudreau: Who was there?

Reiter: We invit­ed— Well it was opened up in a won­der­ful way by the Governor, Governor Bel Edwards. The Mayor of Baton Rouge was there. Senator Landrieu was there. Henry Cisneros was there, four-time may­or of San Antonio, obvi­ous­ly one of the major cities in the I‑10 study area. So you had city offi­cials from across the the land, from LA to Jacksonville. You had experts in water. You had experts in city devel­op­ment. You had cit­i­zens who under­stand the urgency of these issues. You had Chief Sustainability and Resilience Officers from these cities, appro­pri­ate­ly so. And so every­body was there show­ing what they knew about their cir­cum­stance and why it might have some rel­e­vance to your cir­cum­stance if you weren’t from that place.

Boudreau: So what’s next for Ten Across?

Reiter: So, we think of Ten Across as an awareness-building project. There are oth­er peo­ple who are more expert in the sci­ence, or engi­neer­ing, or oth­er things than we may be. But we are—my team is par­tic­u­lar­ly good at I think under­stand­ing the whole and build­ing a com­mu­ni­ca­tions plat­form of some sort. Like the events we just talked about; the Ten Across event in Baton Rouge. As well as oth­er media forms that could fur­ther the dia­logues that I think we start­ed there and elsewhere. 

So we’re think­ing about a num­ber of things. How do we do that in all the kinds of media you would imag­ine. We are extend­ing that into the poten­tial to turn this into a course that can be con­sumed by high school stu­dents in all these cities along the 10. And again, fos­ter exchange between them. I could be in El Paso and I get a call from some­body in Jacksonville to under­stand the issues of migra­tion and what a bor­der means. And I’m now in a dia­logue with peo­ple who are—if you will, we’ve used this quote before: on the same street. You’re all on the I‑10, so you already have some­thing in common. 

And so there could be an edu­ca­tion­al plat­form. I’m sure there will be. We’re also talk­ing about how all these cities can band togeth­er to form a risk pool that might help them in times of need so they’re not exclu­sive­ly depen­dent on the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. And we’ve talked about the poten­tial for a pod­cast not unlike this one, with peo­ple who live on the 10. And even a broad­cast in tele­vi­sion for­mat, if you will, that could move from west to east, from Los Angeles to Jacksonville, describ­ing the future of this coun­try as seen through the lens of those cities. 

Boudreau: So as some­body who lives on this tran­sect in the Phoenix area, if I’m inter­est­ed in get­ting involved with the Ten Across project, how would I do that?

Reiter: So, you can go to the web site and you will find 10across​.com. And I think we have a .org as well. We’re build­ing all these things as we speak, as you and I are talk­ing. And so you could let us know why you’re inter­est­ed, and we’ll cre­ate a bet­ter forum on a web site which is being con­struct­ed right now to take in infor­ma­tion from peo­ple across the 10. We’re even imag­in­ing that we at some point would have a mobile stu­dio to go out and get those voic­es and record them much as we’re doing here now and turn them into things that could make their way into that edu­ca­tion­al prod­uct for those high school stu­dents or for others. 

But if you have exper­tise in areas that are rep­re­sent­ed by the project we would love to hear from you and involve you in our events, or help with con­tent devel­op­ment, or what­ev­er it might be. This project is very much about mul­ti­ple ways of know­ing. And some of that comes from peo­ple who live in these areas. Their lived expe­ri­ence on the ground, what they know about what they’re see­ing. In oth­er cas­es it’s from peo­ple who have more tech­ni­cal exper­tise. We have at uni­ver­si­ties of course great Earth-observing tech­nolo­gies. And that’s anoth­er kind of truth. We’re tak­ing all of those ways of know­ing if you will, com­bin­ing them into what we think is a pret­ty com­pelling under­stand­ing of what we’re going to have to attend to with regard to the future.

Boudreau: Great. Was there any­thing else that I did­n’t ask about that you would real­ly like to talk about?

Reiter: I might think of two things. One of the things that I think we saw…let’s say in the recent elec­tions, is we are encoun­ter­ing a fur­ther rural-urban divide, and our first pass across the 10 is hit­ting the major cities. Those are the eleven largest urban areas on the 10. There are oth­ers. But we’re not unaware that in between these major cities, espe­cial­ly in the three largest states in the union that are impli­cat­ed here—California, Texas, and Florida—there are a lot of peo­ple who don’t hear their voic­es reg­is­tered. They may not under­stand the issues that we’re talk­ing about. Or they may under­stand them bet­ter than we do. 

So we want to make sure that in this tran­sect we’re gath­er­ing all voic­es, both those who are gen­er­at­ed from cities and urban con­di­tions, to suburban—which there’s a lot in this tran­sect. This is the new America, if you will. Many of these cities were facil­i­tat­ed by the auto­mo­bile. So the sub­urbs are enor­mous. But also the rur­al areas. A lot of agri­cul­ture. A lot of oth­er ecosys­tems. We want to make sure we cap­ture all that. So I think this project could be part of a larg­er under­stand­ing. The nation as a whole and bring­ing diverse points of view togeth­er. I hope that’s the case. 

The oth­er thing that’s inter­est­ing about this project, I think it’s cru­cial that it’s, if you will, lat­i­tu­di­nal in nature. In oth­er words east to west. If it weren’t for geo­graph­ic cir­cum­stances, these cities would be some­what sim­i­lar. Sun angles are hit­ting these cities in the same way all the time all year round. So they have a lot in com­mon. What makes them dif­fer­ent is their prox­im­i­ty to water, or ele­va­tion, or oth­er things. 

But that means you can com­pare and con­trast them. If this project was north to south, where one area was obvi­ous­ly cold­er all the time and anoth­er was hot­ter, they’re already sep­a­rat­ed in a cer­tain way. So the fact that these cities are orga­nized east to west and this is one of the largest tran­sects in one coun­try where you could do this, the abil­i­ty to cause these peo­ples and cities to be in dia­logue with one anoth­er is real­ly made much more avail­able and easy because of the lat­i­tu­di­nal orga­ni­za­tion here. Not to men­tion they’re lit­er­al­ly on the same street and peo­ple can move eas­i­ly between them. 

Boudreau: Well thank you for join­ing us here today. 

Reiter: It was a plea­sure. Thank you for hav­ing me.

Boudreau: If you’re inter­est­ed in more from Duke Reiter, watch the ASU KEDtalks video at research​.asu​.edu/​k​e​d​t​a​lks. Subscribe to our pod­cast through your favorite pod­cast direc­to­ry, and find us on Facebook and Twitter at ASUresearch.

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