Registration is now open for the third cohort of the Urban Heat Leadership Academy developed by The Nature Conservancy in Arizona, Phoenix Revitalization Corporation and other partners. The Academy is offered in Spanish and English, is free of charge and is open to Maricopa County residents.
In Greater Phoenix, urban heat is impacting health, safety, comfort and economic development, and this is projected to worsen over time. Not only are the number of days above 110°F expected to more than double by 2060, but on some days, there can be a 13-degree Fahrenheit difference in Phoenix neighborhoods just two miles apart. With 60% of Arizona’s population concentrated around Phoenix, heat constitutes a major public health concern.
The goal of the academy is to build the capacity of Maricopa County residents, so they have the knowledge, resources and skills to advocate for and mobilize their neighbors for greener, healthier and cooler communities. Participants that complete the 5-month program will also have an opportunity to get funding to apply what they learned by implementing a project in their community.
The Academy kicks off in person on Saturday, June 17, and takes place across eight Saturdays, concluding in October 2023. The Academy offers hybrid learning so that participants can learn at their own pace through self-paced online lessons. Additionally, participants will have the opportunity to build relationships with others in their cohort through a series of live discussions with peers and learning partners. Once complete, participants will also have the opportunity to attend an in-person graduation ceremony.
Sessions will be led by subject matter experts from Arizona State University, South Mountain Community College, City of Phoenix, Maricopa County Air Quality Department, Trees Matter, Watershed Management Group, Maricopa County Department of Public Health and Instituto and will cover challenges related to urban heat, air quality and water with a lens of environmental justice and equity. Sessions will also cover nature-based and built-environment solutions to urban heat as well as behavioral changes to stay safe in the heat. It will also build skills related to advocacy, storytelling and community engagement and provide resources to take action.
Since the program’s Arizona launch in 2021, 80 Phoenix residents have graduated from the Urban Heat Leadership Academy. Many graduates of the Academy have teamed up to implement projects to mitigate heat in their communities. These practices include community greenings at private residences, Grant Park Community Garden and Capitol Elementary School; neighborhood plant giveaways; and the opening of a cooling center in Phoenix to combat the effects of urban heat. And for many, the reasons are also personal.
“My reason for joining the Urban Heat Leadership Academy was because I walk a lot and I have noticed the difference in how the heat in some areas has gotten hotter over time,” said Rosalyn, a Phoenix native and Urban Heat Leadership Academy Graduate. “Being out in the community, I saw more firemen at bus stops or people just on the side of the road that were having to have heat issues addressed and ending up in hospitalizations. So, it just tugged at my heart, and I wanted to learn more, learn what was going on and see the solutions, and the Urban Heat Leadership Academy allowed me to do that.”
To learn more about Arizona’s Healthy Cities program and the Urban Heat Leadership Academy, please visit nature.org/healthycitiesaz.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 70 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.