Young man and heat stroke.

Registration is open for the first Urban Heat Leadership Academy developed by the Nature Conservancy, Phoenix Revitalization Corp. and other partners. The academy is free and open to Valley residents.

In greater Phoenix, urban heat is impacting health, safety, comfort and economic development, and this is projected to worsen over time. The number of days above 110 degrees are expected to more than double by 2060. With 60% of Arizona’s population concentrated around Phoenix, heat constitutes a major public health concern.

The academy’s goal is to build the capacity of Phoenix residents so they have the knowledge, resources and skills to advocate for greener, healthier and cooler communities. On some days, there can be a 13-degree Fahrenheit difference in Phoenix neighborhoods just two miles apart. The hottest neighborhoods also have the lowest tree canopy cover and the highest child poverty. Often, residents in these neighborhoods are less likely and/or able to advocate for heat-reducing, nature-based solutions, such as planting trees and using rainwater to support trees and vegetation.

“This is about empowering people to improve their quality of life,” said Diana Bermudez, the Nature Conservancy in Arizona’s director of special projects and interim deputy state director. 

“This training will help people better understand urban heat, air quality, water issues and their impacts on our health and well-being, as well as the role that nature can play in addressing some of these challenges.” 

This is a key project for the Nature Conservancy’s Phoenix Healthy Cities Program, which is focused on bringing more nature into the city to mitigate urban heat and improve air quality.

There will be sessions on sustainability challenges related to urban heat, air quality and water, as well as advocacy, facilitation, communication and storytelling. This academy will equip residents with the tools and skills needed to mobilize their communities to be heard and get a fair shake for resources to make improvements in their neighborhoods.

Classes will be held live via Zoom sessions and online lessons starting July 24 and ending in November 2021. Participants will have the flexibility to learn at their own pace, as well as opportunities to build relationships with others in their cohort through a series of live discussions with peers and learning partners. 

The modules are being led by subject matter experts from ASU, city of Phoenix, Maricopa County Air Quality Department, Trees Matter, Watershed Management Group, Maricopa County Department of Public Health, Valley Interfaith Project, Instituto and Arizona Sustainability Alliance.

Participants who complete the five-month program will also have an opportunity to get funding to apply what they learned by carrying out a green intervention in their community.

Sign up at nature.org. Registration ends on July 2.