Roanoke College Environmental Studies Associate Professor Laura Hartman is part of a team that was just awarded a $1 million grant to pilot a new approach to building community resilience in the face of extreme heat due to climate change, according to the college.
The grant — awarded by the National Science Foundation with support from the Department of Homeland Security — will fund a one-year initiative that will assess the impact that interdisciplinary partnerships, participatory community planning and diversified digital infrastructure have on the goals of strengthening civic resilience and more clearly understanding the problem of rising urban heat levels.
The initiative, called “The Roanoke Method,” is seeking to redeem the negative reputation borne since the publication of a 2004 book, “Root Shock,” which used Roanoke City as a clear example of harmful urban planning through “urban renewal” policies that displaced an entire African American neighborhood. The Roanoke Method, by contrast, prioritizes a trauma-informed, healing-centered, bottom-up approach to urban planning.
The initiative itself is led by Virginia Tech and principal researcher Theodore Lim. Hartman is a co-principal researcher on the project. Her portion of the project involves coordinating participation from area churches.
Other partners in the project include Roanoke City, Roanoke City Public Schools, Community ArtsReach, Hope Center, Kiwanis Club of Roanoke, The Foundry, Trees Roanoke and Roanoke Area Interfaith Stewards of the Earth (RAISE).
The work builds on Hartman’s longstanding research focuses on climate, environmental justice and the intersection of religious thought and environmental ethics. In the classroom, she’s currently leading students in courses on climate justice and the intersection of environmental stewardship and cultural values.
Hartman is also an advisor to the environment-focused student organization Earthbound. She’s an active part of her community, founding the Bus Riders of Roanoke Advocacy Group and volunteering with RAISE.
The pilot of The Roanoke Method will focus on the northwest neighborhoods of Roanoke City. Plans include:
- Engaging approximately 150 youth in arts, spirituality, technology and urban planning programming around the issues of extreme heat and urban environments
- Creating a high school workforce development program to develop community planning capacity
- Building leadership and collaboration across diverse organizations to strengthen civic relationships and capacity
- Launching a digital resilience hub to cross-reference quantitative data with the lived experiences of families and neighborhoods, public resources and community visions for future
Rising heat indexes are expected to have a growing impact on the public health and economic vitality of communities. Urban planning measures can help cool temperatures in neighborhoods, but community collaboration, trust and input are key parts of that process.
The Roanoke Method aims to create networks that contribute to that and build community resilience to the concerns posed by extreme heat. The pilot project is expected to run through Sept. 30, 2024.
-The Salem Times-Register