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University of Arizona partners with Native American nations to address climate change issues

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 6:53 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The University of Arizona is partnering with Native American tribes to address the environmental challenges faced on the reservations.

“I’ve felt for many years that the tribes were bearing the brunt of climate change more specifically than the rest of us,” said Professor Kathy Jacobs, the Director of the Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions.

Signs of climate change include increasing heat, wildfires, drought and intense rainfall.

“When climate change impacts the natural environment as we know it, that’s going to impact their cultural livelihoods, their traditional practices and their economies,” said Dr. Karletta Chief, Associate Professor of Environmental Science.

The University of Arizona is using its expertise in environmental research, renewable technologies, and agriculture to help the tribal nations. The partnership is especially important to Dr. Chief, who will be leading the efforts.

“This is a dream I’ve always had since I started this academic journey coming from the Navajo Nation,” Dr. Chief said. “Growing up on the reservation with no electricity, no running water, and living in a community impacted by coal mining.”

She will be the director of the UA’s new Indigenous Resilience Center which will work directly with the tribes.

“They are the ones identifying their priorities and there are indigenous scientists leading the way with indigenous students involved with the research,” Dr. Chief said.

Projects will focus on solar energy, water resources and finding ways to adapt to climate change. The goal is to bring these technologies to the reservations.

“It has the support from the top of the university to the bottom,” said Professor Jacobs. “We think we can have far more impact than individual programs and centers have had in the past.”

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