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Climatopia: Urban Planning and Governance in an Era of Security, Smartness, and Resilience

Friday, February 3, 2017 at 4:30pm

Klarman Hall, Rhodes-Rawlings Auditorium
232 East Ave, Ithaca, NY 14853

Cities around the world are increasingly aware of the implications of climate change on their communities, infrastructure, and development trajectories. In the face of diverse environmental risks, many cities are experimenting with new policy and planning tools, partnerships, and financing mechanisms to promote adaptation and resilience. Despite these innovations, the concept of resilience – as well as its relationship to other environmental agendas such as smart cities and sustainability transitions – remains ill defined. In particular, how are emerging climate resilience agendas contributing to efforts to promote energy efficiency, urban security, and the automation of municipal services? To what extent are environmental risks reshaping the approaches that cities across the global North and South are taking to ensure wellbeing, equity, and justice at-large?

To address these questions, I will take a broad historical perspective to trace the emergence of climate resilience as a global urban development paradigm. This history can be envisaged as four distinct junctures of planning – namely the points of climate managerialism, entrepreneurialism, dispossession, and emancipation – which I illustrate by drawing on evidence from a multi-year comparative study of climate change adaptation, local governance reform, and infrastructure politics in cities across Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe. I argue that these four junctures circumscribe a longue durée process of institutional change, beginning with knowledge and awareness campaigns, to programs for building new and cross-cutting municipal institutions, and finally to the implementation of urban infrastructures and strategic actions that have distinct procedural and distributive equity implications. The critique is that the recent dominance of techno-managerial approaches to resilience have led to injustices, such as in the case of heavily gentrified smart city developments in many parts of Europe, the eviction poor, migrant, and minority communities in South Africa, and the displacement of slum-dwellers by privatized mega-infrastructure projects in India and the Philippines. However, the emergence of new counter-hegemonic mobilizations that contest, agitate, and offer alternative meanings of resilience is precipitating a renewed focus in planning theory and urban climate action on the right to the city, human welfare, and local environmental justice.

Eric Chu is Assistant Professor of Urban Studies, Department of Geography, Planning, and International Development Studies, University of Amsterdam Affiliate, Center for Urban Studies, Center for Sustainable Development Studies

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