Mounting evidence from a number of case studies points to a paradox: our normative conceptualization of urban resilience belies inherent trade-offs in city planning and policies. For example, green infrastructure may enhance flood resilience through planning and design of new neighbourhoods, but also lead to eco- or green gentrification. A desalination plant may help to reduce vulnerability to drought, but at a high environmental, energy, and economic cost. Recognizing these unintended consequences, we have developed the concept of urban resilience trade-offs, illustrated in the figure below.
A resilience trade-off refers to actions, policies or projects that enhance the capacity to adapt to a threat, or reduce the exposure to a specific risk, but lead to a loss in other adaptive capacities or increase exposure. These trade-offs can occur across spatial scales (one community or city enhances its resilience comes at the cost of increasing the vulnerability of other places), groups (one group’s resilience increases the vulnerability of others), between threats (when a solution to e.g. drought implies increasing social fiscal pressures), or even across temporal scales (when a short-term solution results in the lock-in of a particular unsustainable trajectory).
Due to the growing number of papers addressing this critical aspect of urban resilience, the Urban Resilience Research Network will be opening a new section with short posts exploring potential resilience trade-offs. The aim is to raise awareness about these unintended consequences, to better understand them, and ultimately to build a typology of these trade-offs that can help decision-makers to avoid them and come up with resilience strategies that align resilience, sustainability and social justice.
We are looking for researchers to contribute case studies to this new section. We ask that you complete a short questionnaire (link below) about the trade-off and send it to us along with an image. These case studies will not only be shared on the website, but you will be contributing to a global urban resilience trade-off database.