T2.4: Panel on Co-Producing Urban Resilience to Extreme Events

In this special panel the Sustainable Research Network (URExSRN) discusses their concept of urban resilience through positive future approach.

Instead of looking from single perspective of dystopian scenarios URExSRN focuses on generating new scenarios, social-ecological-technological strategies and transformative pathways, by using the knowledge collected from different histories, geographies and experiences of people to support sustainable urban governance programs and planning processes. Case studies in 9 cities set light to compare and evaluate sustainable future visions in case of extreme events such as coastal flood, urban flood, heat, drought with the help of infrastructure, data, maps, models created by Urban System Labs.

Positive futures
David Iwaniec, Marta Berbes, Elizabeth Cook, Melissa Davidson, Nancy Grimm, Timon McPhearson, Tischa Muñoz-Erickson

First presentation of Sustainable Research Network presented by David Iwaniec gives the conceptual framing of works and explains their research agenda. The team challenges ill-defined, interconnected, wicked problems of urban governance and planning in the case of extreme events, failing infrastructure, excessive use of motor vehicles, pollution, resource scarcity, increasing surface temperature. The presenter reframes resilience implementations by focusing on positive futures concept and criticizing the dominant discourse of dystopian future scenario from single perspective. David Iwaniec mentions that the problems of today are the products of solutions of the past and correction of these solutions and being solution oriented rather than problem based would lead us to positive futures. The aim of the study is increasing human well-being and environmental quality at the same time by understanding different histories of different places and different people and addressing challenges, drivers, consequences, impacts of changes. He explores multiple, diverse pathways of transformative interventions, different combinations of social-ecological-technological strategies and the interactions between strategies, scales and scenarios for a positive future. The study researches multiple scales such as global, city, municipal, neighborhood and community visions and question how they interact, support each other and how they conflict. The work focuses on finding a balance between plausible, desirable futures and business as usual state to reach sustainable urban governance structures through understanding, what is the combination of worldviews, values, cultures, and choices by understanding unintended consequences as well as intended consequences with equal attention.               

A social- ecological-technical systems approach to understanding urban complexity and building climate resilience
Nancy Grimm, Marta Berbés Blasquez, Mikhail Chester, Elizabeth Cook, Peter Groffman, David Iwaniec, Timon McPhearson, Thaddeus Miller, Tischa Muñoz-Erickson, Charles Redman

Nancy Grimm presents a social-ecological-technological systems (SETS) approach to understanding urban complexity and resilience. The challenge the presenter focuses on is infrastructure failures in the case of extreme events which are results of climate change, to transform cities to resilient cities, into resilient systems. She defines infrastructure as fundamental components of cities and shows the points how infrastructure makes the cities vulnerable to extreme events. SETS approach aims to integrate multiple perspectives, different types of expertise and trans-disciplinary ways to provide more resilient solutions for protection against extreme events. The presenter explains the dynamic system and continuous cycle of capital inputs of SETS resulting in service provision, ecosystem services and jobs created and final result outcomes as persistence, adaptation, transformation, ecological changes and the changes on people. First case study is from San Juan, a conceptualization of ecosystem services of SETS infrastructure in the case of flooding in an open canal area left to fill in. The main question she asks in this case, how to rebuild resilience in disadvantaged, poor community but avoid gentrification? It is a community involvement to think about the solution together to find effective, affordable, technologically advanced solution by participation in a more just environment. Second case study is “Safe-to-Fail and Green Infrastructure”, which focuses on uncertainty of extreme events to understand managing the consequences rather than lowering the probability of failure.  She claims that pre-planned, controlled failure gives the opportunity to minor consequences. Third case study is in Hermosillo, Mexico focuses on future projections in the case of vulnerability to flooding. The study is on mapping exposure and assessing aspects of social vulnerability, infrastructure vulnerability, ecological vulnerability and showing the combined risk.

Co-development of positive visions for future urban sustainability and resilience
Elizabeth Cook, Marta Berbes, Melissa Davidson, Nancy Grimm, David Iwaniec, Timon McPhearson, Tischa Muñoz-Erickson

Elizabeth Cook presents co-development of positive future visions for urban sustainability and resilience with comparisons and different future scenarios in different cities like Valdivia-Chile, Hermosillo-Mexico, Phoenix-Arizona US, Baltimore-Maryland US. Her work focuses more on thinking of visions and scenarios rather than challenge a problem. She criticizes the approach when we are asking the questions “What is? What could be?” rather than “What should be?” to understand the problematic situations. Her work tries to illustrate future visions of diverse cities by asking different stakeholders what are their future visions. As a result she finds lots of diversity, differences and similarities. With a participatory co-development workshop aiming to understand resilience, equity and transformative potential she works on scenarios to explore alternative, positive futures. The workshop asks people, “How can we start to minimize the sustainability and resilience gap between plausible and desirable futures?” Workshop outputs such as comparison of scenarios, narratives, timelines, strategies lead to get a research agenda and explore trade-offs of resilience equity sustainability qualitative assessment (RESQ), land use, land cover change and future visualizations. She gives an example of Phoenix, Arizona with different visions such as mountain to river, just green enough, connected and mobile, cool desert city and equity district, dealing with different issues in the city. She explains RESQ and quantitative assessments looking at water security by using heat model in a drought scenario. Her study aims linking these visions to future actions for potential trade-offs and using these visions to support new and existing initiatives, supporting, planning and decision making through development of sustainability plans of cities with innovative solutions.

Designing anticipatory knowledge for resilient and sustainable urban futures
Tischa A. Muñoz-Erickson, Elizabeth Cook, Mathieu Feagan, Robert Hobbins, David Iwaniec, Clark Miller, Thaddeus Miller

Tischa Munoz Erickson first asks the questions “How we think about them? How we approach them from SETS perspective? How we co-produce with different stakeholders? What are the challenges involved?” while designing different scenarios for positive futures. By asking these questions she points the limits of the approaches of existing governance systems to exhibit anticipatory capacities. The presenter stresses the importance of being a step ahead to know what is coming and to be able to use knowledge systems efficiently without privileging knowledge over other. In order to do that the team focuses on studying knowledge systems, how we develop data and produce knowledge. The example of Valdivia, Chile gives insight of URE x Governance Survey with participation of 43 governance organizations to analyze risks and explore long-term futures. At the same time survey aims to find out what knowledge counts with the experiences of people and with different methods to collect data. The result shows 13 forward-looking agencies taking the path of risk reduction, mitigation, adaptation, resilience and transformation. The study looks for the capacities and tools and practices used by central actors for the co-creation of future visions and pathways with long-term, alternative approaches.

Modelling urban futures: Resilience thinking in practice
Timon McPhearson
  • Urban systems futures modeling
  • Stakeholders, Current plans > Micro simulations of Heat, Urban Flood, Coastal Flood,   Population > Model outputs
  • Maps, timelines – qualitative and quantitative data
  • How they are connected? , How we can use them?
  • Modelling Urban Heat – data > process > output
  • Modelling Urban Flood – hazard > risk
  • How CA Model works? – Matrix of micro modules
  • Case study – Land cover – CA Model
  • Historical data – historical changes – feasible transition – 10m scale resolution
  • Patterns of identity and behavior
  • Combination of elements – longer-term future
  • To give opportunity for transformative change
  • Governance – how is the pathway?
  • Calibration phase – behavioral analysis – historical, probability
  • Case study – San Juan – Food & Energy Security Scenario
  • Restrictions and relocations
  • Example: Reduce urban extensions by increasing the amount of mangroves
  • Reduce urban extensions for agricultural area
  • Assessing social connection, mobility connection, coastal flood resilience
  • Achieve multiple goals