In this special episode of the Future Cities podcast, a new type of knowledge is provided related to resilience. At the annual UREx SRN All Hands Meeting meeting held in late March, local Phoenix poets including Kimberly Koerth, Jacob Friedman, Rashaad Thomas, and Anna Flores read original poetry about Resilience, Equity, and Diversity (RED) in cities as part of the UREx La RED Poetry Event. The first half of the episode features the poems, the poets' inspirations, and what the poets hoped the audience would take away by listening to it. The second half of the episode features a discussion with several of the poets on the power of poetry as a tool for making our cities more resilient and equitable places to live.
What is ‘green’ infrastructure? What can it do for my city? Why am I definitely way more excited to learn about it than I am more traditional forms of infrastructure? Stephen Elser and Jason Sauer answer all of these questions in this episode, and focus on green infrastructure in the form of wetlands in the city of Valdivia, Chile.
They talk to local sustainability consortium leader Cristóbal Lamarca of Activa Valdivia and local wetlands researcher Ignacio Rodríguez of the Centro de Humedales Río Cruces (translated: the Río Cruces Center of Wetlands) about how the wetlands imbue Valdivia with a unique urban character, increase the city’s biodiversity, provide recreational space, and are a form of infrastructure that people rally around.
Society needs better integration between what our city is or will be (science) with visions of what our city should be (design). Integrating these two elements is no easy task. Disconnects between science and design can lead to catastrophic infrastructure failures; as we’ve seen too many time this year with recent examples such as Hurricane Harvey in Houston. Part of the way we can move toward this integration goal is through co-design processes where we can learn and design together. Aligning researchers, who need more nuanced visions of urban futures, with design students, external partners, and residents provides a promising path that creates more societally impactful design processes. This will ultimately create a more socially-responsive and resilient infrastructure.
For urban resilience to extremes, these design processes may help us unearth more complete knowledge from diverse participants, and more importantly let us learn critical factors when designing cities for uncertainty together. We hope that this UREx-Design collaborative research-teaching-service pilot will provide meaningful feedback to inform future similar endeavors for UREx SRN, CAP LTER networks, and beyond. Design products from this course will serve as important inputs in the upcoming UREx SRN & CAP LTER participatory scenario workshops. Specifically, designs that feature adaptive reuse of public space, green infrastructure design and function, transportation alternatives, and urban form transformations will help stakeholders visualize and prioritize strategies they want to include in their scenarios. In addition, design students will be invited to participate in the actual workshop to sketch the visions that emerge from the table discussions.
Two PhD students working with the UREx, Melissa Davidson and Yuliya Dzyuban participated in the design course. Their final assignment for the course was a reflection piece on the process and what could be improved about the collaboration model. Yuliya noted, “Throughout the course of the semester it was evident that the interaction of sustainability students with the class has helped to raise awareness about sustainability, resilience and what it means to community. I have noticed that presentations and ideas that we shared during the semester were reflected in final students designs that evolved and became more sensitive to the community needs and to the unique project location.” While Melissa reflected on the challenges of such courses. “For me, the biggest challenge to this type of collaborative setting is time. Designers and interdisciplinary scholars spend time differently... This is not necessarily a negative; it just requires an acknowledgement that our presence in the course is more about quality of time rather than quantity of time… In addition to time constraints, the style of the course is a natural challenge. Most school of sustainability courses are between one and two and a half hours (at most) and are heavy on discussion. I really appreciated that we tried to incorporate this style of dialogue into the beginning of many Wednesday classes.”
Thinking about a pragmatic path forward for the UREx-Design collaboration model, Melissa suggested, “…it might be worth pitching a 3-credit course for non-design students who can play a stronger role in small groups. Rather than acting as a consultant, these students could help with things like project scoping and framing, research, storytelling, and generally provide a different perspective on the design process.” A second suggestion concerned the critical challenge of learning approaches to tackle social justice. Although students started the semester learning from a Latino climate justice organization and reading from social justice literature, for some students it was their first time confronting the issue. Yuliya recommended that, “[s]tudents need to improve understanding of social justice concepts and what it means in their work. It seemed that students who attempted to engage with communities on a more personal level, went for site visits several times, attended local festivities and coffee shops, and had a better understanding of the site and community. I suggest that students should be encouraged to attend community meetings and volunteer in the local events to gain better understanding of the local needs.“
Our intention is to keep pursuing a reflexive approach to this collaborative research-teaching-service model. Through URExSRN in collaboration with allied projects such as CAP LTER, we can create innovative models that not only advances our knowledge of resilience in urban systems, but also provides meaningful action pathways for society. Design can serve as that integrating process for society to match what cities are or will be (science) with visions of tomorrow (design).
La sociedad necesita una mejor integración entre lo que es o va ser nuestra ciudad (ciencia) con visiones en lo que nuestra ciudad debe ser (diseño). Integrar estos dos elementos no es fácil. Las desconexiones entre la ciencia y el diseño puede conducir a fallas catastróficas en la infraestructura; como lo hemos visto demasiadas veces este año con ejemplos recientes como el del Huracán Harvey en Houston. Un modo que en el que podemos acercarnos a esta meta de integración es a través de procesos de co-diseño con los que podemos aprender y diseñar juntos. Alinear investigadores, que necesitan visiones más matizadas de futuros urbanos, con estudiantes de diseño, participantes externos, y residentes proporciona un camino prometedor que crea procesos de diseño socialmente más impactantes. Esto creará, en última instancia, una infraestructura más flexible y con más capacidad para adaptarse.
Para la resiliencia urbana a eventos extremos, estos procesos de diseño tal vez pueden ayudarnos a desenterrar un conocimiento más completo de diversos participantes, y lo que es más importante, nos permiten conocer los factores críticos al diseñar juntos ciudades con incertidumbre. Esperamos que este proyecto piloto colaborativo de investigación-enseñanza-servicio de UREx-Design brinde retroalimentación significativa para informar futuros esfuerzos similares para las redes de UREx SRN, CAP LTER , y más allá. Los productos de diseño de este curso servirán como aportaciones importantes en los próximos talleres de escenarios participativos de UREx SRN y CAP LTER. Específicamente, los diseños que incluyen la reutilización adaptativa del espacio público, el diseño y la función de la infraestructura verde, las alternativas de transporte y las transformaciones de las formas urbanas ayudarán a los interesados a visualizar y priorizar las estrategias que desean incluir en sus escenarios. Además, los estudiantes de diseño serán invitados a participar en el taller real para esbozar las visiones que surgen de las discusiones de la mesa.
Dos estudiantes de doctorado que trabajan con la UREx, Melissa Davidson y Yuliya Dzyuban participaron en el curso de diseño. Su tarea final para el curso fue una reflexión sobre el proceso y qué podría mejorarse sobre el modelo de colaboración. Yuliya señaló, "A lo largo del semestre fue evidente que la interacción de los estudiantes de sustentabilidad con la clase ha ayudado a crear conciencia sobre la sustentabilidad, la resiliencia y lo que ésta significa para la comunidad. Me di cuenta de que las presentaciones e ideas que compartimos durante el semestre se reflejaron en los diseños finales de los estudiantes que evolucionaron y se hicieron más sensibles a las necesidades de la comunidad y a la ubicación única del proyecto ". Por otro lado, Melissa reflexionó sobre los desafíos de dichos cursos. "Para mí, el mayor desafío para este tipo de entorno colaborativo es el tiempo. Los diseñadores y académicos interdisciplinarios pasan el tiempo de manera diferente ... Esto no es necesariamente negativo; solo requiere un reconocimiento de que nuestra presencia en el curso se trata más de la calidad del tiempo que de la cantidad de tiempo ... Además de las limitaciones de tiempo, el estilo del curso es un desafío natural. La mayoría de los cursos de sustentabilidad de la escuela duran entre una y dos horas y media (como máximo) e involucran una discusión abundante. Realmente aprecié que tratamos de incorporar este estilo de diálogo al comienzo de muchas clases de los miércoles”.
Pensando en un camino pragmático para el modelo de colaboración UREx-Design, Melissa sugirió que "... podría valer la pena ofrecer cursos de 3 créditos para estudiantes que no son de diseño y que pueden jugar un papel más fuerte en grupos pequeños. En lugar de actuar como un consultor, estos estudiantes podrían ayudar con aspectos como el alcance del proyecto y el encuadre, la investigación, la narración de cuentos y en general proporcionar una perspectiva diferente sobre el proceso de diseño." Una segunda sugerencia se refería al desafío crítico de aprender enfoques para abordar la justicia social. Aunque los estudiantes comenzaron el semestre aprendiendo de una organización latina de justicia climática y leyendo literatura acerca de la justicia social, para algunos estudiantes fue la primera vez que enfrentaron el problema. Yuliya recomendó que, "los estudiantes necesitan mejorar la comprensión de los conceptos de justicia social y lo que significan en su trabajo. Al parecer los estudiantes que intentaron involucrarse con las comunidades a un nivel más personal, las visitaron varias veces, asistieron a festividades locales y cafeterías, y tuvieron una mejor comprensión del sitio y la comunidad. Sugiero que se anime a los estudiantes a asistir a las reuniones comunitarias y ser voluntarios en los eventos locales para comprender mejor las necesidades locales."
Nuestra intención es seguir aplicando un enfoque reflexivo a este modelo colaborativo de investigación-enseñanza-servicio. A través de URExSRN en colaboración con proyectos aliados como CAP LTER, podemos crear modelos innovadores que no solo mejoren nuestro conocimiento de la resiliencia en los sistemas urbanos, sino que también proporcionen vías de acción significativas para la sociedad. El diseño puede servir como ese proceso integrador para la sociedad para que coincida con lo que las ciudades son o serán (ciencia) con las visiones del mañana (diseño).
The UREx SRN Scenario team is conducting scenario planning workshops in Phoenix, Baltimore and Hermosillo this year. Phoenix is in a unique position given that it has already developed a suite of regional-scale scenarios. Building off of the Sustainable Future Scenarios project developed under the auspices of the CAP LTER (and in collaboration with that project), the Phoenix UREx scenario workshop will zoom in to the village level. Thus, the researcher-practitioner team decided to make South Mountain Village the focus of the scenario workshops. The choice seems timely as several research and planning initiatives are already underway in South Mountain Village, including Paul Coseo’s design course, the Nature Conservancy’s Nature’s Cooling Systems Project, Rio Salado 2.0, and the planned extension of the Light Rail into South Phoenix.
South Mountain Village stretches between two landmarks, the Salt River to the North and the South Mountain Preserve to the South. With a rich agricultural past, South Mountain is home to the largest proportional populations of Latinos and African Americans in the valley. Environmental and social challenges of South Mountain include air pollution, public health risks, brownfields, excessive heat, and food deserts that are the result of historical segregation (see Bolin et al. 2005). To better understand these issues and to identify the futures that stakeholders can envision for their community, the the UREx Phoenix scenario team organized a World Café event to reach out to a broader community of stakeholders that live, work, or in some way identify with the South Mountain Village.
The United States is currently at an infrastructural crossroads and the path taken at these crossroads will be determined by how cities, states, regions, and the federal government navigate key issues. The article also details failures in history and how most failures often resulted from an overconfidence in the ability to tightly control complex systems.
The 2017 hurricane season was a record-setting year for hurricanes. Hurricane Harvey dumped more rain on Houston than ever recorded in any US city. Hurricane Maria is regarded as the worst natural disaster on record for Puerto Rico and was the second in a line of powerful hurricanes to hit the island in a span of just 2 weeks. Hurricane Ophelia was the strongest eastern Atlantic hurricane on record. Are hurricanes getting stronger and more frequent? Could this be attributed to climate change?
UREx SRN researchers Jason Sauer and Marissa Matsler talk with Portland State University associate professor of urban studies and planning, Nathan McClintock, about green gentrification in the context of urban agriculture in Portland, Oregon.
In our first Spanish episode, we talk about one of the most important activities in the Urban Resilience to Extreme Events Sustainability Research Network (UREx-SRN).
Experts from the network talk about the concept and importance of scenario workshops and their experiences at these workshops across the network cities. Dr. Tischa Muñoz-Erickson shares her experience in the San Juan, Puerto Rico workshop and describes the utility of the workshop for the urban municipality and other actors involved. We also present some comments from participants of the Hermosillo scenario workshop and their perspectives for building a more resilient city.
Recently, several researchers from the UREx SRN attended the Program on Ecosystem Change and Society II (PECS) Conference in Oaxaca, Mexico where they detailed the importance of green infrastructure. UREx researchers mentioned are Nancy Grimm, Elizabeth Cook, Timon McPhearson, Hallie Eakin, David Iwaniec, and Marta Berbés-Blázquez. The PECS II blog highlights the social-ecological-technological systems (SETS) framework that the UREx uses and references Elizabeth Cook’s talk to illustrate the concept.
Have you ever considered that not all shade is created equally? According to Cook of the UREx SRN, both trees and tall buildings provide shade; however, the shade from buildings continually casting trees into shadows may reduce the amount of photosynthesis and carbon intake. This is one example of why UREx researchers have decided to follow a SETS framework.
The article comes at a time when weather disasters have been inundating our news feeds. At the forefront of most articles is mention of growing financial losses and outdated infrastructure.
In the article, Clark Miller, Thaddeus Miller, and Tischa Muñoz-Erickson explain the implications of cities not updating their knowledge systems – “the creative new sets of tools and practices for collecting, analyzing and applying data to solving problems.”
Urban resilience projects are all well and good, but how do we actually implement them? This episode focuses on the financial aspects of getting projects off the ground and different financing options for cities to consider. Joyce Coffee leads the discussion as our two guests, Shalini Vajjhala and Stacy Swann, bring their expertise from the world of finance to help shed some light.
Vajjhala is the founder and CEO of re:focus partners, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, and a former USEPA Special Representative leading the US-Brazil Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability.
Swann is the founder and CEO of Climate Finance Advisors, the Vice-Chairperson of the Board for the Montgomery County Green Bank, and a former senior advisor on climate finance to the US Department of the Treasury.
The UREx SRN has added Georgia State University’s Urban Studies Institute (USI) to its network, bringing the total number of partnering institutions to seventeen.
USI and UREx have similar missions and are looking forward to becoming partners in building resilient, sustainable, and equitable cities. David Iwaniec, a senior sustainability scientist with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and now assistant professor at the Urban Studies Institute, will be leading the initiative at GSU.
The S&CC grant seeks to harness smart technologies for the enhancement of communities – in terms of economic opportunity and growth, safety and security, health and wellness, and overall quality of life. After observing how these technologies contribute to disaster relief – the social media fundraisers and re-build events after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and María, for example – UREx recognized an opportunity.
What does social equity look like in a resilient city? In this episode, graduate students and postdocs reflect on the relationship between 'green' projects and processes of displacement and gentrification. In particular, we talk about our own roles in addressing environmental justice, as we embark in research on urban resilience to extreme weather events.
Graduate ASU UREx SRN students seek a holistic understanding of the ecosystem services – such as flood control, water treatment and cultural enrichment – that Valdivia, Chile's urban wetlands provide to residents.
Current research efforts include determining the flood mitigation potential of wetlands by measuring soil and surface water retention through Valdivia's wet and dry seasons, and evaluating how wetlands receive and process nutrients through collecting water samples and conducting nutrient pulse experiments. Future work will involve the final scenarios workshop, as well as distributing surveys to and soliciting "photovoice"-based participatory research from neighborhoods to discern how city residents experience and value their neighborhood wetlands.
Researchers are working with city practitioners, community organizations and unaffiliated citizens in Valdivia to ensure that their results will provide useful support for these groups in planning for their city's future. They hope to export the strategies developed in this work to other UREx SRN cities with similar environments.
The Future Cities Podcast is dedicated to exploring the ways that cities are making themselves more resilient to extreme weather events.
In this episode, our hosts – Stephen Elser, Jason Sauer, and Vivian Verduzco – introduce themselves and the work that they do as a part of the Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network. We also hear from other members of the network about topics that we'll discuss more in later episodes.
Thaddeus Miller, a UREx SRN Executive Team member and social scientist, is featured in a ProPublica article about climate, resilience, and the role of the government. The article includes underappreciated ideas from engineers, economists, and policy analysts.
There are many ideas on how to become more resilient, but everyone has a different definition of what that means; some follow the modern definition of the word – having the ability to bounce back – while others would prefer to broaden the definition to include greater adaptability and preparedness.
Miller appears to be one of the latter as he describes the importance of a cultural shift, collaboration among different cities, and safe-to-fail designs to remain safe and thriving in our ever-changing climate.
Charles Redman, co-director of the UREx SRN, was interviewed by Mark Brodie of KJZZ 91.5. They discussed why we need to take Harvey and Irma as opportunities to rebuild our cities differently after such disasters.
It is common for people to revert to old ways when rebuilding their lives, but that could result in a missed opportunity. Weather events like the ones we have seen in 2017 are likely to reoccur, and we should start planning both short-term and long-term. One idea is to invest in green infrastructure that can mimic or enhance nature and be safe-to-fail. That way when another disaster strikes, instead of resulting in catastrophe, it will only end up as an inconvenience.
Joyce Coffee – President of Climate Resilience Consulting and a UREx SRN Management Team member – wrote a captivating piece about the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in Triple Pundit (a global media platform that bases its philosophy on the three Ps of sustainability – people, planet, and profit). The article describes 10 valuable takeaways from Harvey.
Supported by the National Science Foundation under award number SES-1444755. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.