Over the past year, it has become even more apparent that climate change is not some future event, but rather, something we are currently experiencing. This has been demonstrated by yet another year of record temperatures and extreme weather events.
As UREx SRN researchers, Marta Berbés-Blázquez, David Iwaniec, Nancy Grimm, and Timon McPhearson, stated in their article on The Nature of Cities, the UREx SRN emerged out of the need for cities to become more resilient and adapt to our current climate. This blog entry reflects on the scenarios workshops, an important aspect of the project, which encourages out-of-the-box thinking while addressing immediate and future challenges.
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 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.
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.
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.
Future Cities is a new podcast created by UREx graduate students and postdocs. We hope to use this podcast as a way to communicate our own research with a broader audience, to share stories from across the network, and highlight some of the challenges that cities face when planning for future extreme events.
We want this podcast to be accessible to a large audience and we will aim to have one third of our podcasts in Spanish since one third of our network cities are Spanish speaking.
Episodes that we already have in production cover a range of topics including innovation in cities, scenario workshops, and heatwaves in Hermosillo. We are always looking for new episode ideas, so please contact us if you have an idea or want to produce your own episode.
In The Next Era of Market Finance for Resilience, Joyce Coffee — President of Climate Resilience Consulting and UREx SRN Management Team member — helps cities find creative ways of funding resilience to climate change. Check it out, along with the entire blog — Meeting of the Minds — dedicated to bringing urban sustainability and technology leaders together around issues of environment, economy, technology, governance, society, resources, infrastructure, and mobility.
As with the best exchanges of ideas in higher education, the bi-annual National Adaptation Forum of the adaptation minded left me with more questions than answers. Four days, 100 people and over 60 sessions held the potential to solve my adaptation conundrums and unveil fresh areas to investigate. Here are five of the most challenging and exciting ideas gleaned from the three-day forum:
Anne Siders – social scientist, lawyer building adaptive governance solutions for climate change and a Stanford University Ph.D. candidate – cited Federal Emergency Management Administration data showing that over the past 17 years, over 1,000 communities in 40 cities have experienced managed retreat. See here.
Now, in a general sense, MR is the deliberate setting back of the existing line of defense to obtain engineering and/or environmental advantages. More specifically, MR is the deliberate moving landward of the existing line of sea defense to obtain engineering or environmental advantages. It often refers to moving roads and utilities landward in the face of shore retreat.
So, the puzzler: Why are we not considering managed retreat for (to pick one of hundreds of communities that are candidates) Hollywood, Calif.?
Mental trauma and climate change
Joe Hostler, an Environmental Protection Specialist with the Yurok Tribe Environmental Program in Northwest California, revealed the multigenerational trauma among salmon fishers from the collapse of the Chinook and Coho salmon fisheries along the Klamath River. It promises misery for four fishing tribes along the river. Already a suicide crisis has emerged among young men bereft because they can’t provide for their families. This, of course, indicates that climate change, a contributor to the lack of salmon, can trigger mental health issues.
The puzzler: What preventive measures must our public health systems adopt to prevent further suicides and mental health-related challenges?
Public health and climate change
Related to the mental health challenge, climate change is impacting public health – whether it’s concern that tropical diseases such as malaria and dengue to, say, Europe or North America or the impact of vanishing salmon on the lives of fishing tribes. This piece offered by a representative of PDQ Public Health, explores how health-related adaptation messages can inspire action.
The puzzler: How can the adaptation field piggyback on the general acceptability of public health advancing adaptation principles?
Raj Rajan, Ph.D., Ecolab’s RD&E vice president and Global Sustainability technical leader, offered a way to monetize water risks. And Trucost, the London company that estimates the hidden costs of companies’ unsustainable use of natural resources, has worked with industry to derive it. See here.
The puzzler: If major financial market influencers such as Trucost (now a part of Standard & Poor’s) are embracing ways to put a dollar value on risks to water, how can we increase the uptake in measures beyond carbon reduction for, say, green bond evaluation?
Adaptation and Build
Designers have many ways to conceive of adaptation in buildings and three different ways were presented. They included architects Perkins+Will’s RELi, presented by Senior Associate and architect Doug Pierce; Arup engineering consultants’ Weathershift, presented by Associate Principal Cole Roberts, and the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED resilience credits.
The puzzler: With these assets available, is it time to move to city ordinances to make resilient design required as standard?
I don’t intend to wait another two years for NAF 2019 to find answers to these questions. Thankfully, through experts in the Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network (UREx SRN), I have opportunities to work with practitioners and academics to create and encourage solutions.
“I was inspired by the UREx SRN Scenario Workshop we had in San Juan this past February 3rd to ruminate about the future of energy and food in Puerto Rico. I chose to take a decidedly qualitative approach to do so and have been working on a narrative for a future scenario.
I’ve tried to paint a picture of a resilient and adaptive Puerto Rico – I tried not to rely on any science fiction to create this future, and tried to keep it as plausible as possible. Set in the year 2080, the narrative describes a series of hypothetical (but possible) events, a set of proactive governance actions and policies, and citizen responses to those events and interventions. The narrative is based on expert-opinion and extrapolation of trends in energy markets, technology, and policy development, as well as recent events in Puerto Rico. It’s not necessarily what I think will happen, on the other hand I don’t believe that is it too utopian or naïve. A great number of details were left out. To be sure, the essay reflects my ideas and does not represent any official statements or views on the issue.”
On February 3rd, we held our first UREx SRN Scenarios Workshop in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Joining the San Juan City Team and the Scenarios Working Group were about 45 practitioners, including municipal planners, infrastructure and emergency managers, community and NGO leaders, academics, and designers (Fig. 1). I had no idea what to expect. To be perfectly honest, I was nervous about how we were going to manage such a diverse group of stakeholders and still get substantive work in co-producing future scenarios. To my surprise, not only did participants stayed engaged all the way to the end of the event, but they had a lot of fun with it! I know that many of you are also wondering what to expect of the scenario workshops in your respective cities, so I thought I share some reflections and suggestions to consider when designing these futures with our practitioners. I have yet to see the details of the scenarios that were produced from the different working tables (other than from the one table that I was working with), therefore my overall reflections here are only based on the various moments I observed (‘aha!’ moments if you will) that indicated to me that the workshop had an effect on the thinking and relationships of the stakeholders.
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.