The urban resilience fallacy: Gaps between theory and practice

Lorenzo Chelleri
Gran Sasso Science Institute, Italy

The concept of urban resilience incorporates a very diverse set of adaptation and risk reduction practices under its umbrella. For example, dam construction, tree planting, slum regeneration, and smart city planning have all been labelled as a way of building more resilient cities. The increasing interest in building resilient cities has also given rise to a number of critical essays (e.g., Albers and Deppisch, 2012; Vale, 2014; MacKinnon and Derikson, 2012; Weichselgartner, J. & I. Kelman, 2015). Just as the normative and holistic messages of sustainability have suffered clashes with, for example, the inertia of business-as-usual practices, the lack of proper system-wide indicators, the un-scalability of proposed innovations, etc., so too has resilience been criticized as a conceptual panacea for urban challenges. I explore here the nature of the challenges facing resilience, which I relate to three main gaps between theory and practice. Building upon the literature (e.g., Lampis, 2015), I discuss these gaps and question whether or not resilience is an appropriate concept for implementation in urban systems. Continue reading

A role for novel ecosystems in the Anthropocene?

Marcus Collier
University College Dublin, Ireland

We have just had confirmation that we are living in a new geological era, the Anthropocene. However, it has long been widely recognised that all global ecosystems are under some level of anthropogenic influence, having suffered severe, irreversible damage both ecologically and socially. Many are highly unlikely to recover to their pre-influence status or, if they do recover, they will not be exactly as they were prior to human intervention. In recent years some ecologists have been referring to these as novel ecosystems. Continue reading

A social-ecological systems approach to dengue-chikungunya-zika in urban coastal Ecuador

Anna M. Stewart-Ibarra
SUNY Upstate Medical University, USA

Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) are facing an unprecedented crisis of co-occurring epidemics of dengue fever, chikungunya and zika fever. These febrile viral diseases are transmitted by the urbanized and anthropophilic Aedes aegypti mosquito, which thrives in Latin America, where over 80% of the population live in urban areas (Figure 1). In the absence of effective therapeutics and vaccines, the public health sector is in urgent need of novel surveillance tools, vector control and management strategies to respond to this public health emergency. Continue reading

Transdisciplinary research in urban Africa: A coat of many blended colors

Buyana Kareem
Uganda Management Institute, Uganda

 If the minds of different actors are gathered in a conducive space and engaged in knowledge exchange beyond the limits of their fields, breakthroughs to grand societal challenges are likely.

Transdisciplinary research is a process that seeks to foster learning across disciplines by integrating knowledge from multiple fields through the involvement of stakeholders from different sectors [i]. It shapes urban development research through a shift from collective studies –such as traditional participatory approaches that extract knowledge from urban policy makers and residents using a pre-determined framework –to collaboration in solving the greatest challenges of our time, such as decoupling economic prosperity from dependency on the environment. Using this definition, transdisciplinary research in the urban context can be analogized as a coat of many colors –knitted together by a network of peers, comprised of academics and non-academics working together as co-bearers and co-end users of knowledge. Continue reading

Planning for climate justice in American cities

Chingwen Cheng
Arizona State University, USA

In recent years, climate justice has been intensively discussed in a global context (e.g., United Nations Climate Change Conferences) and in terms of the extent to which the least carbon polluting countries (i.e., undeveloped countries and island nations) have suffered most from climate change impacts. To understand climate justice at national and local scale in American cities, this article draws knowledge from well-established environmental justice and hazard research and identifies gaps for local-based climate justice assessment in the United States by utilizing a case study from the Huron River Watershed near Detroit, Michigan. Continue reading

Non-communicable diseases in urban India: Challenges for public health

Mareike Kroll & Frauke Kraas
University of Cologne, Germany

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, pose an increasing public health challenge in urban India, especially due to changes in lifestyles, behaviours and the physical and social environments in cities. NCDs are likely to increase intra-urban health disparities and have a negative impact on poverty alleviation. The Indian government has begun to address this challenge; however, building awareness of NCDs in the general public, improving the response of the health system, and the need for a solid database for evaluating progress remain important challenges. Continue reading