The Resilience of The Urban Community: Where Do We Go from Here?

In “The Rise of Resilience: Linking Resilience and Sustainability in City Planning,” author Timon McPhearson claims resilience “needs to be linked to sustainability so that the resilience we are trying to plan and design for actually helps us move towards desired future sustainable systems states, and not undesirable ones.” This is because “in the sustainability discourse, dense urban centers are the key to a sustainable future, and yet, the more dense our urban settlements, the more socially and economically vulnerable they may be to disturbance whether it is coastal flooding, disease outbreaks, political unrest, or economic disturbances.” While some urban communities have managed to embrace resilience, other communities still need to recognize “the power of the resilience approach to improve human wellbeing in urban contexts” (McPhearson). Eric Jaffe notes how the promising concept of bike-sharing in Chicago, San Francisco, and New York “has struggled to reach low-income riders despite considerable (and continuing) efforts by leading systems and these struggles persist, [and] until bike-share resolves these income disparities, its development from niche amenity into legitimate form of public transit can’t be complete.” Some of the reasons regarding “bike-share’s equity problem” are how “credit-card ownership, required by some systems, is a non-starter for many low-income city residents,” how there’s “a lack of bike infrastructure in poorer areas,” and how “poor people don’t view cycling as favorably as some might expect, which could explain why financial-aid and membership-subsidy programs haven’t eliminated the income gap” (Jaffe). However, once bike-share resolves its issues, it can “integrate itself quite effectively into city transit networks, and made those networks better as a result” (Jaffe). Unfortunately, as Tracey Ross and Danyelle Solomon note, urban communities like Flint, Michigan, “serve as a stark reminder that racism is in the air we breathe, flowing freely into our homes and down the stretch of blocks riddled with liquor stores but begging for a supermarket;” it exemplifies how “environmental racism is an issue of political power: The negative externalities of industrialization – pollution and hazardous waste – are placed where politicians expect little or no political backlash.” Based on the effects of the Flint water crisis of April 2014, it is the responsibility of “all levels of government [to] focus on investing in and modernizing infrastructure that will protect the building blocks of our society – specifically in areas where there is historic underinvestment” (Ross & Solomon). On a more positive note, Elisabeth Braw examines how the Copenhagen neighborhood of St. Kjeld seeks to become “the world’s first climate-change-adapted neighborhood” through “bucolic mini-parks [that] will turn into water basins [and] collect water from surrounding buildings’ roofs,” and through “‘cloudburst boulevards’ [that will turn] ordinary streets with raised sidewalks [into] canals [during floods and megastorms], channeling rainwater away from the squares to the harbor.” These strategically abundant factors of Denmark’s “ambitious plan to make the whole city climate change resilient” (Braw) illustrates how “urban resilience planning and management has to take seriously a combined social-ecological perspective so that outcomes contribute to equity” (McPhearson).

Image Description: A visualization of how
the Copenhagenneighborhood of St. Kjeld seeks to become
“the world’s first climate-change-adapted neighborhood.”

One Comment

  1. You touched on a very important and interesting point regarding infrastructure. Poorer neighborhoods do lack the efficient infrastructure however, what people do not realize is that if you invest in those poorer neighborhoods not only will you help the people in the general population of that area, but you will help the economy of that area too. Infrastructure has been shown to add an inflow of money into the economy and help residents who are going through tough times. We have seen this in the great depression by the building of bridges and schools. However, we should be seeing it now in cities all across America because that would also boost the general economy, tourism and the standard of living for most Americans

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