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Thursday, April 5 • 9:10am - 10:35am
TH9.10.05 The Spatial Politics of Urban Flood Resilience

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Despite centuries of planning and infrastructure intervention, losses from catastrophic flooding continue to grow in cities around the world. In the words of hazards geographer Gilbert White, people appear to continue “knowing better and losing even more.” Notwithstanding claims that Hurricane Harvey was an “equal opportunity disaster,” other recent urban flooding disasters have demonstrated the extent to which both the flood impacts and responses are uneven and deeply shaped by the spatial politics of race and class.


Conventional tools of flood mitigation have also been criticized for their uneven distribution of costs and benefits which can deepen existing socioeconomic inequities. Levees create clear inside/out lines, creating the dangers of both marginalization of those outside protection and facilitation of risk-blind development patterns for those inside. Subsidized flood insurance incentivizes building in risky territory and disproportionately benefits property owners. Networked infrastructure such as utility and drainage systems can have critical and cascading failures. Even flood mitigation measures in building codes may have negative consequences on equity, increasing the cost of housing and disproportionately benefiting residents of newer construction.


Many of the prominent new strategies for urban flood risk mitigation labeled as “green/blue infrastructure" or "resilient urbanism” propose to revise and expand upon these traditional tools. This colloquy examines implications of resilience for spatial politics and the distribution of risks and benefits with urban flood risk. Are green/blue infrastructures creating "premium ecological enclaves” and “green gentrification”? How can their biophysical innovations be drivers of greater spatial justice in cities? Participants will discuss projects and processes from cities across the globe to illuminate the opportunities and challenges in addressing present flood hazards and future climate change adaptations. 


Moderator: Zachary Lamb, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 


Spatial Politics of Flood Insurance Mapping - Community Collaboration or Contestation? (New York City and Greater Boston) 
Michael Wilson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


The Design-Politics of Urban Flooding from Levee-Enabled Growth to Climate-Adaptive Resilience (New Orleans and Dhaka) 
Zachary Lamb, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


The Design-Politics of Coastal Sustainability and Planning for Community Resilience (Louisiana)
Traci Birch, Louisiana State University


The Spatial Politics of Coastal Green Infrastructure - Integrating Science and Practice (USA) 
Billy Fleming, University of Pennsylvania


Thursday April 5, 2018 9:10am - 10:35am
Maple East (Mezzanine Floor)