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Seeking the Urban Resilience Fix: Balancing Economic Growth, Climate Change, and Social Justice in Flagstaff, Arizona

Event Type
Department of Geography & GIS
wifi event
May 10, 2021   10:00 - 11:00 am  
Nina Roberts, PhD Student
This event is free and open to public
Department of Geography & GIS
Originating Calendar
Geography and Geographic Information Science

In this dissertation, I will explore the operation of one American city’s growth coalition as it responds to the reality of global climate change.  One of the latest urban reactions to the climate crisis in the last three years is the declaration of a “climate emergency” by cities throughout the United States and the international community.  The challenge to growth machines in these cities is to balance the imperative of capital accumulation with the demand for a “resilient” city that can withstand the potential devastation of the changing climate.  The latter half of this equation often involves pressures by climate activists, residents, nonprofit agencies, and/or sustainability advocates in local government to limit growth, perceived as a contributor to the climate problem.  Real estate capital must respond to both sides of this equation, although its remedies may exacerbate socioeconomic inequality. 


My study will interrogate this dilemma in Flagstaff, Arizona, the first city in that state to declare a climate emergency in the summer of 2020.  Following While, Jonas, and Gibbs (2004) and Harvey (2018), I conceptualize the existence of a “resilience fix” deployed by urban growth machines as a historically contingent tool and rhetorical device by which to balance the dual mandates of entrepreneurial development and climate action.


The proposed study employs a mixed methodology including open-ended interviews and discourse analysis, grounded within a theoretical framework intersecting growth-machine literature, contemporary critiques of neoliberal governance, and a conceptual foundation for understanding the precarious relationship between climate adaptation and climate justice. Using these analytical tools, I examine the existential predicament of the 21st-century American city, which must ensure its economic survival while simultaneously confronting the climate crisis.  The urban response to climate change must also, I argue, address concerns for inclusivity and social justice as requisites for the truly resilient city.

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