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The Contested Nature of Urban Resilience: Meaning and Models for Green Infrastructure and Climate Change Adaptation Planning

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Full Publication Date
June 30, 2017

What is urban resilience and how can we make cities resilient in the face of environmental and socioeconomic threats in a way that is sustainable and just? Despite the rapid growth of publications and policy initiatives on urban resilience, there is no consensus on the concept’s definition or operationalization. Few empirical studies critically examine the politics and tradeoffs inherent to the application of resilience in different sectors and cities. This dissertation contributes to both research and practice by addressing these gaps through six mixed-method studies of the concept of urban resilience and its empirical application in the context of urban green infrastructure planning and climate change adaptation. The first section helps to clarify the meaning of urban resilience by outlining a broad definition and framework for operationalizing urban resilience that addresses conceptual tensions identified through a bibliometric review of the academic literature. Building on this framework, in the second section of the dissertation I develop a Green Infrastructure Spatial Planning (GISP) model to help decision-makers identify tradeoffs, synergies, and priority areas where green infrastructure can be strategically placed to maximize resilience benefits. I apply this model to four diverse cities: Detroit, New York City, Los Angeles (United States), and Manila (Philippines). The third section focuses on urban climate resilience. I compare resilience definitions and characteristics from the academic literature and a survey of local government officials and find evidence of a science-policy divide. I then use those theorized characteristics to evaluate urban climate resilience in Manila as part of an in-depth case study of the complex global and local factors that shape urban infrastructure planning in a rapidly growing coastal megacity.

Research Areas
Urban Systems and Built Environment
Publication Type
Digital Object Identifier
Full Citation

Meerow, Sara. (2017) “The Contested Nature of Urban Resilience: Meaning and Models for Green Infrastructure and Climate Change Adaptation Planning.” Doctoral Dissertation, University of Michigan: Ann Arbor: 1-238.