Chapter 21: Urban autonomous zones and the mitigation of climate disasters
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North American cities by virtue of their relative population density face exceptional challenges in adapting to climate change emergencies. Even in normal times, low-income urban neighborhoods struggle with overcrowding, shortage of green space, deteriorating infrastructure and indifferent government attitudes toward social protection. A climate emergency like a heat wave, flood or hurricane can be particularly catastrophic to people living in conditions where subsistence and basic service delivery are already precarious. To address some of their many unmet needs, marginalized urban communities have a history of creating collective, 'open-source' spaces such as squats and guerrilla gardens that provide some capacity for social and environmental resilience outside the dominant market system. These can also help mitigate both short and long-term effects of climate emergencies. This article gives a personal account of two such situations where the author was involved - a guerrilla garden in inner-city Vancouver (Cottonwood Community Gardens) and the actions of a group of squatters allied with a community garden in New York's Lower East Side ('Loisaida') during the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.

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