Handbook of Cities and the Environment
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Handbook of Cities and the Environment

Edited by Kevin Archer and Kris Bezdecny

With an ever-growing majority of the world's human population living in city spaces, the relationship between cities and nature will be one of the key environmental issues of the 21st Century. This book brings together a diverse set of authors to explore the various aspects of this relationship both theoretically and empirically. Rather than considering cities as wholly separate from nature, a running theme throughout the book is that cities, and city dwellers, should be characterized as intrinsic in the creation of specifically urban-generated ‘socio-natures’.
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Chapter 4: Urban resilience, the local and the politics of the Anthropocene: reflections on the future of the urban environment

Lazaros Karaliotas and Giovanni Bettini

Abstract

The role of the “urban” in the epochal changes that can be foreseen on the horizon, is a prominent theme in the plethora of academic and policy interventions concerned with the Anthropocene. Here, discussions over the vulnerabilities of cities to the impacts of the Anthropocene, and on policy arrangements capable of enhancing the resilience of urban centers hold a central position. In parallel, a series of more politicized interventions and movements posit the city as the terrain for environmental discourses and politics, arguing that urban contexts will be the stage for emancipatory environmental politics. The urban – and not the rural, as in other phases of environmentalism – is thus presented as the privileged terrain for the sprouting of a new set of local identities, struggles, and demands. Such discourses portray the local and localism (within urban contexts) as the cradle of resilience and the condition for envisioning more socio-ecologically sustainable futures. In this contribution we explore the role of urban localism and local resilience and trace the limits of localized responses to the Anthropocene. For sure, the strains the Anthropocene puts on cities symptomatizes the need to rethink socio-ecological and economic relations. Cities will increasingly become the terrain of struggle as well as experimentation. At the same time, the return to localism can hardly provide a conclusive answer to the question posed by the Anthropocene. This is particularly so within a context of planetary urbanization where the borders between the rural and the urban, the local and the global, the inside and the outside are constantly blurred and continuously redrawn. Here borders emerge as processes of contestation, partition, and connection. These evolutions, we argue, imply a dislocation of the local that poses serious challenges to localist agendas and politics – calling for a different understanding of the political identities that are constructed and the struggles that unfold in and through the urban environment.

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