Edited by Kevin Archer and Kris Bezdecny
Chapter 8: Urbanization, climate change, and regional integration in the Mekong
This chapter addresses the nexus of regionalization, urbanization, and climate change. Historically a region that has until recently been predominantly rural and agricultural, the Mekong is going through a period of dramatic economic, social, and ecological transformation at a pace and scale of intensity rarely, if ever, witnessed before. As with other parts of the world, much of the urbanization in the region is occurring in hazardous space, with patterns of urbanization contributing to global climate change, while also creating new, more localized vulnerabilities and risks. The chapter approaches urbanization from the perspective of complex social-ecological systems that are shaped through highly politicized processes of contestation that create and distribute power, benefits, risks, and vulnerabilities across people and locations. In considering the drivers of urbanization, we focus on the significance of investments in regional economic integration that is now transforming networks of physical infrastructure, technology, and flows of investment and trade. Related to these patterns of capital and changing social relations are crucial shifts in values in what cities represent, and in creating urban people as labor and consumers, rather than citizens. This perspective raises fundamental challenges around governance; how power and knowledge come together in framing policy “problems,” setting agendas, shaping institutional processes, and determining outcomes that become all the more complex in the context of uncertainty and risk associated with climate change. Critically, this perspective allows us to reconsider issues of urban poverty and climate vulnerability. Rather than focusing on essentially negative freedoms of reduction in poverty and vulnerability, the chapter argues for the need to place issues of well-being and rights to the city center stage in shaping a future research agenda.
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