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 10: Urban flooding, vulnerability, and justice

Donald Houston


Urbanization, particularly high-density urban development, increases non-porous surface area, which can increase flood risk. Climate change is also increasing flood risk in many parts of the world. The socio-spatial distribution of vulnerability and resilience to flooding and flood risk is highly differentiated. Urban flooding therefore not only raises important justice issues of acute policy relevance. This chapter develops a framework that uses concepts of justice to understand the justice consequences of different policies to alleviate flood risk and mitigate the impacts of flooding. Specifically, the chapter examines the distributional justice concepts of “need,” “desert,” “equality,” and “market values” and the procedural justice concepts of “knowledge,” “choice,” and “power.” These concepts are considered in relation to: (1) decision-making criteria in the provision of flood defences; (2) the changing availability of flood insurance; and (3) the operation of urban housing markets and systems. Empirical evidence is drawn from: (a) documentary sources; (b) qualitative interviews with public policy-makers, private insurers, and emergency service providers; and (c) focus groups with flood victims in contrasting urban settings in the United Kingdom.

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