Governance through Resilience? Globalizing Sustainability as a Local Political Strategy in the 100 Resilient Cities Network

Authors: Robin Basalaev-Binder*, McGill University, David Wachsmuth*, McGill University
Topics: Urban Geography, Environment, Political Geography
Keywords: Urban nature, urban sustainability, urban governance, trans-local networks, resilience
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Washington 3, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

100 Resilient Cities is one of a growing list of trans-local sustainability governance networks. Among broadly similar initiatives such as C40, ICLEI, the Global Covenant of Mayors, and USDN, 100RC is arguably unique in its focus on developing new political leadership within municipal governments—a central plank of its program is the establishment of a “Chief Resiliency Officer”—and in its embrace of a private-sector-heavy version of sustainability captured by the buzzword “resilience”. In this paper we ask: what local environmental politics has this global environmental network provoked, consolidated, or challenged? On the basis of extensive key-informant interviews, including with the Chief Resilience Offices of nearly every North American participant city in 100RC, we make the following related claims. First, the “global network” dimensions of 100RC are considerably overstated, and the program has mainly served as a platform for local struggles over how the natural and social environments of the city should be connected in urban governance. Second, 100RC’s focus on municipal leadership has opened up unexpected space for a range of political claims on behalf of urban nature, including equity-oriented and anti-racist articulations of resilience which would otherwise be strange bedfellows with the program’s corporate partners and cosmopolitan aesthetics. The result is that 100 Resilient Cities has neither quite lived up to the hopes of its proponents or the fears of its detractors, but has emerged as a kind of strategic terrain upon which a varied set of political, environmental and social governance priorities have been enacted and contested.

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