The ascent of anti-adaptation: de-politicization, resistance from within, and the perpetuation of urban vulnerability

Authors: DANIEL GALLAGHER*,
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Political Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: Adaptation, Climate Change, De-politicization, Planning, Transformation, Urban Politics
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Cleveland 1, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper, I address the paradox in which planning for climate change adaptation, contrary to its stated aim, often perpetuates the social vulnerabilities it purports to confront. Taking as a case study a much-vaunted multi-year planning process in Santiago, Chile, I draw on qualitative fieldwork and process tracing to expose several technologies of power through which state planners, transnational companies, academics, and industry regulators collaborate to stifle and incapacitate political claims for transformative adaptation from within the formal planning process. I expose the practices that these entities deployed over a four-year period to evacuate the political dimension from adaptation planning, including: diminishing the bounds of acceptable debate, adhering to a techno-scientific epistemological framing, disciplining dissenters, and enforcing a political cultural of consensus. Through these depoliticizing practices, the promise of effective adaptation action is dismantled, contorted, and given new life in the form of “anti-adaptation”: a mode of planning that claims to advance adaptation action, while in fact sustaining existing modes of capital accumulation, reproducing the structural roots of social vulnerability, and worsening the plight of the urban poor. I conclude by suggesting there is reason to believe that anti-adaptation is present within the mainstream of policy and planning for climate change adaptation on a wider scale. The findings set forth here call for renewed scholarship and action that exposes and challenges the power relations that render adaptation planning a threat to those it claims to benefit.

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