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Can we plan for urban climate justice without addressing racism?

Authors: Deidre Zoll*, University of Texas At Austin
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Ethnicity and Race, United States
Keywords: adaptation planning, racial projects, environmental racism
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As an increasing number of U.S. cities pursue climate adaptation plans and projects scholars and activists have raised concerns that adaptation interventions may continue patterns of disparate risk or create new forms of environmental injustice especially for low-income communities of color (Anguelovski et al., 2016; English et al., 2013; Shi et al., 2016). This study contributes to this body of research by theorizing climate adaptation plans as racial projects (Omi & Winant, 2014) and uses content analysis and plan evaluation to document how 25 U.S. cities address racial and income inequality in their climate adaptation plans. I contrast plan attention to social stratification with measures of current income and racial inequality and historic redlining processes to understand how planners content with uneven socio-economic conditions in the face of climate change. Initial results indicate that a majority of plans acknowledge some form of unequal climate vulnerability but few plans address specific economic or racial inequities and fewer still attempt to remediate these inequalities in their proposed adaptation actions. These findings contribute to our understanding of how new urban planning responses to climate change can signal a continuation of racialized planning practices, whether intentional or not (Hardy, Milligan, & Heynen, 2017), while conversely offering examples of cities with explicit anti-racism rhetoric.

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