Climate Havens from the Sun Belt to the Rust Belt: Resilience, Growth, and Exclusion in the 21st-Century American City

Authors: Nina Roberts*, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, United States
Keywords: Climate change, gentrification, climate gentrification, Rust Belt, cities, United States, growth machines, growth coalitions, race, racialized poor, marginalized populations
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 19
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The catastrophe of climate change is presenting a unique economic opportunity for metropolitan growth coalitions in the United States, where they are increasingly challenged to balance the imperative of capital accumulation with demand for a “resilient” city that can withstand the potential devastation of the changing climate. Capital must respond to both sides of this equation, although its remedies may exacerbate socioeconomic inequality. Following While, Jonas, and Gibbs (2004) and Harvey (2018), I propose the existence of a “resilience fix” deployed by urban growth machines as a historically contingent tool and rhetorical device by which to balance the dual mandates of entrepreneurial development and climate action. My ongoing research interrogates this fix in the Sun Belt, where dynamic processes of resilience redevelopment have often led to the expulsion of the racialized poor. More recently, cities in the Rust Belt are reportedly reinventing themselves as “climate havens” to appeal to the millions expected to migrate northward later in this century as climate change progresses. The Rust Belt, where race is often a prevailing obsession in the urban redevelopment discourse, serves as an optimal sector for interrogating the resilience fix while challenging its exclusionary tendencies. Employing a methodology of open-ended interviews and discourse analysis, I offer this study as a model for examining the existential dilemma of the 21st-century American city, which must balance its economic survival with the response to climate change. It must also, I argue, address concerns of inclusivity and social justice as requisites for the truly resilient city.

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