Sunday, November 25, 2012

A late climate

What is "climate urbanism"? I don't know. It's certainly happening all around, but it doesn't have a cohesive theory yet (if it even should). One can count many strains and traditions, as I'd like to work on, little by little, but I think a small clarification is in order:

The gurgling idea of climate urbanism is, from one angle, a critique — a form of historically-informed inquiry of revanchist bourgeois values and ideas about monopolizing (and monetizing) so-called environmental services.

In this first sense, climate urbanism can question the ways in which human-driven environmental change is represented, and I'm especially interested in those forms of representation (be they aesthetic, spatial, formal, or otherwise mediatic). Climate urbanism, for me, explores how these are used in favor of new forms of accumulation.

From another angle, climate urbanism is itself a practice of urban design, many times marching in lock-step with dominant players — a new form of redlining (or greenlining?) that is already taking place. But it could also be affiliated with spatial practices of creating environmental politics, deviating from formal norms.

From a third angle, even, climate urbanism is also what Louis Wirth said about plain, old urbanism: "a way of life" (pdf). Climate urbanism might be, in this Wirthian sense, an emerging mode (or many modes) of life that navigate the changing environment.

To some extent, everyone on the planet is inventing these new modes of life, creating new meanings and new strategies to cope in this changing weather pattern.

Surely, we have countless historical precedents in terms of these human-environment interactions, but the scope and scale of phenomena like global warming are arguably new, or were only imagined under scenarios such as global nuclear apocalypse during the Cold War.

I'm interested in the interplay of the three.

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