Monday 5
Towards a Socio-Ecological Urban Resilience
Anne Sistel
› 11:05 - 18:00 (6h55)
› Montpellier
Urban resilience thinking and planning ethics
Sonja Deppisch  1@  
1 : HafenCity University Hamburg  (HCU)  -  Website
Winterhuder Weg 31 D-22085 Hamburg -  Allemagne

Ethical questions on how to deal with future climate change impacts in planning are neglected so far. Dealing with situations characterized by uncertainty and change cannot be considered as a new situation in planning. But referred to climate change impacts, the new quality of uncertainty and complexity is increasingly pointed out due to the epistemological distance of climate change and its hybrid nature. This renders the already given challenges to spatial planning in dealing with uncertainty and potential nescience more explicit and might also evoke new challenges such as to (re-) define planning paradigms and normative backgrounds of how to deal with land as a collective resource (Beatley 1994, Donaghy 2007).

Within this debate on how to deal with change and complexity in urban regions, the – differently defined - concept of resilience appears increasingly as a reference framework, also in the planning discussion related to climate-change adaptation (Wardekker et al. 2009). This presentation discusses corresponding ethical challenges for spatial planning (Campbell & Marshall 1999) in a particular way. It addresses specific ethical challenges which can arise if social-ecological resilience thinking was used as leitmotif in spatial planning for dealing with change processes in urban regions.

As spatial planning is a deliberative act, social-ecological resilience is understood as the capacity of an urban region to absorb climatic stimuli and their effects and to reorganise in order to maintain, manage and deliberately advance essential social and ecological functional and structural properties whilst undergoing change. It is based on an emphasis on complexity and learning to live with change, adopting a perspective of social and ecological interdependencies and questioning paths already taken and taking into account potential transformations (Carpenter et al, 2005; Walker and Salt, 2006; Davoudi 2012).

The findings are based on theoretical and conceptual studies and informed by case studies of the urban regions of Stockholm (Sweden), Rostock (Germany), Riga (Latvia) and the San Francisco Bay Area (USA), using qualitative empirical research based on qualitative semi-structured interviews and document analysis. Also, results of a transdisciplinary research process performed together with stakeholder and planning practitioners in the urban region of Rostock support the findings.


Beatley, T., 1994. Ethical Land Use. Principles of Policy and Planning. Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press.

Campbell, H., Marshall, R., 1999. Ethical Frameworks and Planning Theory. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 3, pp. 464–478.

Carpenter S., Westley F, Turner M, 2005. Surrogates for Resilience of Social- Ecological Systems. Ecosystems, 8, pp. 941–944.

Davoudi S., 2012. Resilience, a bridging concept or a dead end? Planning Theory and Practice 13(2), pp. 299-307.

Donaghy, K., 2007. Climate Change and Planning: responding to the challenge. TPR, 78 (4), pp. i-ix.

Walker B., Salt D., 2006. Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World (Island Press, Washington).

Wardekker, J. A.; Jong, A.; Knoop, J. M. and Sluijs, J. P., 2010. Operationalising a resilience approach to adapting an urban delta to uncertain climate changes. Technological Forecasting & Social Change 77, pp. 987 – 998.


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