Urban Resilience in the Era of Climate Change

Aired 10/29/2015

In an era rocked by climate change and other large-scale disruptions, our cities must be resilient to survive and thrive. But what does that mean, exactly? What characteristics do resilient cities share, and what can be done to cultivate them? How does resilience differ from sustainability, and where do the concepts overlap? Is resilience determined by a city’s “hardware”—its infrastructure and built environment—or its “software,” its political will and social capital?

In this webinar, we explored these pressing questions through the lenses of urban sustainability, resilience thinking, and the practical, day-to-day management of cities.

Urban Resilience in the Era of Climate Change from Security & Sustainability Forum. To view the Powerpoint slides, please click on Urban Resilience in an Era of Climate Change.

Panelists included Mitchell Silver, Commissioner of the New York City Parks Department; Jason Vogel of Abt Associates, who has just completed a Kresge Foundation-funded study of urban climate adaptation efforts; and Ann Kinzig, a leading resilience thinker from Arizona State University. The webinar will be moderated by longtime sustainability leader Kaid Benfield.


Kaid Benfield is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on how to make cities, towns, and neighborhoods work better for both people and the environment. Kaid serves as senior counsel for environmental strategies at PlaceMakers LLC, a city and town planning consultancy working across the United States and Canada.

Based in Washington, DC, Kaid is also a senior adviser to the Natural Resources Defense Council, where he served as a program director for over 20 years. And he teaches law, policy, and best practices for sustainable communities at the George Washington University School of Law. Kaid’s latest book is People Habitat: 25 Ways to Think About Greener, Healthier Cities, distributed by Island Press.

A longtime leader of the smart growth movement, Kaid co-founded LEED for Neighborhood Development, a national process for defining and certifying smart, green land development under the auspices of the US Green Building Council. Kaid is also a founder and board member of Smart Growth America, a nationwide coalition working on revitalizing cities, building better neighborhoods, and stopping the spread of suburban sprawl.

Dr. Ann Kinzig is Chief Research Strategist and Director of Research Development for the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability; Senior Sustainability Scientist, Juile Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability; and Professor, School of Life Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She leads the Sustainability Scientists working groups and the leadership training program for the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. Kinzig studies ecosystem services, conservation-development interactions, and the resilience of natural-resource systems. Dr. Kinzig studies ecosystem services, conservation-development interactions, and the resilience of natural-resource systems. She is currently involved in three major research projects: (1) examining the trade-offs between conservation and development goals in developing nations; (2) studying the resilience of pre-historic landscapes in the American Southwest; and (3) assessing ecosystem services, their valuation, and mechanisms for ensuring their continued delivery. Dr. Kinzig teaches courses in undergraduate research training, biodiversity and ecosystem services, urban ecology, and current environmental issues.

Mitchell J. Silver became Commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation in May 2014. Commissioner Silver is also the immediate past president of the American Planning Association (APA). He is an award-winning planner with almost 30 years of experience and he is internationally recognized for his leadership in the planning profession and his contributions to contemporary planning issues. He specializes in comprehensive planning, place making and implementation strategies. As Parks Commissioner, Mitchell Silver oversees management, planning and operations of nearly 30,000 acres of parkland, which includes parks, playgrounds, beaches, marinas, recreation centers, wilderness areas and other assets.

Dr. Jason Vogel, Managing Analyst with Abt Environmental Research, has worked extensively on climate change adaptation issues, and has experience in policy analysis, climate change impact and adaptation assessments, project and program evaluation, decision analysis, vulnerability and risk assessment, climate services, climate financing, translating climate science for decision-making audiences, qualitative and quantitative methods of information elicitation, and more. He has conducted science-based analyses, translated climate change science, evaluated and conducted vulnerability assessments, and provided strategy and policy support for clients such as the United States Agency for International Development, the European Investment Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Kresge Foundation, DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Water Utility Climate Alliance, and the County of Boulder, Colorado. Dr. Vogel was trained as an atmospheric scientist and chemist before turning his attention to public policy. In addition to having a working knowledge of the science of climate change, Dr. Vogel was trained in qualitative and quantitative methods for policy analysis, including the policy sciences heuristics for analyzing the policy process, social process, and policy problems; Q methodology; cluster analysis; statistics; and more.

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