Ashley Dawson defines "extreme cities" as urban areas where the large disparities created by capitalism (and, in particular, neoliberalism — though I haven't yet gotten to a precise demarcation of how she's using that term) stand to exacerbate the crises created by climate change.

Currently reading:

Waterfront property (like that prioritized by the Bloomberg administration's PlaNYC program) functions as a "capital sink," a way to invest capital when other financial opportunities are in decline. Cities prioritize luxury development at the expense of more egalitarian climate mitigation. Ultimately, extreme weather will tear down the development, but the investors will have cashed out. Meanwhile, the city suffers.

Dawson suggests the phrase "accumulation by adaptation" (coined by analogy to David Harvey's "accumulation by dispossession") to describe land dispossession achieved through grand civic projects proposed as engineering and infrastructure fixes to climate change. Her example is Great Garuda, a seawall that will likely create more pollution without addressing the (literally) underlying problems causing Jakarta to sink and flood.

When branches of the government change policy, it sometimes functions as the tail wagging the dog, driving the evolution of federal policy. Dawson notes that, "In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, [the US Army Corp of Engineers] published a $19.5 million study entitled North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study Report that shifted the organization's philosophy from 'flood control' to 'coastal risk management.'" [p. 93]

"[C]limate science measures climate change on the scale of the planet as a whole, rather than on the urban scale, where the impact of warming is demonstrably far more extreme. In fact, scientists statistically adjust data collected from urban weather stations when they seek to measure global warming variations. As a result, the extreme forms of warming occurring in cities — the places where the majority of humanity now lives — are edited out of scientific assessments of climate change." p. 130

My major gripe about Extreme Cities is that it focuses on Dawson's hometown, NYC, in agonizing detail, and gives much more cursory examinations of problems in other delta cities (and no attention at all to non-deltaic cities).


Building on the assessment of the Paris Accord negotiations offered by South Africa's delegate, Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Disenko ("It's just like apartheid. We find ourselves in a position where in essence we are disenfranchised"), Dawson outlines "climate apartheid" as:

• a hardening of borders against climate refugees
• social precariousness tensing toward exploitation
• analogous to (and overlapping with) racial capitalism.

"Contemporary laws are singularly i'll-suited to deal with the current and impending refugee crises. Despite references by global leaders to climate-induced migration, no international convention currently recognizes the needs and rights of climate refugees. They are invisible in juridical terms, a condition that effectively nullifies their pleas for refuge." p. 195

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