Collyn S. Chan

Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Should we stay or should we go? Managing justice and retreat in the resilient city

In recent years, the discussion of managed retreat as an adaptation response to climate change has provoked questions about how equity is addressed in the relocation of people. This thesis asserts that the language of “managed retreat” is inherently at odds with the language of justice. Managed retreat focuses on outcomes and strategies for the removal of assets from risk rather than developing processes of transformational change for the relocation of people. Managing retreat, a reconceptualization of managed retreat with the focus on a just and deeply democratic process, is proposed. Methodology for a relocation suitability index is also proposed, which identifies the potential areas communities may move to, in order to understand the opportunities, challenges, and constraints of relocation. The analysis reaffirms that a community’s collective ownership over place is central to the role of planning practice in conveying and creating a life-enhancing, equitable, and legitimate future that meets the needs of all people.

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