META: Water seems to be one important medium through which NOLA envisions the “impacts” of the Anthropocene—scarcity, abundance, temporalities and spatial distributions, management of, and hazards that emerge in its context. Less is said about the causal or attributional aspects of the Anthropocene. How might water function as an entry point into the assemblages of local anthropocenics?
I found the NOLA Hazard Mitigation Plan for 2018, which frames the impacts of the Anthropocene as an intersection of weather extremes amid climate change and evolving vulnerabilities of its people. Four of seven items in the executive summary note water as central to local interventions: flood awareness, flood repair, flood mitigation, flood infrastructure. Too much water or water in the wrong places and the aftereffect of water on infrastructure and lives. One expression, then, is preparedness.
MACRO: Mitigation is an interesting analytic for the Anthropocene. In the US mitigation plans are shaped by the 1988 Stafford Act (which amended the 1974 Disaster Relief Act). Constraints on communities come through rules, regulations, policies, (dis)incentives, and surveillance by state and federal authorities. Much of this is bound by economic and administrative discourses.
Goals are set in this document—broken out by timelines, activities, priorities, and capabilities. Another expression is classification of anthropocenics by subfields and accounting metrics. How do we measure progress and what is deferred to the future, 5-10 years out from today, a goal that has no tangible accountability but is named and acknowledged. What are the practices of naming, responsibility, and making (in)visible in the Anthropocene?
BIO: One new initiative, Ready for Rain, in particular is of interest to me as it highlights the more neoliberal vision for how the public should self-regulate risk and mitigate harm. I hear this as an extension of a government agency program to make the nation Weather Ready. Other bullets highlight “green” buildings, energies, and infrastructures. These could be examples of how the city envisions the Anthropocene feedback loop of humans changing/planning for climate alterations, which is a fairly typical lens.
Some questions: What does the water do? What does the water know? If we trace water in all its instantiations (e.g. historical water, flow of water, chemistry of water, application of water, temperature of water), what do we learn about the future imaginaries of what NOLA will / could / ought to become?
Resilience is a term that is widely embraced by many in city management and planning. It holds the positive gloss not just of recovery but bouncing back better. To my ears, it has become one of many anthems of the Anthropocene, a kind of restrained tempo thrumming along through communities that will adapt to climate change (or seasonal-to-subseasonal climate variability post Trump). They will mitigate, innovate, transform, strategize in order to endure unanticipated shocks, both chronic and acute.
NOLA is one of 100 Resilient Cities named by the Rockefeller Foundation sometime in 2013. Like others selected across the globe, the city of New Orleans would benefit from the resources of a Chief Resilience Officer (CRO), an expert in resilience to be hired to work within city governance to develop a strategic plan; NOLA's was published in 2015. Selection of the cities for the "100 Resilient Cities" initiative was difficult, a competitive bid for resources based primarily on a city's recent experience with disaster, usually connected to a weather or climate extreme (e.g. hurricane, flood, etc). Resources were provided via the hierarchy of the CRO, sometimes to hire staff, develop training for the community, and create working groups and to write the stratetic plan. As one former directer of NOLA RC said of this opportunity provided by Katrina, the disaster that qualified NOLA for Rockefeller monies, it demonstrates the need for an the age of resilience. In what ways is resilience measured, accounted for, adjudicated and managed through or in spite of this strategic document?
The language of resilience includes many terms that I think of as a collective imaginary of utopian preparedness, a vision for a nation that is--in the parlance of the weather prediction community in which I work--weather ready. Through the filter of resilience, then, vulnerability (another problematic term) is eradicated through individual action, community engineering, and adherance to strategic policies like 100RC. Yet how does this image of NOLA, one of "mindful citizenry" engaged in "partnerships" around the city (terms used in their summary video), match with the realities of living in NOLA, today and in the everyday future?
Resilience is also a term widely critiqued in STS and the broader social science and humanistic disciplines. For good reason. Common questions in this literature: What counts as resilience? Who decides? At what costs? Resilience against what? What does resilience elide? How has the discourse of resilience reframed individual and community accountability? What is the political economy of resilience? I'm interested in the discourses of preparedness and planning, and "the eventness" of disaster, as Scott has highlighted many times. But my concern is not just to critique and tear down concepts like resilence (or vulnerability). I worry that we then evicerate common lexicons of hope and imaginaries of the future that do some good. How are we as field campus participants and those who re-envision or reveal the quotidian reflexive? How do we triage the Anthropocene amid our own state of compromise--as scholars, participants in Capitalism, in post colonialism, humans? What are our ethical commitments? How do we make good?