Assembling Urban Resilience in Miami


Savannah Cox
PhD Student
City and Regional Planning

Tags: Summer Research Funding
Storm water pump station in Miami Beach.

How might various financial technologies—insurance premiums, credit ratings, and bonds—be (re)made to govern cities in an era of climate change? And how might these technologies, along with the physical interventions they have inspired, become sites of intense political, and hyper-local, debate about what life in the climate-changed city should look like? Over the month of June 2019, I traveled to Greater Miami in order to begin to answer these framing questions. I interviewed panicked capital planners who say that a growing part of their job is storytelling: treating investments in climate-resilient infrastructure as key plot devices to change the global (investment) narrative about Miami. I met with incensed middle-class residents of Miami Beach who dismiss the recent installation of resilient storm water pumps and pipes as “worthless crap” meant to appease bond rating agencies and increasingly climate-wary investors, and whose climate activism entails writing these agencies and investors and inform them of the resilience ruse. I observed local grassroots organizations using municipal budgets and debt instruments meant to finance resilience plans as key sites of and for climate justice: treating debt not simply as an object of discipline, punishment, or refusal but as a key political technology for addressing legacies of racialized harm in Miami and advancing more just, climate-changed urban futures. Over the course of the month, I observed how deeply embedded the question and problem of finance is in the everyday lives and practices of Miami residents and officials—especially as climate risks begin to mount and as the global investment class takes an increasingly close look at what these risks might mean for the economy and overall “value” of Miami. In Greater Miami, it may be the case that the problem of resilience is not simply about installing the right infrastructure and financing it appropriately. It is about disputes over the value(s) of resilience and who is best disposed ti account for it; it is about controlling what kinds of stories official investments in resilient infrastructure tell investors—and how long these stories will last.

2019 Summer Research funded by Global Metropolitan Studies
Skip to content