Is urban resilience sustainable ?

This work addresses the issue of the relation between urban resilience and sustainability. Many authors have recalled how both concepts relate one to each other. A recent publication in Nature proposes a new framework, showing how undesired developments, though resilient, can be transformed into desired developments reaching so a higher level of sustainability (1). The theory backing such ideas may look very conceptual but it is worth to remember that sustainability reveals other implications than our commitment towards coming generations not to compromise their future needs. It refers also to the compliance of a certified process with a defined scheme, possibly audited by an approved company. The certification granting the sustainable status shows that sustainability is essentially objective, with criteria to be reached which can hardly be reconsidered. When sustainability aims for efficiency, resilience aims for redundancy and never excludes the possibility of challenging fundamentals.

Should we say that sustainability is a necessary but not sufficient condition for an urban space to be resilient ? Or should we say that urban resilience is a state of mind that needs to be encompassed within sustainability?¬† Both concepts share the same objective for urban citizens: their well-living and well-being, rendering the opposition between definitions questionable. And moving from a resilience perspective to a more efficient and normative way could be welcome by urban planners. As stated by D. Dagenais (2), though water rain infrastructure development is positively involved in the climate change adaptation process, its contribution to urban sustainability and resilience could be questioned. Collecting rainwater from roofs looks sustainable. But to which extent can we say that it will help to achieve a better state of balance in case of dryness periods ? Maybe at a local level, providing that water usage is overall correctly managed. But at a city level, are we certain that collecting /distributing roof water is consistent with the water network in place? All cities are not Manhattan…

The way both concepts are balanced has inspired the following work, with water towers and a water fountain questioning respectively the levels of resilience and sustainability.

Yky, yky@resi-city.com, February 2018

(1) https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-019-0250-1

(2) La ville résiliente, PUM, 2017, p. 108

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