Human Security and Local Governance: Negotiating Environmental Risk Management under Rapid Urbanisation in the Yucatan (Mexican Caribbean)

Principal Investigators Redclift Michael; Pelling, Mark
Funding Source Economic & Social Research Council – ESRC, 2007/10

Abstract:The majority of the world’s population and physical assets are urban based, yet little is known of the ways in which competing visions and manifestations of urbanisation effect the social distribution of environmental risk associated with climate change, and the opportunities for new policies to improve human security in coastal zones. Globally, climate perturbations exacerbated by global warming carry important implications for human security, especially in coastal locations. Among the most important of these perturbations is the increased severity of hurricane-force storms. This research will investigate social and political capacity, and action taken to adapt to the risks and impacts of hurricanes, in an area that is increasingly at the front lines of global climate change: the Mexican Caribbean coast south of Cancun. It will compare the impact of changes in governance regimes, under rapid urbanisation, on local adaptive capacity and the actions undertaken by state, non-state and individual actors. It will focus on the development of social capital and the uses to which this is put under pressure from risk and impacts of extreme climatic events.

The research will build a theoretical framework and an empirical evidence base to explore the interaction of rapid urbanisation, human migration and changes to local governance regimes on the geographical and social distributions of vulnerability, adaptive capacity and risk in this highly hazardous coastal region. The research is located on a 200km coastal frontier and offers a unique opportunity to examine and learn from the interaction of two interdependent models of urban risk management – ecological modernisation and endogenous livelihoods. The participatory methodology and integration of policy makers in the research design will facilitate local reflection and international policy dialogue. The project will open a research frontier onto the linkages between urban processes, the management of climatic extremes and human security.