Lecture by Earl Harper | Gentrify or Die: The False Choice Facing (some) North-Western European Cities

Date: Tuesday 7 May, 12:30-13:30 | Location: Leeuwenborch C83

Earl is currently in the final year of his doctoral study at the University of Bristol (UK). He obtained a BSc in Environmental Science before switching to social science for his MSc in Environmental Governance, both at the University of Manchester (UK). Earl has a forthcoming paper in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research based on his thesis and is Editing a Routledge Environmental Humanities Series book on ‘Apocalyptic Imaginaries in the Anthropocene’. Earl will be visiting WUR with the Sociology of Development & Change Group until July 2019.

The presentation – based on my current doctoral research at The University of Bristol – will explore how, in recent years, gentrification has found a new driving force: climate change. Using examples from European cities, and current research on ecological gentrification, the presentation demonstrates how in London, Manchester and Amsterdam, climate change has become part of the justification regime for gentrification projects. These projects, advertised as ‘eco-housing’, ’sustainable urban centres’ or ‘low-carbon living’ have been welcomed to the urbanscape by city-planners, especially in global cities like London, Amsterdam, New York and Seattle as examples of how the city can and should be in the future. It is the argument of this presentation, though, that beneath the sustainable exterior, the same socio-economic and socio-environmental inequalities present in traditional modes of gentrification are reproduced. The consequences of narratives of apocalyptic climate change being used to justify gentrification are two-fold: (1) as levels of affluence in a geographic area increase, so does consumption and (2) as the projects become more ubiquitous globally, an immunological fantasy is established where residents are sold a feeling of immunisation against the climate apocalypse. Finally, the paper concludes with a call for study to explore whether, similarly to the Urbanisation of Nature, cities are also a particular moment in the urbanisation of the apocalypse.

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