Resilient Cities for Human Flourishing: Governing the Asia-Pacific Urban Transition in the Anthropocene
Date : 02 Mar 2017 - 03 Mar 2017
Venue : Asia Research Institute
ARI Seminar Room, AS8 Level 4
10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260
Download Program and Abstracts as of Mar 1

This workshop is organised by the Asia Research Institute; supported by the Humanities and Social Sciences Seed Fund, National University of Singapore.

The rapidly changing urbanising societies of Asia and the Pacific have never been more vulnerable or exposed to environmental threats and disasters linked to anthropogenic transformations of nature and the increasingly severe effects of global climate change. Urban transformation in the region has been accompanied by heavy industrialisation and rural to urban migration flows that have generated additional environmental risks through the formation of extended urban settlements, many of which are located at or below sea level along coastlines or in river basins. The expanding ecological footprint of urban energy demands onto rural hinterlands is making cities the primary perpetrators of environmental harm through their emissions of greenhouse gases that substantially contribute to climate change, while at the same rendering urban populations disproportionately vulnerable to climate change-related weather events and rising sea levels. These intersections between the urban transition in the Asia-Pacific and the Anthropocenic moment of planetary environmental disruptions are raising policy questions about how to strengthen resilience in cities through the cultivation of civic cultures centered on social inclusion and a shared identity around environmental responsibility and socioecological justice.  

The purpose of this multidisciplinary workshop is to explore innovations in governance aimed at building urban resilience to various forms of environmental harm while protecting human flourishing through the creation of civic cultures centered on more sustainable forms of resource consumption. In framing resilience as a function of human flourishing we understand the capacity to flourish as being inexorably linked to the future viability of humans as an urban species. This necessitates a shift in thinking about what human flourishing means away from narrow economic indicators centered on consumptive patterns, and towards wider conceptions of flourishing and linked notions of human well-being that encompass our interdependencies on non-human species and wider city-environment relationships. In the 21st century, there is growing awareness that city performance indicators centered on liveability alone are no longer adequate or appropriate to build resilient urban societies or to reduce the socioeconomic inequities that render significant sections of urban societies less environmentally resilient. Assumptions of sustainability embedded in standard measurements of liveability are being eroded by growing signs of climate change (for example, through worsening urban heat island effects), by shortages in water and other essential resources, by escalating rural to urban migration, through flows of environmental refugees to urban centres and in the form of environmental ‘shocks’ on global supply chains.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the growing impacts of this imbalance in human-environment interactions are raising awareness of the need to better integrate different sectors across scales in the service of building more resilient urban futures that can promote human flourishing in ways that are aligned with sustainable ecological futures. This includes reconfiguring our aspirations for human flourishing by mobilising civic capacities for environmental stewardship in urban governance regimes that are not limited to electoral cycles and adopting a longitudinal and ongoing approach to the regeneration of the earth’s biosphere. It also includes changing the identities of the drivers of global change to promote more resilient civic identities around the development of sustainable ecologies ranging from the neighbourhood through to the city, nation-state, regional and even the global scale.

Questions that will guide the workshop proceedings speak to integrated themes across disciplinary and geographical boundaries and include:

  • What kinds of innovations in governance are emerging to prepare urban agglomerations for more environmentally resilient and socially inclusive futures?
  • To what extent can the mobilisation of civic cultures help to mitigate the growing threats and costs of environmental harm and promote the cultivation of more sustainable ecologies? How do social identities contribute to or inhibit inclusive environmental governance?
  • How can cultural diversity contribute to environmental stewardship of the urban commons? What is the potential for religious and cultural groups to foster socioecological resilience by providing different learning streams and by drawing upon diverse forms of socioecological memory?
  • What obstacles and bottlenecks are undermining the efficacy of urban populations in governing their natural ecologies and wider ecological terrains? To what extent can collaborative relationships at different scales of governance improve city-environment interactions to promote human flourishing and renewal of the earth’s life support systems?
  • How can we use the lens of urban environmental governance to think about global networks of urban resilience as part of a changing planetary ecology?


Dr Michelle Miller
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

Prof Mike Douglass
Asia Research Institute, and Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

Prof Jonathan Rigg
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore


Contact Person(s)
Sharon ONG