Climate Change and the City Region: Seattle in Metropolitan Context
Yonn Dierwechter, Professor, School of Urban Studies, University of Washington
The origins of urban sustainability as a global concern stretch back to the early 1970s, but the rise of cities in global climate action has accelerated over just the past 15-20 years. Urban scholars and practitioners now think of large cities like London, Cape Town, Barcelona, Milan, and Seattle as “international actors” engaged in novel forms of “greenovation.” We are still in the early stages of understanding what this means—and how important it will prove to be in the coming years. Synthesizing research claims developed over several recent books focused on the broad theme of metropolitan areas, planning, and green development, Yonn Dierwechter will discuss select efforts in Seattle (and the wider region) to confront the terrifying reality of global climate change. He will consider both tantalizing progress and tangible problems in Seattle’s climate initiatives so far, adapting a framework suggested originally by the Urban Climate Change Research Network. An “Elite Emerald” shaped economically by a new cognitariat, Seattle is nonetheless deeply concerned with widening inequality, social and spatial exclusion, and racial injustice. A tech-town shaped by billionaires, Seattle is also a progressive polity rocked by activists—a tense reality, he argues, that suggests we think of urban climate action in US city-regions as the “intercurrence” of multiple political orders, including those that rightly seek to regionalize the urban climate project beyond primate cities.
Yonn Dierwechter is Professor of Geography and Planning in the School of Urban Studies at the University of Washington, Tacoma. He holds a PhD in Geography and Environment from the London School of Economics and a master’s degree in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University. His most recent books are Urban Sustainability through Smart Growth (2017), Smart Transitions in City Regionalism (2018), The Urbanization of Green Internationalism (2019), and Climate Change and the Future of Seattle (2021). His current research focuses on “keeping blue collars in green cities,” especially as this involves questions of manufacturing.