The Food-Energy-Water Nexus and Urban Complexity

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Patricia ROMERO-LANKAO, Climate Science and Applications Program, USA
Debra DAVIDSON, Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
Timon MCPHEARSON, New School New York, USA
The Food-Water-Energy Nexus is an emerging paradigm that has received growing enthusiasm in the environmental science community, based on high expectations for improved integration of interdependent drivers associated with social and natural systems. As with all emerging scientific paradigms, it is important to consider carefully both the associated promises and the challenges. In this presentation, we discuss this paradigm and characterize the sources of optimism among its supporters. Then we go on to discuss three fundamental challenges that are sociological in origin: the feasibility of science-policy integration, cross-scale inequalities, and path-dependencies in infrastructure and socio-institutional practices. These challenges are illustrated with reference to recent research on two major urban systems in the Americas: Mexico City and Boulder, CO. While in Boulder, governance regimes fail only under low probability high impact risks, such as those unleashed by the September 2013 Boulder flood, for instance, Mexico City is vulnerable to high probability low impact risks, and faces huge challenges securing FEW infrastructures and services in sustainable and fair ways. Our exploration will serve as a basis to examine how, context specific conditions relate to differentiated capacities and options for sustainable responses to urban security challenges.