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‘All that is Solid … ’

Knuth, Sarah (2020) '‘All that is Solid … ’.', City., 24 (1-2). pp. 65-75.


As critical urbanists confront climate change, and prospective climate responses, we must ask crucial questions about the ‘lifetime’ of today’s urban fabrics and metropolitan forms. How durable or ephemeral will existing urban geographies prove in the face of societal devaluations and destruction associated with climate change? Will breaks in and with existing urban forms be suffered through climate change impacts, or waged proactively in the name of deep decarbonization? Dystopian climate imaginaries present such material ruptures, mass stranding of real estate assets, and ‘premature death’ as an existential urban crisis. I maintain here that they are, rather, business as usual for urban capitalism, and its own longer-unfolding crisis. Property developers and appraisers have frequently truncated the lifetime of urban built environments, in how they have represented buildings and their long-term value—and non-value—and in how these representations have become material fact. I consider some bodies of critical urban scholarship necessary to exploring such processes and their climate significance, an important task for City going forward. I argue that in contexts like the United States, this charge demands creative engagements between cultural studies and political economy. I consider several relevant discussions now emerging in urban political economy. First, I explore Tapp and Kay’s (2019. “Fiscal geographies: ‘Placing’ taxation in urban geography.” Urban Geography 40 (4): 573–581.) call for new ‘fiscal geographies’ as a provocation for urban climate futures. Specifically, I discuss how property taxation and valuation practices have become central to the ‘disposability’ and premature degradation of US urban built environments, and the climate significance of this wasting. Second, I consider emerging critical geographies of insurance as a window into urban coastal futures under climate change. Following recent interventions such as Johnson (2015. “Catastrophic fixes: Cyclical devaluation and accumulation through climate change impacts.” Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space 47 (12): 2503–2521) and Taylor (2020. “The real estate risk fix: Residential insurance-linked securitization in the Florida metropolis.” Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space. OnlineFirst), urbanists must question how promised financial solutions for climate change’s threat to these spaces risk compounding mass devaluations and erasures to come.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in City on 6 April 2020, available online:
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:28 April 2020
Date of first online publication:06 April 2020
Date first made open access:06 October 2021

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