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Coping with floods without an ark: urban nature and local ingenuity in Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires in the late 20th century

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Abstract:

Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires are two major cities in South America, with many features in common. They are city symbols for their countries, and they have high levels of inequality. They are also plagued by periodic floods. In 1966, a large flood in Rio de Janeiro caused over 200 deaths. In 1985, an even larger flood displaced circa a hundred thousand people in the greater Buenos Aires. Studies of these urban floods have focused on their negative impact on the victims, mostly poor. News reports underlined the affected population’s refusal or impossibility to leave their residences in high-risk areas, and puzzled over their insistence to return to the same places, even after these large catastrophes. The poor, it seems, didn't know better or couldn't do better.
Our research in both cities reveals a more complex relationship of the urban poor and the urban nature. Through archival research and oral interviews in the neighborhoods of City of God and Praça da Bandeira, in Rio de Janeiro, and La Boca and Belgrano, in Buenos Aires, all areas known for the vulnerability to floods, we have identified several popular strategies to co-exist with floods, as they were incorporated in the everyday urban life. The residents were not oblivious or ignorant to the risks, and previous floods were not forgotten: they rather become learning memories for individuals and communities. Sometimes, floods made a particular coveted real estate more affordable for poor residents, and therefore were seen as an opportunity rather than a disaster. Other times, communities created their own coping strategies to protect those who were more vulnerable, with temporary housing and food. And in both cities, floods often represented a window of opportunity from neglected communities to vent grievances and to request support from the state.
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MLA Citation:

Sedrez, Lise. and Casa Nova Maia, Andrea. "Coping with floods without an ark: urban nature and local ingenuity in Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires in the late 20th century" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Annual Conference, Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL, Mar 29, 2017 <Not Available>. 2018-01-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1171191_index.html>

APA Citation:

Sedrez, L. F. and Casa Nova Maia, A. , 2017-03-29 "Coping with floods without an ark: urban nature and local ingenuity in Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires in the late 20th century" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Annual Conference, Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL <Not Available>. 2018-01-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1171191_index.html

Publication Type: Panel Paper
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires are two major cities in South America, with many features in common. They are city symbols for their countries, and they have high levels of inequality. They are also plagued by periodic floods. In 1966, a large flood in Rio de Janeiro caused over 200 deaths. In 1985, an even larger flood displaced circa a hundred thousand people in the greater Buenos Aires. Studies of these urban floods have focused on their negative impact on the victims, mostly poor. News reports underlined the affected population’s refusal or impossibility to leave their residences in high-risk areas, and puzzled over their insistence to return to the same places, even after these large catastrophes. The poor, it seems, didn't know better or couldn't do better.
Our research in both cities reveals a more complex relationship of the urban poor and the urban nature. Through archival research and oral interviews in the neighborhoods of City of God and Praça da Bandeira, in Rio de Janeiro, and La Boca and Belgrano, in Buenos Aires, all areas known for the vulnerability to floods, we have identified several popular strategies to co-exist with floods, as they were incorporated in the everyday urban life. The residents were not oblivious or ignorant to the risks, and previous floods were not forgotten: they rather become learning memories for individuals and communities. Sometimes, floods made a particular coveted real estate more affordable for poor residents, and therefore were seen as an opportunity rather than a disaster. Other times, communities created their own coping strategies to protect those who were more vulnerable, with temporary housing and food. And in both cities, floods often represented a window of opportunity from neglected communities to vent grievances and to request support from the state.


 
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