Understanding Urban Flood Resilience in the Anthropocene: A Social-Ecological-Technological Systems (SETS) Learning Framework

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Annals of the American Association of Geographers

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Urban flooding is a major concern in many cities around the world. Together with continuous urbanization, extreme weather events are likely to increase the magnitude and frequency of flood hazards and exposure in populated regions. This article examines the changing pathways of flood risk management (FRM) in Portland, Oregon; Seoul, South Korea; and Tokyo, Japan, which have different histories of land development and flood severity. We used city governance documents to identify how FRM strategies have changed in the study cities. Using a combined framework of social learning with an integrated social–ecological–technological systems (SETS) lens, we show what components of SETS have been emphasized and how FRM strategies have diversified over time. In response to historical flood events, these cities built hard infrastructure such as levees to reduce flood risks. The recent paradigm shift in urban FRM, such as the adoption of socioecological elements in SETS, including floodplain restoration, green infrastructure, and public education, is a response to making cities more resilient or transformative to the anticipated future extreme floods. The pathways that cities have taken and the main emphasis across SETS elements differ by city, however, suggesting that opportunities exist for learning from each city’s experience collectively to tackle global flooding issues.


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