To plan equitable climate interventions in times of systemic crisis, cities must be trauma-informed and make healing justice a key feature of urban resilience planning.

For the attention of: Transnational municipal networks such as C40, ICLEI Resilient Cities, UCCRN; Journalistic platforms covering cities (e.g. The Guardian, The Atlantic, Grist, Bloomberg Cities); Media-makers (e.g. How to Save a Planet podcast; OnBeing podcast; Democracy Now; All We Can Save; Heated newsletter).

The problem: Our approach to resilience and vulnerability is narrow and outdated. It barely considers the health implication of climate change on urban populations, and even less so its mental health dimensions. Climate change will likely increase exposure to trauma, so integrating the principles of trauma-informed care and healing justice is urgently needed to design meaningful interventions that foster equitable climate outcomes.

What we did and why: We investigated how ‘official’ narratives and visions of resilience, as found in municipal climate plans, compared to the needs, values, and priorities of populations on the ground – especially vulnerable groups. Convened a public workshop in case study cities to complement document review and key informant interviews with the experiences of frontline groups. Proposed the original concept of ‘integrative resilience’ to stimulate innovation among policy-makers, urban practitioners, and community leaders in transforming the way resilience is planned in cities.

What our study adds:

  • A new way of thinking about vulnerability, and a more expansive and attuned picture of what it takes to be resilient at a time of rampant climate change;
  • Introduction of a new definition of resilience that integrates insights from disciplines such as interpersonal neurobiology and public health that add to our understanding of what healthy adaptation could look like on the ground.

Implications for city policy and practice: There need to be deeper understanding of local needs, values and priorities when it comes to defining and operationalizing resilience. This approach provides a blueprint for expanding current focus of climate action plans and municipal interventions, complete with preliminary recommendations for new indicators to assess population health and metrics of success. This model equally applies to systemic crises such as COVID-19.

Full research article: Toward integrative resilience: a healing justice and trauma-informed approach to urban climate planning by Chiara Camponeschi