Suburbs are a delicate issue for researchers. They are not well studied but they are where most of us live (researchers often prefer trendy neighbourhoods rather than everyday ones – even though the vast majority of Europeans live in suburbs). Suburbs are a very mixed bunch of places – some have problems of success and some have problems of failure but as Peter Clark pointed out in an article from 2003 – all suburbs have issues of adaptation whether that be driven by social, economic or environmental forces.
Based on work carried out through the SNACC (Suburban Neighbourhood Adaptation to Climate Change) project (http://www.arcc-network.org.uk/snacc/) I have been thinking about the perspectives researchers take on suburban adaptation to climate change in a recent chapter within the new SAGE handbook on Urban Studies. Clearly the perspective you take tends to frame the kind of answers you get. So there has been a lot of thinking about whether suburbs can be thought of as part of an urban system or how local governments can facilitate the participation of suburban residents in the machinery of local government. Perhaps the somewhat neglected aspect is thinking about the ways we organise our everyday life in suburbs – this comes down to issues like how we use our gardens, airing cupboards and attic space. If we can better the things that frame our everyday suburban lives, we will be in a better position to help suburbanites make lower carbon impact choices. These choices might include: growing plants rather than paving, choosing plants that do not need watering in summer, insulating our loft spaces and how we finish the laundry without having a great big hot water tank.
So, thinking about suburban transitions requires us to flush out what are the deal-breakers of everyday life. Once we can have those conversations we can talk about self-organising low carbon suburbs. Not all suburban communities are ready to make this step but all will have to face up to a changing climate eventually.
For more see: Smith, I. S. (2017) What are the collective action issues for suburban communities responding to the climate change debate? In: Hannigan, J. and Richards, G., eds. (2017) Handbook of New Urban Studies. SAGE Publications Ltd. ISBN 9781412912655 [In Press] Available from: http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/30373