Symposium 15. Coastal Cities: Planning for Resilience, Adaptation, and Sustainability - Lessons from the Northeast and Superstorm Sandy

Room: Hemisphere A

Organizers:  Antje Danielson, Tufts Institute of the Environment, Tufts University; and Emily Goesling, Program Coordinator, Tufts Institute of the Environment, Water: Systems, Society and the Environment

Moderator: Kent Portney, Professor, Political Science Department, Tufts University (policy measures)


  • Paul Kirshen, Research Professor of Civil Engineering department, University of New Hampshire (Interdisciplinary focus on hydrological change and human adaptation)
  • Jack Wiggin, Director, Urban Harbors Institute at UMass Boston (Coastal, Port and harbor planning with multiple stakeholders)
  • Samuel Merrill, Director, New England Environmental Finance Center Associate Research Professor, Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service, University of South Maine
  • Margaret Davidson, NOAA Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management Acting Director

In this symposium, we will consider resilience from the perspective of disaster prevention in addition to disaster response within the context of vulnerable urban areas.  While extreme weather events are predicted to increase dramatically in our lifetime, both in frequency and in severity, more careful and prescient planning can prevent communities from the worst of harm caused by such changes, and other natural disasters, and create effective plans for long-term sustainability in coastal cities.  First, we will consider the information needed by municipalities to plan for adequate resilience; secondly, what should be accomplished toward proactive planning and investment in vulnerable communities; and lastly, identify the best practices that can be recommended to the rapidly growing coastal cities of developing countries. 

This symposium will focus on our insights from cities and communities in the Northeast of the United States. As Hurricane Sandy has just demonstrated, the current modus operandi in most communities is to focus on risk analysis and subsequent disaster recovery rather than risk reduction and prevention. The symposium panel will bring the perspective of science, city governance, civil engineering, planning, and economics to this topic. We will examine how decisions are made, what factors are important when addressing change, and what we can learn from best practice approaches.