Back to All Events

Faculty Working Group + Rising Waters – Liz Koslov, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Williams Hall 623 255 South 36th Street Philadelphia, PA, 19104 United States (map)

Faculty Working Group – Breakfast Meeting

Retreat from Rising Waters: Urban Unbuilding in the Era of Climate Change
Liz Koslov, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities, MIT


As storms grow stronger and seas rise, global warming is rendering many places vulnerable – even uninhabitable. Projections are staggering: hundreds of thousands of miles of land lost; millions of people forced from their homes. Images of what this future might look like, coastal cities swamped and abandoned, are easy to come by. Harder to imagine is what happens first: Who decides when to stop rebuilding, to retreat in advance of the next disaster? Where do people go? What of those who stay put? Is this necessarily a story of ever-deepening dystopia? Or, are there ways to unbuild amid the rising waters that serve to acknowledge and repair rather than repeat and exacerbate the past traumas of displacement, dispossession, and segregated development underlying the inequitable landscape of urban climate risk today?

Liz Koslov is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at MIT and holds a PhD in Media, Culture, and Communication from NYU. Her research examines the social, political, and cultural dimensions of urban climate change adaptation. She is currently at work on her first book project, Retreat: Moving to Higher Ground in a Climate-Changed City, which is under advance contract with the University of Chicago Press.