A new operational approach in thinking the environmental City: Capabilities towards the adaptation to climate change in São Paulo

De Albuquerque Gassa Guetcho, Lawrency (2016). 'A new operational approach in thinking the environmental City: Capabilities towards the adaptation to climate change in São Paulo' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

Nowadays, while facing the global culture of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, cities and their inhabitants "have no choice but to adapt to the impacts of climate change" (IPCC, 2007). This explains why adapting cities to this environmental reality is becoming a major issue within modern societies.
The city of São Paulo in particular, and many others, will have to cope with  new climate constraints related to the increase of urban heat island effects, to the housing of citizens and their mobility, to the emergence of health problems, but also the spread of disease vectors and problems of food security (Heinrichs et alii, 2011).
Currently, the "adaptation" to climate change lies primarily in a set of measures that contributes to improve the 'physical' resilience of cities against natural hazards while reducing the vulnerability of citizens. (IPCC, 2013;  2015; ADEME, 2010). However, this conception of adaptation does not take into consideration the different ways of knowledge transmission individuals have of their changing environment. From a human development perspective, it therefore does not allow us to examine the capabilities of societies towards climate change adaptation.
Based on human and socio-environmental experiences of individuals, this paper instead intends to propose a new approach to examine the way human beings invent new strategies in order to respond to climate change in the city of São Paulo.
This reversal of perspective aims to explore an unprecedented research about citizen movements in Latin America in terms of social and environmental development, since the city of São Paulo is the place for popular and individual burgeoning initiatives looking for better quality of life, leisure, along with healthy environments, as "the casa green" movement shows (it refers to a meeting place in São Paulo where individuals are gardening and by short-circuit processes supply their neighborhood in urban agricultural products).
This southern town constitutes a true and uneven "melting pot", offering a unique case study in terms of mobilization. Thus, the relationships human beings daily build with their close environment can help them in the process of adaptation to climate change (Blanc et al., 2013), and in the activation of new capabilities and therefore in using them differently (Swyngedouw, 2006).
That is why the objective of this paper is to use the concept of 'capability' meaning the real freedom  of individuals, to interact with their social and institutional contexts, to define themselves the orientations and life choices they have reason to value (Sen, 2009; Nussbaum, 2011; Bonvin et. al., 2012).
Capability provides us with an interesting theoretical basis to interpret and explain the relationships of city-dwellers with their environment. De facto, pooling all the human being capabilities in order to fulfill a functioning chosen by the group, demonstrates that stakeholders can take advantage of new opportunities (capabilities) offered to them, which would be an unthinkable possibility if human beings strictly behaved on an individual basis that is to say without the pooling of their respective potential.
It should for that matter be noted that recent work have tried to cross the capability approach and the human/environment relationship such as Rauschmayer et al., 2013;Pelenc, 2015 ; Ballet et Dubois, 2005 ; Bigeri and Ferrannini, 2014).
The current study proposes to establish a typology of basic capabilities (set of capability) that may be accountable for the individual/environment relationship and be practicable in different contexts and societies:
The capability to exchange with other components of the near environment;
The capability to extract the elements necessary for their survival;
The capability to maintain certain component(s) of the chosen environment(s) in order to ensure the quality of life desired;
The capability to defend certain component(s) of the chosen environment(s) compared to other component(s), (value-creation);
The capability to establish new links with component(s) of the environment and/or new components, and to create new social relationships;
From a climate change perspective, the "capability to establish new ties with other aspects of the environment" finds its rightful place. In the framework of this global change, a constant evolution of the climatic conditions at the local level is also observed, and combined with other components of the environment, modifies and/or creates new conditions of life, that make other conditions that existed until then disappear.
In this context, the adaptation is characterized by the gradual creation of niches favorable to the implementation of certain human living conditions. Based on life opportunities, individuals mobilize the five basic capabilities in various ways to accomplish what they have chosen and have reason to promote.
The interest of this approach in relation to the environment lies in its non-deterministic aspect as for the initiatives that must be highlighted in terms of public or collective action. 
From this aspect of capability regarding the environmental opportunities that are offered to human beings, it must now be focused on the choices envisaged by citizens both individually and collectively, with a particular attention being paid to the capabilities Paulistanos possess in terms of adaptation to climate change (and according to new climatic, social and political factors - in terms of environmental public actions) in the city of São Paulo.
Inspired by the work of Amartya Sen and Nussbaum, capability seems to be relevant, since it gives us a new theoretical-methodological framework to shed the light on the representation of individuals in their near environment (socio-environmental sensitivity), but also on the potentials in terms of action (mobilization), as well as the articulation of both individual and collective responsibilities in a permanent dynamic of a multidimensional (re)construction of society. It allows us to exceed the instrumentalist approach of public policies, focusing on the promotion of citizens ' capabilities.

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