Governing futures in the present

Seeking to govern the city in relation to climate change is a political project that at once imagines the present in terms of the future and the future in terms of the present. The urban politics of climate change has brought multiple visions of the possibilities (and limits) of urban futures. In this context, urban responses take on experimental forms – creating sites through which to explore and experience different futures.

They provide spaces in which utopian visions can be imagined, enacted and contested. Conceptualising urban climate change experiments as heterotopic sites seems fruitful in at least two regards. Firstly, it captures their provisional and ambivalent relationship with the broader urban milieu.

Secondly, and even more critically, it opens up the dialogues between the future and present which are at the heart of the climate governance project, and highlights the spatial form of these politics.

This paper draws on two examples of climate experimentation in Berlin and Philadelphia to examine how urban climate experiments seek to govern futures in the present, and the political implications of this process, by understanding them as heterotopic sites.


Gareth Edwards is a Senior Lecturer in Geography and Development in the School of International Development, University of East Anglia. His work adopts a critical justice lens to appraise and critique society-nature relations. He works at the intersection between political ecology and environmental justice, with research on the urban governance of climate change, the neoliberalization of water governance, the theorization and politics of climate justice and the political ecology of coal in the context of climate change. He is co-author of An Urban Politics of Climate Change (Routledge, 2015).


Building 37, Level 2, Room 3


24 July 2018