Adaptive Governance and Holistic Flood Management in Aarhus, Denmark




Project Summary

Many cities have climate adaptation plans, but few of them are implemented. Fewer, have radically transformed their economic and urban landscape to implement their adaptation plan as much as Aarhus. I travelled there to interview people in the water sector to ask about fiscal and organizational structures before and after climate change become a cross cutting agenda topic. What I found out was that climate change became an opportunity for the city, changing the way business and politics were done for the benefit of creating a more beautiful and resilient city. I talked to eleven people in Aarhus, including employees of the City Council, Department of Technology and Nature, AarhusVand (Water Utility), and private sector companies.

This experience embodied an occurring theme I’ve realized at Penn — extemporizing is vital. After reading as much as I could about the adaptive cycle, systems thinking, and Panarchy, the theoretical bases for my paper, it all came down to collecting the data through the 11 interviews. What I read in preparation was a vital step but “sticking to the script” of my preformed questions would have been a detriment to my project. I learned a lot from elicited from questions asked on the fly.

My past three years at Penn provided me with knowledge and confidence needed to complete this project. I am eager to share my work with the faculty I’ve had in both of my departments. This project culminates my shared interests in Environmental and Urban Studies, an interdisciplinary subject will continue to study in graduate school. Researching in Aarhus has solidified my desire to apply for a higher education this fall.