Chat with us, powered by LiveChat For this assignment, you will write an op-ed that makes recommendations for how the city ought to manage environmental risk and disasters in Bogota (landslides). Length of approximately | Wridemy

For this assignment, you will write an op-ed that makes recommendations for how the city ought to manage environmental risk and disasters in Bogota (landslides). Length of approximately

For this assignment, you will write an op-ed that makes recommendations for how the city ought to manage environmental risk and disasters in Bogota (landslides). Length of approximately 800 to 1000 words. APA style, single spaced. See word document for all instructions. 

Urban Op-ed

For this assignment, you will write an op-ed that makes recommendations for how the city ought to manage environmental risk and disasters in Bogota (landslides). Length of approximately 800 to 1000 words. APA style, single spaced.

Your op-ed might address the following questions: How should the city approach disaster management? What or who should be the priorities of the city? How can the city ensure safety for everyone from urban disasters? What factors should be taken into consideration in the city's disaster management planning? You do not have to directly answer these questions. They are just prompts.

The term “op-ed” refers to a thoroughly researched commentary, opinion piece, or reflection published in a newspaper, journal, or other periodical. Very often writers use op-eds to urge action on the part of political leaders or fellow citizens and, thus, must be very well informed about the matter in question. Publications often solicit op-eds from those whose expertise or experience give them authority to comment on a particular issue, but many advocacy organizations also submit uninvited op-eds in hopes of influencing policymakers or the public.


Review relevant course materials and find 3-5 relevant additional sources (e.g. news articles, policy reports, or academic papers, but with emphasis on peer-reviewed sources.)

Review these op-ed-writing guidelines as well as the sample op-eds below to get a feel for the genre. Not all op-eds are the same, but most of them share in that they are brief, direct, and evocative if not also persuasive in tone.

With those guidelines in mind, write a well-informed, persuasive op-ed that calls for policy changes and/or other actions by political leaders and/or fellow citizens. Keep in mind that you are aiming to convince the reader with a well-reasoned argument, not appeal exclusively to emotions. Keep in mind, too, that the most effective op-eds are typically those offering direct, specific comments or proposals rather than those envisioning broad, “pie-in-the-sky” societal transformations. That said, don’t hesitate to be bold and visionary if you can support your position.


1. Because published op-eds do not usually contain bibliographies, you should use journalistic attributions (e.g., “According to a study by scientists at Harvard University, …”) and hyperlinks within the text of your op-ed

2. Be sure to include a separate References List with complete information on your sources. This would not be published with an op-ed, and is just for me to use when grading.

3. Your op-ed should illustrate engagement with at least one of the assigned readings for this lesson.

Sample Op-Ed 1 LA Times:

Sample Op-Ed 2 East Asia Forum

Sample Op-Ed 3 UNDRR


Zeiderman, A. (2012). On shaky ground: the making of risk in Bogotá. Environment and Planning A, 44(7), 1570-1588

Alvarez, M. K., & Cardenas, K. (2019). Evicting slums,‘building back better’: Resiliency revanchism and disaster risk management in Manila. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 43(2), 227-249


Environment and Planning A 2012, volume 44, pages 1570 – 1588


On shaky ground: the making of risk in Bogotá

Austin Zeiderman § Anthropology, Stanford University, Main Quad, Building 50, Stanford, CA 94035, USA; e-mail: [email protected] Received 28 May 2011; in revised form 18 October 2011

Abstract. How does risk become a technique for governing the future of cities and urban

life? Using genealogical and ethnographic methods, this paper tracks the emergence of

risk management in Bogotá, Colombia, from its initial institutionalization to its ongoing

implementation in governmental practice. Its specii c focus is the invention of the ‘zone

of high risk’ in Bogotá and the everyday work performed by the oi cials responsible for

determining the likelihood of landslide in these areas. It addresses the ongoing formation

of techniques of urban planning and governance and the active relationship between urban

populations and environments and emerging forms of political authority and technical

expertise. Ultimately, it reveals that techniques of risk management are made and remade

as experts and nonexperts grapple with the imperative to bring heterogeneous assemblages

of people and things into an unfolding technopolitical domain.

Keywords: risk, security, cities, urban governance, environment, hazards, Bogotá, Colombia


In this paper I examine the emergence of risk as a technique of urban planning and governance in Bogotá, Colombia. This local story offers insight into a general pattern in which the informal settlements that predominate in cities of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, along with the populations inhabiting them, are brought into novel governmental frameworks. It also refl ects a broader phenomenon, whereby techniques of risk management and other mechanisms of ‘securitization’ are emerging across a range of apparently disparate domains in both the global North and South as essential elements of ‘good governance’. According to Hodson and Marvin (2010, page 31), the rise of “urban ecological security” represents “a paradigm challenge to our conventional understanding of contemporary urbanism”. To understand these widespread transformations, this paper bridges the gap between the fi eld of urban studies and the literature on the political technologies of risk and security. The city of Bogotá provides an especially good vantage point from which to examine how risk becomes a technique for governing the future of cities and urban life.

Between 1950 and 2000 the population of Bogotá exploded from just over 700 000 to about 7 million (DANE, 1957; 2005). Much of this population growth took place in the southern half of the city and led to the growth of informal settlements on the mountainous urban periphery. By some estimates, this region of Bogotá is one of the largest agglomerations of urban poverty in the world. When the municipal government began conducting technical studies of environmental hazards in the late 1990s, the highest concentration of families in ‘zones of high risk’ was in this area (Morales, 2005). In fact, over 50% of the 10 715 properties located in risk zones in 2008 were in Ciudad Bolívar—the largest and poorest of Bogotá’s twenty localities (Camara de Comercio de Bogotá, 2007; Poveda Gómez, 2008).

§ Address from 1 July 2012: LSE Cities, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, England.

1571 A Zeiderman

The imperative to relocate families from ‘zones of high risk’ has focused on this area: from 2004 to 2006, 90% (1239) of the households resettled by the government were from this locality alone (Caja de la Vivienda Popular, 2006).

How did the poor in Bogotá come to inhabit landscapes of risk? This situation can be understood in at least two ways. The fi rst is what I would call the ‘received narrative’.(1) Since the mid-20th century, hundreds of thousands of peasants from the Colombian countryside have migrated to the capital city, either seeking economic opportunity or having been displaced from their land by paramilitaries, guerrillas, or the army. Whereas peasants had once been embedded in the social institutions of rural areas, such as the Catholic Church and the hacienda, they have become increasingly uprooted in the past half century as economic restructuring and political violence radically transformed the country. Upon arriving in large numbers in Bogotá, they fi rst settled in rented rooms in centrally located tenement housing (inquilinatos). But as the existing housing supply quickly ran out, they began to gravitate to the hillsides of the city’s southern periphery.

From as early as the 19th century, these lands have been exploited for construction materials. Tunnels and quarries were dug into the deforested slopes in order to extract the gravel, rock, and sand that would be used for building the physical infrastructure of central Bogotá. Once these resources diminished, however, urbanizadores piratas (pirate urbanizers) began to appropriate territories, subdividing them into small plots and selling them without legal title. Heavily mined, and therefore unsuitable for most other uses, these lands were of low economic value. Meanwhile, the demand for affordable property in the city was growing rapidly, and the state had neither the interest nor the ability to regulate it; in fact, politicians often permitted ad hoc urbanization in exchange for popular support. Settlers then built their own dwellings using rudimentary construction materials and techniques on what was already precarious terrain. As the story goes, these settlements were fated from the outset to be exposed to risk.

This narrative is used to explain the dynamics of 20th-century urban development in Bogotá. Highlighting economic, demographic, and geographic factors, it critically examines the production of urban environmental inequality. Accurate as it may be, however, this explanation unwittingly projects onto the past a way of conceptualizing space and population that is a more recent invention; it historicizes everything but the key category of concern: the ‘zone of high risk’. Risk thus appears as a physical characteristic of the urban landscape that precedes the studies, maps, and plans that initially brought risk into being as a technique of government. We are, therefore, left with the impression that Bogotá’s unequal landscape of risk was inevitable—as Davis (2006, page 121) puts it, “very poor people have little choice but to live with disaster.” According to this line of thinking, risk becomes, as for Davis, “poverty’s niche in the ecology of the city”.

The tenet of critical urban studies that supports this account is irrefutable: the social production of space is, indeed, a deeply uneven process (Smith, 2008). There is no doubt that the poor in Bogotá are disproportionately exposed to the devastating effects of environmental disasters, such as landslides and fl oods. Throughout the informal settlements of Ciudad Bolívar, evidence of erosion, subsidence, and contamination are material signs of the structural inequality that constitutes the urban periphery. But while treating risk as an unfair burden suffered by the disadvantaged may be necessary, it is insuffi cient. For in Bogotá’s ‘zones of high risk’, the very factors that enabled slums to exist are now the reason for their removal. Risk is no longer the “Faustian bargain”, as Davis calls it, that the poor must accept

(1) Discussions of the dynamics mentioned here can be found in urban histories of Bogotá (see Mejía Pavony, 2000; Palacios, 2006).


On shaky ground: the making of risk in Bogotá 1572

in order to secure housing: as the municipal government relocates vulnerable populations to protect them from environmental hazard, risk is now the logic underlying their displacement.

As a result, I fi nd it necessary to invert the argument formulated above. Rather than investigating how the poor came to inhabit landscapes of risk, I ask: how did ‘zones of high risk’ come to inhabit the territories of the poor? By placing these zones in question, we see that before the 1990s risk did not exist in Bogotá—at least, not as a technique for governing specifi c spaces and populations in the city. By approaching ‘risk’ ethnographically, we can analyze the processes through which it is made into an object of governmental intervention. This enables us to think critically not only about the production of unequal geographies of vulnerability, but also about emerging attempts to ameliorate them. The literature on political government is helpful here, as it offers tools for examining the diversity of ways in which risk becomes central to governmental assemblages at specifi c historical junctures, and to what effect.(2) The brief ethnographic section that follows, as well as the more extensive one that appears later, both offer highly representative, albeit fragmented, insights into the making of risk in Bogotá.

The map of risk

It is a slow afternoon in the offi ce of the Caja de la Vivienda Popular. Everyone has just returned from lunch and is passing time until the steady stream of visitors starts up again. The ‘Caja’, as most people call it, is the branch of Bogotá’s municipal government that, since 2003, has managed a housing resettlement program for families living in zonas de alto

riesgo, or ‘zones of high risk’ (fi gure 1). Its offi cial duty is to protect the lives of populations vulnerable to environmental disaster, such as landslide and fl ood, by relocating them elsewhere. I am chatting with the social workers, architects, and lawyers who manage the day-to-day operations of the Caja’s fi eld offi ce here in Ciudad Bolívar—the poor area in the mountainous southern periphery of Bogotá, where the majority of these zones are located. Although the Caja’s headquarters are in the city center, the location of this offi ce allows it to serve as the hub of the resettlement program for the many households undergoing relocation. And yet it is not merely a place where policies developed elsewhere are put into effect. It is a key site in which Bogotá’s ‘zones of high risk’ are produced—that is, where techniques of government are made and managed on an everyday basis.

We are discussing a recent political scandal when two women, both resettlement program ‘benefi ciaries’, arrive holding a newspaper clipping advertising houses for sale. Although the Caja is responsible for relocating ‘at risk’ populations, it relies on the initiative of benefi ciaries to manage their own resettlement. These women have been searching for housing to purchase with the subsidy guaranteed to the population living in ‘zones of high risk’, and they believe they have fi nally found ones that suit their criteria. Before they can proceed, however, their selections have to be approved by the equipo técnico, the technical team, according to a strict set of norms, of which the risk designation of the new property is perhaps the most elemental.

One of the Caja’s architects, Ana María, takes the paper and looks at the address: “Unfortunately”, she says, “these properties are in a zona de alto riesgo”. In a patient pedagogical tone, Ana María offers to explain. Rising from her chair, she shifts attention towards a map hanging on the wall (fi gure 2), which shows the streets of Ciudad Bolívar shaded over in green, yellow, and red to indicate low, medium, and high risk. Ana María fi rst points to the two properties, which are in a yellow zone (medium risk). But her fi nger then slides up the map an inch higher, stopping at two red lines just north of the street on

(2) The literature on the political technology of risk is too extensive to cover comprehensively here. For key works, see essays by Robert Castel, François Ewald, Daniel Defert, and Ian Hacking (in Burchell et al, 1991); by Nikolas Rose, Thomas Osborne, and Pat O’Malley (in Barry et al, 1996); many articles in Economy and Society, especially volume 29(4) on confi gurations of risk (see also Baker and Simon, 2002; Ericson and Doyle, 2003).


1573 A Zeiderman

Figure 1. [In colour online.] Bogotá’s zonas de alto riesgo (zones of high risk) (source: Dirección de Atención y Prevención de Emergencias).

Figure 2. [In colour online.] Map showing risk areas on the offi ce wall in the Caja de la Vivienda Popular (source: photograph by author, 2006).


On shaky ground: the making of risk in Bogotá 1574

which these two houses are located. “These red lines”, she explains, “are seismic faults where earthquake damage can be severe.” Ana María, regardless of the map, pronounces these properties “high risk” and, thereby, disqualifi es them.

As I discuss below, calculative predictions of disaster risk in Bogotá—that is, which neighborhoods are designated ‘zones of high risk’ and therefore subject to relocation—were made initially in the late 1990s, and the more general process of institutionalizing risk as a technique of government in Colombia began in the previous decade. Yet, as Ana María demonstrates by her simultaneous reference to and adjustment of the map, these ‘zones of high risk’ are not always fi xed—neither ‘out there’ in the fi eld, nor here in the offi ce. Although this encounter took place in 2006, before risk designations became the exclusive domain of the architects and engineers of the Directorate for Emergence Prevention and Response (DPAE), the entangled relationality of these designations persists. Risk remains a technique for rendering the uncertain future actionable in the present, and yet it is continually reconfi gured in the everyday practice of urban governance.

Formations of government

These observations recall recent shifts in paradigms of urban planning, development, and governance, which assert that cities and their environments should be managed according to the rationality of risk (Zeiderman, 2008). In both the Global North and South, it is common for cities to be governed through probabilistic calculations of potential events, from fi nancial crises and terrorist attacks to disease outbreaks and natural disasters (Hodson and Marvin, 2009). Increasingly relevant are Foucault’s (2007) 1978 lectures, Security, Territory,

Population, and their emphasis on the rise of ‘security’ as a technology of power that governs spaces and populations through predictive calculations of the probability of future events. But we must revisit how ‘security’ is understood if we are to account for the technopolitical process of governing the uncertain future of cities and urban life.

In these lectures Foucault examines the emergence of security as a key technology of power in France. Unlike sovereignty and discipline, which prohibit and prescribe, security mechanisms insert their object of concern into a series of probable events whose likelihood of occurring in the future can be calculated in the present and then managed according to an average considered optimal or acceptable. Foucault illustrates the working of these three distinct, yet overlapping, political technologies—sovereignty, discipline, and security— in the domain of health. While lepers in the Middle Ages were excluded from the general population by juridical mechanisms, and the plagues of the 16th and 17th centuries were controlled through disciplinary techniques, the problem of smallpox in the 18th century was tackled according to the logic of security. In this last case, statistics were used to calculate the probability of infection across the population and, based on these calculations, decisions to vaccinate were made. It is at this moment, then, that we see the emergence of what Foucault calls the “absolutely crucial notion of risk”. In contrast to sovereignty and discipline, both of which would have tried to eliminate the threat and protect the population from infection, these inoculation practices calculated the likelihood of contracting or dying from smallpox within population groups. And these calculations revealed that the population was distributed spatially into “zones of higher risk” and “zones of lower risk”.

Shifting to examples of food scarcity and town planning, Foucault demonstrates a “similar evolution and more or less the same type of transformations” (2007, page 10) in other domains. However, Collier (2009, page 95) shows that, in his 1978 and 1979 lectures, Foucault is moving away from epochal proclamations whereby one technology of power replaces another and towards historically specifi c analyses of how juridical, disciplinary, and security techniques are “recombined” and go through processes of “reactivation and transformation”. This approach, I propose, can be furthered by examining the processes through which security


1575 A Zeiderman

mechanisms are reassembled in the everyday practice of government. A certain reticence to analyze governmental practice should be noted in Foucault’s method: by “art of government”, he clarifi ed, “I did not mean the way in which governors really governed” (2008, page 2; cf Rose et al, 2006). However, given the fundamentally uncertain and temporal nature of risk management, I argue that what governors do is of central importance. Thus I follow Collier et al (2004, pages 5–6) in emphasizing both the “forms of reasoning” and the “practices” with which experts bring threats into frameworks of technical intervention. This, I will argue, reveals techniques of government to be dynamic spaces of entangled relationality between governors and the populations and environments they seek to govern.

One objection to this approach might be that it confl ates ‘risk’ in the technical sense with what Ewald (1991, page 202) calls its meaning in “everyday language” (ie, danger or peril) and, thus, renders it analytically unproductive (cf Lakoff, 2007). Most scholars of risk agree with Ewald’s view and respect the strictly technical defi nition: risk is a modern technique for statistically calculating the likelihood of future events, bringing them into the realm of individual or collective decision making, and mitigating their adverse effects through processes of economization and distribution (cf Çalışkan and Callon, 2009; Hacking, 2003). This has enabled scholars to differentiate risk with clear analytical rigor from a range of related techniques (eg, precaution, preparedness, preemption, enactment) used to govern future uncertainty (cf footnote 2; Anderson, 2010; Collier, 2008; Ewald, 2002; Lakoff, 2007). A contribution of this paper, however, is to heed Callon’s caution about “impos[ing] risk as an analytic category” (Barry and Slater, 2002, pages 288–289) by resisting the urge to compare every case of risk governance to a preexisting technical defi nition. Thus, I focus here on attempts to harness risk reasoning to specifi c social and political problems and, in the process, bring together diverse governing practices and assessment techniques, many of which do not conform to the analytical category of risk.(3) By subjecting governmental practice to ethnographic scrutiny, it is possible to see how ‘risk’ comes to mean, and can be mobilized to do, different things.

My approach also requires examining Foucault’s treatment of space. Geographers note that Foucault’s initial emphasis on the spatial problem of the town wanes in the 1978 lectures, to such a degree that, as Elden (2007, page 32) points out, “territory is marginalized in Foucault’s story.” Others have urged us to remain focused on the production of space (Crampton and Elden, 2007). But Foucault (2007, page 20) makes a critical point about spaces of security: “The specifi c space of security refers … to a series of possible events; it refers to the temporal and the uncertain, which have to be inserted within a given space.” He calls the space “in which a series of uncertain elements unfolds” the “milieu”, which denotes a set of “natural” and “artifi cial” givens. This is the fi eld in which security intervenes according to probabilistic estimates of events, which are produced as much by the multiplicity of individuals who make up the population as by “the materiality within which they live”. What Foucault does not do is describe how the space in which security intervenes (the “milieu”) comes into being. Hence, my interest in the ‘zone of high risk’ in Bogotá as a technique of government that aims to intervene upon spaces and populations that are themselves active and in motion.

This implies that we ought not to treat urban populations and environments as inert, passive objects upon which governments either do or do not act. Rather, the city can be understood as a hybrid assemblage of humans and nonhumans, at once natural and social, made up of dialectical relations between living and nonliving things. This terrain has been most thoroughly explored by urban political ecologists, especially those with a keen interest in science and technology studies (Farías and Bender, 2010; Heynen et al, 2005; Monstadt, 2009). With reason, they have found water to be especially good to think with and have

(3) For a related approach to policy mobility and mutation, see Peck (2011) and Peck and Theodore (2012).


On shaky ground: the making of risk in Bogotá 1576

built theories around concepts such as ‘hybrid’ or ‘cyborg’ urbanization (Gandy, 2004; 2005; Swyngedouw, 2006). By extending their insights to what is assumed to be the most inert, stable, and inactive aspect of cities—the surface over which everything else appears to move and fl ow, the very ground on which the city is built—we may recognize urban populations and environments as more than mere objects or outcomes of governmental technique. Ultimately, this will allow us to describe more faithfully how such techniques actually work.

The governmentalization of risk

Before discussing the emergence of ‘zones of high risk’ in Bogotá and then turning to their ongoing formation, I will show how risk was governmentalized on a national level. Colombia is a country plagued by violence, where security has become the dominant logic by which state, territory, and population are understood. Despite popular conceptions of ‘state failure’, in the past two decades Colombia has become seen as an exemplary site of innovation in approaches to governing insecurity. On the one hand, its government has advanced a militaristic approach to controlling territory, establishing sovereignty, and defeating ‘narcoterrorism’. On the other hand, Colombia has witnessed an elaboration of governmental programs employing techniques of risk management whose aim is to protect life against a broad range of threats—from violent crime to natural disaster. The emergence of a broad range of security mechanisms refl ects a shift in how the state seeks to govern potentially hazardous futures.

For most of the 20th century, however, the dominant logic governing the Colombian state’s approach to disasters was emergency response (Ramírez Gomez and Cardona, 1996, page 256). As in other Latin American countries, the role of the state in managing disasters was complemented by the Red Cross Societies, which provided humanitarian aid to victims in the aftermath of catastrophic events. Most disaster management took place at the local level, however, since municipal fi re brigades were ultimately responsible for attending to calamities. It was not until 1949 that Colombia established a national policy for handling large-scale public emergencies. Following the assassination on 9 April 1948 of the populist political leader and presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, and the ensuing popular revolt that wreaked havoc and left much of Bogotá in ruins, the Colombian government signed an agreement with the Red Cross to create a semipublic parastatal organization, the Socorro Nacional de la Cruz Roja, which would thereafter be responsible for managing operations of emergency response on a national scale (Ramírez Gomez and Cardona, 1996, page 264).

The burden shifted from the Socorro Nacional de la Cruz Roja in the 1960s when Latin American countries, infl uenced by the US Agency

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