Future Cities, Future Climates: Urban Crises of Late Capitalism

16-18 June, Sofia, Bulgaria

As a third of Pakistan found itself under water in the summer of 2022, major European rivers dried up while the mercury in London hit 40℃ for the first time in history—grisly records broken with each passing year of unabated climate change. 

Both state and corporate-led resilience programs often leave the connection between economic growth and environmental degradation unquestioned. As with sustainability, “resilience” today entails first and foremost the resilience of unimpeded growth. Moreover, resilience reforms have generally favored the rich minorities instead of the majority of vulnerable citizens.

Smart city projects have also infamously furthered the interests of corporations through the introduction of privately controlled and opaque technological infrastructures. Technocratic solutions obscure issues of uneven distribution of resources, as well as alternatives to the widely shared illusions of eternal bouncing back following each environmental disaster. 

Technological solutions that promise to ameliorate the impact of industrial pollution and slow down climate change are widely supported. However, enthusiasts miss the fact that the continuing presence of extractivist industries is at the heart of hardware manufacturing and AI. What is more, the geographically uneven extraction, production and consumption processes, embodied by these technologies, are undemocratic and deepen geographic and social inequalities between world regions and within cities.

Bulgaria’s experience of acute social and environmental issues owing to more than 30 years of austerity offers a lot of lessons to avoid repeating in the coming Green Transition. A radical neoliberal reform plunged millions into dire poverty as it hollowed out the welfare state, leaving society vulnerable to extreme weather events. Eruptions of social anger at cascading utilities and gas prices seem to align an otherwise politically apathetic society firmly behind the fossil fuel economy.

On the other hand, skepticism towards the Green New Deal is fueled by liberal elites’ aloofness with respect to ordinary people’s concerns, leading to more austerity, unemployment and destruction of nature in the name of another painful Transition with no immediately tangible benefits.

However, this story is typical not only of post-socialist cities. Urban policymakers around the globe have to address the apparent contradictions between environmental and social concerns and move beyond identitarian framings of “civilizational fault lines” (i.e. ‘bad’ Russian gas vs. ‘good’ West LNG). 

The 2023 edition of the Urban Inequalities Forum hones in on thinking about how urban social issues and the escalating climate crisis braid together and what can be done to mitigate them. Join us for sessions full of insights into the causes, unequal impact, and consequences of climate change in urban settings. We will be developing strategies together with scholars, urbanists and members of social and environmental movements about direct action against the climate catastrophe.

The forum is taking place on 16, 17 and 18 June 2023 at the Union of Architects of Bulgaria, 11 Krakra St., Sofia. The discussions will be in English.

Friday, 16 June


Urban Landscapes

Landscape-Driven Urban Projects
Mircea Munteanu

The Green Ring Sofia Concept: a linear park connecting territories and activating local communities
Stanimira Nikolova

From Circular to Linear and Back: metabolism, relations and circularity in Sofia plain
Teodora Stefanova

The Green Transition and the Industrial City

The Green Deal: precarious absorption of funds without a future
Stoyo Tetevenski

Just Energy Transition: an opportunity for a social and economic transformation
Ventzeslava Kozhuharova

Infrastructures of the Future
Tanja Petrovic

Development, Overdevelopment, Regulation

Essential Protections in View of Expanding Urbanized Territories along the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast
Nikolay Naydenov

Planning and Taxation for Multiple Benefits in Sofia
Ljubo Georgiev

Global Intersections between Urban Development, Social Justice, and the Climate Crisis
Angelina Davydova

Saturday, 17 June


Housing Inequalities

Why Housing Justice and Climate Justice Should Be Considered Together
Eva Betavatzi

Locked Out: the impact of urban inequalities on working people’s access to the city
Sopo Japaridze

Urban Lifeworlds

Digital Ecosystem: the workings of a metaphor
Maroš Krivý

Displacement and Photography: practices for slowing down
Tuca Vieira

River Systematization (as part of the socialist modernization) and Rivers-Based Economy
Ovidiu Tichindeleanu

The Environmental Impact of the War in Ukraine

Mariupol, Alchevsk, and the Extension of Russian Social Infrastructures or Citizenship through Expropriation: A Social Reproduction Analysis
Olena Lyubchenko

Change in Global Energy Markets because of Russia’s War in Ukraine
Angelina Davydova and Ksenia Vakhrusheva

Fighting Climate Breakdown in the Age of Overshoot
Andreas Malm

Sunday, 18 June


Urban Frontiers

Wastes of Progress: capitalist frontlines in post-socialist peripheries
Slava Savova

Racialisation through Garbage: the ‘media-government complex’ against a Plovdiv neighborhood
Nikola Venkov

Hinterlands of the Capitalocene
Nikos Katsikis

Public Transport

From Use Value to Exchange Value of the City: how public transport is transformed into semiconductive class membrane
Stefan Aleksic

Inefficient Railways as the Hidden Truth behind Regional Decline in Bulgaria
Martin Nikolov

Inequalities in Living Conditions

Post-Socialist Political Economy of Drinking Water Supply Network and Its Consequences on Socio-Spatial Inequalities in Access to Water in Bulgaria
Raphaëlle Segond

Do We Breathe the Same Air? Air Quality and Inequalities
Predrag Momcilovic

This Is not a River: screening of two films followed by a conversation
Merve Bedir