Social-Hydrological Risk in the Mexico City Basin (2015-9)

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Mar 08, 2016
Hallie Eakin, Ana Elena Escalante, Elizabeth Tellman, and Lakshmi Charli-Joseph

This case is intended for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students. It is designed to be implemented in approximately 8 sessions, each 2 hours. A shorter version of the case is also possible, and the last section of the Teaching Notes makes suggestions in this regard. While no prior social-ecological theory or conceptual background is needed, the case may be most useful when integrated into a course addressing human-environment interactions, social-ecological concepts (e.g., resilience, adaptation, complexity), or sustainability science more broadly. The case uses the issue of water scarcity and flooding in Mexico City as an entry point into understanding the interaction of biophysical processes, path dependencies in the built environment, conflicting stakeholder perspectives and influences in system dynamics, and tradeoffs in vulnerability interventions. The case is intended to introduce students to some practical skills and approaches for complex system analysis (e.g., system mapping, stakeholder analysis, interviewing, agent based modeling) as well as insights into the complexity of addressing vulnerability and risk in large urban contexts. No prior knowledge on Mexico City or Mexico is needed. Nevertheless, if the case is adopted in a classroom with Spanish-speaking students, there is a significant potential to use the case for a more in-depth and empirically accurate evaluation of risk and vulnerability in the city by encouraging students to look at policy documents and data available online from Mexican agencies and sources.

Estimated time frame: 
Multiple class periods
SES learning goals: 
  • Understand the structure and behavior of socio-environmental systems
  • Consider the importance of scale and context in addressing socio-environmental problems
  • Co-develop research questions and conceptual models in inter- or trans-disciplinary teams
  • Find, analyze, and synthesize existing data, concepts, or methods
Has this been tested in the class room: 
Course and class size: 
Graduate seminar in sustainability science (Adaptation, Resilience, Transformation)
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