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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Sustain. Cities | doi: 10.3389/frsc.2019.00004

Mental models, meta-narratives and solution pathways associated with socio-hydrological risk and response in Mexico City

  • 1School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, United States
  • 2Departamento de Modelación Matemática de Sistemas Sociales, Institute of Applied Mathematics and Systems Research, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico
  • 3Laboratorio Nacional de Ciencias de la Sostenibilidad, Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México,, Mexico
  • 4School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, United States
  • 5Laboratorio Nacional de Ciencias de la Sostenibilidad, Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico

Cities are far more than the people who reside within them, the activities that drive urban dynamism, and hard and soft infrastructure that create urban structure and form. Cities are also composed of stories -- narratives -- that emerge from the experiences, ideas, knowledge and agendas of urban residents, administrators, and individuals with stakes in the city’s future. These narratives collectively not only reflect how the material landscape is perceived and socially and culturally appropriated, but also, by motivating and rationalizing human actions, contribute to shaping that material world, including the behavior and attitudes of humans within it. Here, we explore the narratives and associated solution pathways that have emerged and consolidated around the issue of water scarcity and flooding in the megalopolis of Mexico City. Effective and sustainable management of water resources has long been considered essential to the city’s future, yet many scholars consider the city “stuck” in path-dependent development trajectories that seems unable to address pervasive social inequity, infrastructure fragility, and the city’s precarious supplies. Through mental model data elicited from qualitative interviews and workshops with a cross section of urban stakeholders, we identify dominant narratives that articulate distinct causal premises and consequences associated with water related risk in the city. We juxtapose these narratives with the current and proposed solution pathways proposed by the interviewees. Our analysis demonstrates how, on the one hand, dominant narratives may quell innovation, and on the other, narratives collectively can foster the seeds of urban sustainability transformation.

Keywords: Mental Models, cognitive mapping, Flood risk, water scarcity, urban resilience, governance

Received: 25 Mar 2019; Accepted: 11 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Eakin, Siqueiros-García, Hernandez, Shelton and Bojórquez-Tapia. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mx. Hallie Eakin, Arizona State University, School of Sustainability, Tempe, United States,