Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Environmental Sciences

First Advisor

Kenneth Reardon

Second Advisor

Ellen Douglas

Third Advisor

Michael Johnson, Antonio Raciti


Increasing extreme heat conditions resulting from climate change has threatened cities worldwide. Previous decades have seen a dramatic increase in extreme heat events, attributed to climate change resulting in increases in heat morbidity and mortality. These trends have initiated considerable new research into the study of heatwaves and urban heat island effects (UHI). Despite this, urban heat resiliency remains a relatively unexplored area of planning theory and practice that has attracted limited scholarly attention within urban planning. The dangers posed by extreme heat have remained largely unseen, awareness of the human and economic devastation, and impacts on most marginalized communities are largely unknown. To address this problem, my dissertation incorporates a transdisciplinary, mixed methods approach that draws from theories of community engaged research, participatory action research, advocacy planning and decision sciences to generate data and gain insights that are applicable to extreme heat adaptation and mitigation planning in two of the most racially and socially marginalized communities in Boston. The study employs a methodological framework that combines quasi ethnographic methods (interviews and focus groups) with the analytical decision science approach ‘Value Focused Thinking’ to document the lived experiences of Dorchester’s Caribbean elders, who are one of Boston’s most vulnerable populations. The study engaged them as ‘experts’ in developing context appropriate heat adaptation and mitigation strategies for effective and socially responsible heat resilience planning that reflect Dorchester’s unique climate, weather, demographic profile, history, built environment and culture. My dissertation documents dynamic and heterogenous heat impacts among Caribbean elders related to a crumbling-built environment, physical immobility, financial insecurity, weakened social infrastructure and networks that negatively affect their heat vulnerability. These findings reflect the often-stated observation that heat is not a singular issue but rather a cascading, dynamic, and complex multilayered problem related to race, socio-economic conditions, age, health, and physical and social infrastructure. My dissertation also examines a range of resident’s heat adaptation and mitigation needs and preferences drawing upon their lived experiences and problem narratives using Value Focused Thinking. Based on residents’ needs and preferences, nine major policy themes were identified with subsequent planning actions to build heat resiliency for the most marginalized residents of Dorchester. Finally, I identified three major planning action strategies to build community resiliency to heat in Dorchester. While residents’ values, experiences, and knowledge are not always embedded in planning and policy, this approach highlights the significance of such research and prompts new ways to question how residents’ experiences might be integrated in the climate resiliency planning process.


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