This morning it’s 52°F and sunny. And in Maine it’s 25 below. Bizarre.
Courtesy of the Internet I witness the rapid changes in our world – which show up at an exponentially increasing rate. I contemplate the uncertain future we are bursting into. How will life be for us, and our community, as we finish out our lifespan? And what about our kids and grandkids?
Which leads me to the concept of community resilience – in particular how it applies in Juneau. Juneau has recent experience with disaster – last March an avalanche took out 3 of the power system transmission towers. The City and its residents responded well, and the City has since established a Sustainability Commission to look to the future. So it strikes me as, in general, a resilient place. But, like everywhere, it faces profound challenges as the global economy melts into oblivion and climate change accelerates. Nonetheless, I suspect it’s better situated to survive than many another place. We’re glad we’re here and not in some urban zoo.
So what is a resilient community?
*Resiliency is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or other significant sources of stress. Resiliency is the capacity to bounce back.
For a community to be resilient, its members must put into practice early and effective actions. If residents, agencies and organizations take meaningful and intentional actions before an event, communities can reestablish stability after an event. Resilience implies that after an event, a community may not only be able to cope and to recover but also change to reflect different priorities arising from the disaster.
A resilient community can respond to crises in ways that strengthen community bonds, resources and its capacity to cope. Community resilience is the individual and collective capacity to respond to adversity and change. A community’s resilience is related to:
- the magnitude of shock it can absorb and remain competent;
- the degree to which it is capable of self-organization; and
- the degree to which it has the capacity for learning and adaptation
Our town has many resources to match up against its numerous vulnerabilities. Below is a suggested list:
|Cohesive and involved community
Progressive local government
Strong native culture
Adventurous spirit of incomers
Abundant water supply
Hydroelectric power source
Won’t fry as climate warms
Glacial rebound as sealevel rises
Far from warring hotspots
Temperate rain forest
Potential for geothermal power
Large tidal range
Not a “shopping” culture
No “car” culture
|Isolation from rest of US/Alaska
Only access is by air or sea
Little locally grown food
Tough climate for growing food
Land unsuitable for farming
Economy depends on tourism
Economy depends on State gov’t
Political efforts to move Capital
Population static or declining
Sustainability of fish stocks in question
On balance, Juneau has a lot going for it to stand up against potential dangers. I think I’m going to focus some personal energy on adding my weight to the “strength” side of the above equation.
What set me off on this train of thought was Rachel Maddow. (She has fast become my favorite news educator and commentator.) In her coverage of the ditching of a disabled US Airways plane last week in the Hudson River she noted that all aboard survived, and while much of their good fortune was attributed to the skill and preparation of the pilot there was more to it than that. Rachel talked about the resilience of the US – including the existence of training and regulations to promote public safety (aka the common good) on all manner of fronts. Despite the best efforts of the Bush administration to dismantle and badmouth government intervention on behalf of the common good, much of it (thankfully) still exists.
*I found this language on the website of the West Virginia Deptartment of Health and Human Resources.