Good Ideas File: Resilience is Local

This article on planning and design for ecological resilience in the face of the increasing occurrence of extreme weather events, echoes a strong thread in physical planning across the world.  But in the book, I also talked about the need for economic resilience — the ability of a community to bounce back from the shocks of economic change and disruption.  As I’ve discussed in that section of the book, and in an essay pas de deux  with Jason Segedy, being from the Rust Belt in the 1970s probably means that you have a somewhat similar, uneasy sense of looking over your shoulder for the next disaster bearing down on you as people in flood-prone places today.

This section of the essay, I thought, gave a particularly good insight into a way to build not only environmental, but economic resilience: by valuing and trusting local knowledge.

Resilience planning and design can save billions of dollars. Its considerations pay careful attention to limiting the ‘logistics burden’ and can also be applied to extremely complicated, often costly, questions of security and sustainability simultaneously.

“Imagine a contractor operating in another country decides to use local builders to work on projects,” says Hay. “They utilize local knowledge, are respectful and collaborative. This approach builds trust and provides jobs and can ease potential community tensions with outsiders. This then makes it easier to do things that generally get in the way of operational success, such as transport or access to energy resources.”

It seems simple, but the cost of building relationships is far less than attempting to operate in a hostile environment, where infrastructure can never entirely keep up. The same can be said for climate change. Designing systems that consider climate change potentially help reduce the future shocks of extreme weather and the costly stresses on infrastructure that follow.

Perhaps a simple lesson that we need to rely on more closely, instead of continuing to hope that Someone with Something from Outside is going to come save our community.


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