Earlier this week I wrote that The Weather Reminds Us That It's Time To Get Serious About Resilient Design. You didn't hear the word much until recently, and it was often dismissed as "sustainability with guns." Cameron Tonkinwise commented on a post earlier this year, complaining about our use of the term resilience when it means only 'the capacity to survive catastrophe':
I wonder if he is right, in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. A lot of people are getting very fearful and a lot of heads are being pulled out of the sand. At the Atlantic, Richard Florida and Sara Johnson write:
I do not believe that you can ever get people to change by making them worry about life-threatening catastrophe. They are much more likely to bury their head in the sand, or even lash out at you in fear, than they are to quietly begin restructuring their life just-in-case. If you can get people to change by making them fearful of apocalypse, I do not think you should. Sustainability must be something we want to do, not something we feel we have to do. It needs to be much more desirable than the 'well at least you won't die' option that resiliency seems to offer.
Mike Tidwell suggests that there appear to be three basic solutions: "(1) abandon our coastal cities and retreat inland, (2) stay put and try to adapt to the menacing new conditions or (3) stop burning planet-warming fossil fuels as fast as possible." Given that the first one is more or less impossible, he concludes, like most of us probably would, that coastal mega-cities need to do a combination of two and three.
At GigaOm, Katie Fehrenbacher writes:
The power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy on the east coast highlight the needs for a much greater investment in smart grid technology, energy storage systems, clean power, and ultimately a move to a more decentralized power grid architecture.
Alex Wilson of BuildingGreen and his new baby, the Resilient Design Institute, writes:
Now, the need for resilience is front-and-center. There are people who will be without power for weeks. Will they be able to stay in their houses without electricity? Will their pipes freeze if we get a cold spell before power is restored? By building or retrofitting to achieve resilient design, we can create homes that will never drop below 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit even if the house is totally cut off from power and heating fuel—they can do that with high levels of insulation, top-performing windows, passive solar gain, and other features that I’ve been covering in these RDI blogs.
Resilient design also informs where we build and how we create infrastructure to deal with stormwater. It tells us to build with materials that can get wet and dry out again without growing mold. It leads to the use of hurricane tie-down strapping that will keep roofs from blowing off in intense winds.
Hamish McRea writes from the UK about economics and resilience:
Just watching the way ordinary people in Washington went about preparing for the storm and the way small businesses stayed open even when public transport was shut, made me aware of the social glue of a society when faced with trouble. The US has shown the some of these wider strengths in coping with Sandy and that deserves respect.
Tony Schwartz writes from his hotel room for the Harvard Business Review:
The world in this part of the country has changed this week. And I think we're looking at a new normal that is far reaching. It's characterized by by uncertainty, volatility, instability, and the vast acceleration of nearly everything.
This isn't only about the weather, although the evidence is plainly growing that climate change is part of our future, and if we continue to ignore it, we'll be doing so at great peril to ourselves and the planet. Even now, extreme weather that disrupts and costs lives feels more commonplace than ever. But change itself is everywhere — economic, organizational, political, social, and technological.