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What Does “Resilience” Mean?
The word resilient is derived from the Latin wore resilire, meaning to jump back, recoil. So, we might recoil after sticking our foot in frigid water and, importantly, recover composure. According to the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, resilient means:
a. capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture; and
b. tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.
Thinking of the Monroe Community, resilience is a measure of the community’s tendency and capacity to recover or “bounce back” from or adjust to adversity or change. Of course, we should ask “resilient to what?” What are the changes that might challenge the Monroe Community and how can we be better prepared to respond to these changes and make the most of them? How will the Monroe Community become even more successful in this rapidly changing world?
What Makes a Community Resilient?
Resilience is the capacity to recover from adversity or change, including adaptive capacity. Adaptation is a critically important part of resilience because it allows us to prevent further harm from significant change while making the most of the new conditions. By adapting rapidly to changing circumstances, our communities may not only survive challenges, but thrive.
Communities interested in becoming more resilient assess their vulnerabilities and make action plans to reduce their sensitivities and exposures to hazards of all kinds. For example, local governments can improve building standards to reduce heating and cooling challenges posed by severe temperature swings (cold and hot).
Improvements in social cohesion and civic engagement also improve community resilience, by increasing the capacity of volunteer organizations and providing more secure neighborhoods, among other things. Planning processes can help increase civic engagement by improving and communications and cooperation between cultural and service organizations and organizing larger community projects.
To improve economic resilience, communities can work to encourage and support local production of goods and supplies, increasing self-reliance and reducing the flow of funds out of the community. Programs to encourage local investing and entrepreneurship have been helpful in building both employment and production capacity. Local investments, consumption of locally owned products, and locally owned businesses all help to diversify the community’s economy giving it greater resilience. Two of the many national and international organizations working on these topics are the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (www.ilsr.org) and the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies or BALLE (bealocalist.org).
Among other things, the Resilient Monroe! Project will guide citizens, community leaders and public officials through a series of planning steps to help build resilience, including:
- Climate Vulnerability Assessment & Action Planning
- Community & Resident Preparedness Training
- Public Participation & Civic Engagement Efforts
- Structural & Infrastructure Design Improvements
- Greater Use of Ecosystem Services (e.g., trees for cooling)
- Increase Emphasis on Local Production & Self-Reliance
Climate & Hazard Resilient Communities
In recent years, many organizations, research groups and governmental agencies have focused efforts on helping communities and regions become more resilient to storms and natural disasters. For example, the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides information and recommendations on making communities more resilient to coastal storms and other weather-related hazards (website: coastalmanagement.noaa.gov) The Community and Regional Resilience Institute (CARRI) helps to develop and share information on ways to prepare for, respond to, and rapidly recover from significant man-made or natural disasters with minimal downtime of basic services (website: www.resilientus.org). Similarly, the Rand Corporation has helped to implement and evaluate community resilience-building activities in public health and emergency preparedness, infrastructure protection, and the development of economic recovery programs (website: www.rand.org).
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention has been working with state and local health departments in recent years to help prepare communities in managing the health risks of climate change. The Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) framework is a five step process that enables a health department to improve its inputs to the traditional planning process and support the development and implementation of a unified climate and health adaptation strategy for a jurisdiction. (See: www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth)