What does resiliency mean in the context of cities?

In 2017 alone, superfluous natural-disasters from Typhoon Damrey inundating Vietnam ($600M in damages), earthquakes devastating Mexico ($2B USD in damages), to Hurricane Harvey ravaging the US ($125B in damages) have overwhelmed the global community (Jeffery, Steinberg).  Ergo, Jaimie Masterson has dubbed recent decades the “New Era of Catastrophes;” his research indicates that since 1980, natural-disasters have not only “more than doubled” in frequency but have increased in “magnitude” and “severity” (5).  

Thus, ‘resiliency’ has become a staple criterion for architects and regional-planners. 

In the context of cities, resiliency is defined as the capacity for urban centers to withstand impacts of disasters, recover, re-organize, and mitigate externalities, thus diminishing severity or likelihood of future disasters.

While Masterson focuses on natural events—cataloguing occurrences (like the aforementioned) as meteorological, hydrological, or geophysical—disasters can also be anthropogenic—technological (e.g. engineering-disasters) or sociological (e.g. terrorism) (Jha). 

Ergo, planners should incorporate different elements to plan around these natural and man-made events.  Some elements that planners ought to include are: pre-impact elements (creating readiness through emergency-budget assessments, information-dissemination through educational programs, and building streamlined, reliable infrastructure) and throughout-impact elements (transparent and efficient transportation, volunteer programs, and immediate-response teams).  In both categories, it is integral to include the public, those who understand the community first-hand—involving them with registration processes, having them create maps that reflect and aggregate exclusively local information, and ultimately allowing the once “static surveyors” to actively engage in a local “Jazz of Practice” (Coburn 214).

As societies begin preparation between disasters, it is given that there will be political and physical infrastructure restructuring.  This gives an opportunity for a policy window of opportunity where societies can refocus on building resiliency, but also a chance to potentially change structural problems like inclusion or inefficient building-design.  Especially after disasters, ruin will be an impetus for self-reflection—where if nothing is done, lives will continue to be at stake, leading to implications for large policy reform.

An example of this is New Orleans and its substantial resiliency overhaul in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  Following the loss of nearly 1,000 lives and damages totaling to $108BN, a key lesson was learned—that the unprepared will suffer.  Thus, New Orleans created CAEP, a modernized strategy that utilized transparent Evacuspots and streamlined transportation to evacuate its citizens—bringing up evacuation-rates to nearly 98% 3-years later.  Other lessons include: the importance of community/family involvement (registration, evacuation, education) and getting people out of harm’s way. 

Works Cited

Coburn, Jason(2005). Street Science: Community Knowledge and Environmental Health Justice, MIT Press.
Jha M.K. (2010) Natural and Anthropogenic Disasters: An Overview. In: Jha M.K. (eds) Natural and Anthropogenic Disasters. Springer, Dordrecht
Masterson, Jaimie Hicks; Peacock, Walter Gilles; Van Zandt, Shannon S.; Grover, Hiramanu; Schwartz, Lori Field; and, Cooper, Jr., John T. (2014). Planning for Community Resilience. Washington, DC: Island Press
Steinberg, Marty, and Adam Jeffery. “2017 — a Year of Disaster.” CNBC, CNBC, 26 Dec. 2017, www.cnbc.com/2017/12/26/2017–a-year-of-disaster.html.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: