“How Social Ties Make Us Resilient to Trauma”

How social ties make us resilient to trauma.  Excerpt:

Hardening our society is one way to make us more resilient to hazards – that is, to allow us to bounce back from adversity more quickly. But we cannot armor our societies against all threats. Millions of people in cities like Boston, Mumbai, Ghana, Tel Aviv and Tokyo use public transportation systems, attend concerts, go to parks, visit malls and walk in public daily. All of these locations are vulnerable to those who would do us harm, and we cannot police them all. Further, protecting against one type of physical threat, such as an active shooter, does little to shield society against other types of dangers, such as vehicular attacks. My research on the role of social networks during and after crises provides an alternative approach. Rather than focusing on hardening our physical infrastructure, our societies become more resilient when we deepen and broaden our social infrastructure. Social ties provide emotional support, information and collective action at critical times.

Thanks to Dan Aldrich, the author, for calling this article to my attention.

New Resilience Study

New resilience study helps governments prevent disaster-related loss

Hurricanes, wildfires, tsunamis, and other disasters cannot be stopped, but countries can plan for them — something some areas of the world seem to do better than others, according to a new study. In the study, thirty-eight factors that affect a country’s resilience were derived from national and international databases, and the researchers used these databases to grade the resilience of each country and continent and develop a comprehensive index that includes indicators such as the number of disasters and their death tolls, as well as an area’s population, infrastructure, economy and educational system

New High Level Resilience Council

Atlantic Council Launches New Resilience Center in Face of Mounting Global DisruptionsSome details:

At the inaugural meeting of the Adrienne Arsht Center for Resilience, a high-level group of policymakers, experts, and local leaders urged governments to accelerate efforts to integrate resilience into decision-making as a critical component of effective policymaking at the local, national, and international level.

“A single event or disruption can spark any number of unexpected, reverberating consequences which make responding to the initial challenge ever more difficult,” declared the Atlantic Council’s Resilience Task Force members in a communique, noting that resilience is “a policy strategy to manage shocks, recover from the worst effects, and gain in the process.”

New ebook: Resilience Matters

Resilience Matters; Sustainable, Equitable Solutions. This new, free ebook available from Island Press; here is the direct link to the 175 page book.

Thanks to reviewer Dr. John Plodinec for reading the book and preparing this review. John is the Associate Director of the Community and Regional Resilience Institute. Here is his review:

When I’m evaluating a book like Resilience Matters, the first question I ask is “Did it make me think?”  If it didn’t, then I’ve wasted the hours I spent with it.  I don’t have to agree with what the book says; often disagreement goads me to examine why I don’t agree (That’s the genesis of many/most of the comments I’ve made here over the years!).

It is difficult for a collection of 40 short essays (all originally published elsewhere) on various aspects of resilience to do that consistently.  And so it is here – some of the essays are thought-provoking, some have novel takes on mundane topics, and some I wished I’d skipped over.  The book is at its best when it provides quick case studies to illustrate a point.  It’s at its worst when it slips into polemics (which it does far too often for my taste).

The Introduction, by Laurie Mazur (the editor), is quite good.  I especially liked her framing of resilience as “the capacity of a community to anticipate, plan for, and mitigate the risks—and seize the opportunities—associated with environmental and social change.”  While I disagree with her on the importance of economic inequality (speeding up social mobility is much more important), she made her case in a clear and concise manner. Her “Ask-Analyze-Act” rubric and her statement that “resilience requires a holistic view” all made her essay worthwhile.

The rest of the collection is organized into seven sections:

  1. Climate change and adaptation.
  2. Health, food and water.
  3. Urban development and infrastructure.
  4. Environmental and social justice.
  5. Transportation.
  6. Nature and sustainability.
  7. Energy.

However, dealing with climate change is really the major focus of the book.

High notes – Baylen Linnekin’s essay on “Bee Bans and More.”  This uses a case study to make the case for performance-based rather than prescriptive food regulations.  Ben Plowden on “London’s Olympic Legacy” extracts some valuable tips for a more resilient transportation system from the example of the London Olympics in 2012 (It would be interesting to contrast London 2012 with Rio 2016.).  In fact, I thought the entire Transportation section the best part of the book.

Other little gems – Mitchell Silver’s “Parks:  Not Just for Picnics” reminds us of the importance of parks as a part of a city’s infrastructure.  Vanterpool and Byron’s take on the creation of the Bronx River Greenway.

Harnik and Hiple’s “If It Doesn’t Have a Bench, Is It Still a Park?” stands out for three reasons: it’s the longest essay in the collection (7 pp); one of the few that provides a balanced look at a contentious urban issue; and one that clearly reflects the authors’ well-thought-out point of view without descending into polemics.  In fact, I was so impressed with it that I looked for a few other pieces from these folks (Their piece on parking for the Memphis Zoo is well worth seeking out.).

Low points.  The essays that mentioned Trump.  The essays that stated as a fact that we needed to restructure society and the economy (presumably doing away with capitalism) to deal with climate change (Why hasn’t someone applied the Precautionary Principle to that?).  The kneejerk acceptance that fossil fuels are entirely responsible for the warming climate and sea level rise.  The problems I had with these were not that they argued for or against something I believed in; it was that they didn’t argue, but simply assumed that their position was right as if there could be no argument.

Thus, I can neither condemn nor recommend this tidy collection.  If the polemics don’t bother you, there are some valuable nuggets here.  If you’d prefer to have pronouncements on policy independent of partisanship, then you might not want to bother.

Contribution of the Elderly to Community Resilience

New article (8 pp.) from Dan Aldrich: Creating Community Resilience Through Elder-Led Physical and Social Infrastructure.

Natural disasters and rapidly aging populations are chronic problems for societies worldwide. We investigated the effects of an intervention in Japan known as Ibasho, which embeds elderly residents in vulnerable areas within larger social networks and encourages them to participate in leadership activities. This project sought to deepen the connections of these elderly residents to society and to build elderly leadership and community capacity for future crises.

Methods: We carried out surveys of participants and nonparticipant residents across the city of Ofunato in Tohoku, Japan, 1 year after the intervention began. Our surveys included questions assessing participation levels in Ibasho, demographic characteristics, efficacy, social networks, and a sense of belonging.

Results: Regression analysis and propensity score matching of more than 1100 respondents showed that regular participation in the Ibasho project had a statistically significant and positive connection with various measures of social capital.

Conclusions: Given its relatively low cost and focus on deepening cohesion, we suggest that this community-based project could be replicated and scaled up in other countries to deepen resilience, elder health, and social capital. Moving away from an emphasis on investing in physical infrastructure, we believe that disaster risk reduction strategies should center on social infrastructure

Assessing Climate Resilience in 250 Cities

Resilience: Assessing climate resiliency of more than 250 U.S. cities

The University of Notre Dame’s Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN) has announced it will assess the climate vulnerability and readiness of every U.S. city with a population over 100,000 — more than 250 in all — in an effort to help inform decisions by city officials on infrastructure, land use, water resources management, transportation and other adaptive strategies. The Urban Adaptation Assessment (UAA) will also integrate a social equity analysis, which will investigate how vulnerable groups are disproportionately harmed by climate hazards, such as extreme heat, flooding and extreme cold.

The OARS List – Jan. 2017

From Don Watson, the Jan. 2017 version of the list of Organizations Addressing Resilience and Sustainability (OARS List). It contains more than 120 pages, 500 citations, with new additions highlighted in blue. It has hundreds of sources of grants and contracts, jobs and internships, training and webinars, conferences and reports.

The list and related materials are on the OARS website: www.TheOARSlist.com.
Update: there is a November version on that website.