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:
Update: there is a November version on that website.

Review of “Standards and Finance to Support Community Resilience”

As noted on this blog on December 26, the White House released a report titled Standards and Finance to Support Community Resilience.  The Diva asked John Plodinec, guru on the topic of resilience, to provide a review of the report. John blogs at the Community and Regional Resilience Institute.

Here is his review:

Knowing my focus on (obsession with?) community resilience, Claire Rubin asked me to review this relatively short (29 pp) report from the OMB.  The report zeroes in on the one aspect of community resilience most frequently ignored by academics:  funding.  It is far more fashionable to focus the social or socio-ecological aspects of resilience; but the work of Rick Weil in particular points out that recovery requires resources as well as the people with the skill and the will to use them.

The report is chock full of important facts, a few factoids, and one glaring omission.  Its strongest chapter is right up front – making the case for investments in resilience.  It starts by citing the oft-quoted 4-to-1 return on federal mitigation investments determined by NIBS’ Multihazard Mitigation Council.  It couples this with studies from the Institute for Business and Home Safety that show that adoption and enforcement of appropriate building codes can reduce insurance claims due to hurricanes significantly.  Very importantly, this section points to several instances in which communities made investments and indicates their ROIs.  This is probably the most important section for practitioners – a collection of facts and anecdotes that make a powerful case for investments in mitigation.

This chapter then delves into the messy subject of insurance and building standards.  “Messy”   because of the widely divergent approaches to both insurance and building codes taken by each state.  Almost always ignored at the federal level, the 50 states’ varying acceptance of “Home Rule” for communities makes it difficult to justify general statements about what communities can or should do.

This is followed by an interesting discussion of the importance of a community’s resilience on it credit rating.  I was aware of some of this, but the report pulls together several pieces to show that lack of mitigation can lead to a reduced credit rating.  This section then concludes by pointing to “blind spots” where we need means to better assess risk and the ROI of mitigation.

The second chapter examines the nexus among building codes and standards, community governance, and resilience, particularly in the context of “climate change” and residences.  It rightly points out that current codes do not address where to build, only what and how to build.  There is a brief but good discussion of “above code” standards such as IBHS’ Fortified Home.  The chapter closes with recommended actions to improve the resilience of the nation’s housing stock.

The third chapter looks at financing retrofits for resilience.  Several programs are mentioned but the list is neither comprehensive nor especially informative.  The fourth chapter – “Enabling and Accelerating Resilience” – detailing federal and NGO efforts “to develop data and tools to support community resilience and platforms to increase the sharing of data, information, models, and analytic tools across agencies and sectors.”  This chapter also examines incentivization of resilience.  Innovative financial approaches by North Carolina, Alabama, Florida and Connecticut are highlighted.  The chapter concludes by considering how changes in tax policies might incentivize investments in resilience.

All in all a fairly comprehensive yet compact view of financing community resilience from a federal perspective.  This gives rise to the “glaring omission” I mentioned:  it doesn’t really look at investing in resilience from a community perspective.  For example:

  •  The focus is on pre-disaster financing, esp. mitigation. But what if a community does not have sufficient capital or credit to invest in itself?  What if the community is in a state that constrains the community’s ability to invest (e.g., limits its bonding authority)?  These communities need to follow other strategies to increase their resilience; the report is silent about financing non-mitigation approaches to resilience.
  • While the report appropriately points out the importance of a community’s governance to things like building codes, it ignores the larger question of how a community’s investments relate to its governance. For example, the report barely acknowledges that most of our nation’s infrastructure is in private hands.  When and how should private companies pay for public goods (e.g., buried power lines)?
  • Beyond the SBA’s loan programs, there is no discussion of investments to increase the resilience of a community’s business sector. And yet, a community will not be able to recover from disaster unless its business sector does.

What is needed is a companion volume that looks at investment in community resilience from the community perspective.  This should look at each state – how communities are constrained and what each is doing (or not) to invest in its resilience.  For those of you who read John Travis Marshall’s article, communities need to have that kind of mirror so that they can not only see themselves but can see what can be done to make themselves more resilient.


New Report on Resilience from the White House

From the White House Office of Management and Budget a new report titled  Standards and Finance to Support Community Resilience.  This 29 page report is  the culmination of collaboration with leaders in re/insurance, catastrophe modeling, and building science to advance community resilience and insurability.  The office also announced additional commitments by leaders in the insurance industry to help identify and reduce the risks and costs of disasters.