Climate Change

The best offense is a good defense. 


re·sil·ience (rəˈzilyəns)

  1. the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens.
  2. the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent: elasticity


    I'm about to head off to huddle with a group of colleagues to frame "10 Principles of Resilience" based on our work in more than a dozen communities.  This gave me the chance to look at some of the projects I've worked on, and think about lessons learned.  

    Resiliency can be divided into four basic dimensions of urban resilience[1]:

    • health and well being,
    • economy and society,
    • infrastructure and environment, and
    • leadership, strategy and community engagement. 

    The cost of preparing for a hard to see, long-range event can play second fiddle to immediate, day-to-day operational challenges particularly when there are competing capital needs.  However, resiliency is not merely a protective Band Aid, it is also an economic driver.  Economics is a combination of avoided risk and the capitalization of opportunities.

    The objective is to proactively make cities and communities increasingly capable of overcoming both the day to day and catastrophic stresses placed upon them.    This is measured in terms of economic value- increased revenue, avoided cost, community cohesion, environmental health and resident physical and social well-being.  Each of which contributes to a desirable, future ready city.

    Developing a plan for a resilient community involves a large and diverse number of stakeholders spanning the domains of economic development, industry, social equity, urban planning, design, and engineering.  Some of the focal points include establishing leadership structures, finding launching points to gain traction, and engaging business and residential community to help drive appropriate investments.   

    Costs associated with resiliency measures must be viewed in conjunction with the avoided impacts – loss of property, business and economic exposure and critical life/safety mitigations.  At the same time, value associated with a stronger, more resilient neighborhood and quality of life must also be incorporated.  Communities rely heavily on linked networks.  The loss of one critical component of infrastructure can have cascading effects throughout a myriad of systems.    

    For example, our work showed that in the event of a climate related event in the Duwamish River area in Seattle (such as a sea level with a King tide or prolonged precipitation) significant economic losses would be incurred.   Lost wages, property damage and business interruption would reverberate throughout the local, regional and national economy.  

    While the actual amount is difficult to assess, a comprehensive commercial level assessment in the Green River Valley (GRV) shows total property value exposure between $30-50 billion.  Given, the Duwamish area accounts for about 30% of total sales/property tax and 10-20% of total employment in the overall GRV region, we estimated about a $10 billion exposure in property value in this area.  Business interruption, for days or weeks, would add exponentially to this cost.  Food insurance is generally an exclusion in most policies.  Even though many companies carry property damage and business interruption insurance, the downtime and inability to deliver a product or service in a timely manner has long term ramifications – for the firm, their employees and their clients.  

    Research shows resilient people, possess three characteristics: a staunch acceptance of reality; a deep belief, often buttressed by strongly held values, that life is meaningful; and an uncanny ability to improvise.  Communities, made up of people, are the same.  

    Resiliency strategies play a huge role in long term viability and economic value both for public entities as well as individual businesses and residents.   The objective is to future-proof against potential downside while priming to take advantage of opportunities. What region or business would, in their right mind, leave their long term fate to the vagaries of the environment, when reasonable, prudent and proactive measures can be taken to avoid property and profit losses? 


    [1] Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities Program