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Posts Tagged ‘resilience’

Photo: Chris Granger/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate/AP
“Roofing contractors install a temporary roof on a home in New Orleans East, Sept. 8, 2021. FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are overseeing this Blue Roof program to help homeowners recover from the damage cause by Hurricane Ida,” the
Monitor reports.

Can humanity learn from history? Sometimes, yes. According to this September 2021 story, people are learning from climate disasters. Even I, as a child on Fire Island, learned that people who build houses on sand dunes ask for heartbreak. Collectively, the towns on the island learned the same thing.

Marshall Ingwerson wrote this report on collective learning at the Christian Science Monitor.

“In the weeks since Hurricane Ida landed at New Orleans, it has illustrated two very different stories. One is the rising violence of the changing climate. The other, which is only now fully emerging, is the human resilience that has already made the world far safer. …

“The aftermath of Hurricane Ida is now entering what we might call the resilience zone. It can be the most testing, and telling, phase.

“As part of the Monitor’s Finding Resilience project, here is a tale of two cities: The New Orleans hit by Hurricane Katrina 16 years ago and the New Orleans hit by Hurricane Ida late last [August]. 

“They were not identical storms. Ida struck with less sweeping girth than Katrina but more sheer force. They weren’t all that different, either.

“But they hit a different New Orleans. Katrina killed more than 1,800 people. The breaching of the levees put 80% of the city underwater. The blow was nearly existential to New Orleans as we knew it. Three in 10 residents vacated, many permanently. 

“After Ida struck last month, the now-fortified levees held against the surge. The toll in fatalities in Louisiana is at 28. A similar number died in New Jersey as Ida-driven rain flooded the Northeast. The scale of damage and heartbreak is so vastly different that clearly Louisiana is more robust and storm-hardy than in 2005. The population had even grown back in New Orleans, recently surpassing its pre-Katrina numbers.

“Ida has been covered as an example and a warning of the rising violence of climate change, making hurricanes stronger, floods higher, and fires bigger and more frequent in the dry West. And that’s an important context. 

“But here’s another: Even as climate events become more dangerously frequent and potent, humanity has actually become safer – dramatically safer.

“The economist Bjorn Lomborg finds that the number of people killed worldwide by climate-related events in the 1920s, a century ago, was 27 times higher than the number killed over the decade ending 2019.

Corrected for the far higher global population today, the death rate a century ago was more than 130 times what it is today.

“Dr. Lomborg’s point is that when we assess the costs, the dangers, and the difficulties that climate change implies, human resilience and ingenuity is a nontrivial factor. So far, in fact, it has been an overwhelming factor.

“A term like resilience can risk sounding a little minimizing and reductive – just a personal character trait. It is much more than that.

“Those who have been through a hurricane strike report that it is after the winds have gone quiet, the ground dried, and the sun shining in steamy afternoons, only then have they arrived at the hard part – the exhausting building back, the forging ahead, the relaunch into forward motion. …

“Many of the efforts to resuscitate post-Katrina New Orleans were deeply personal, with families making remarkable sacrifices to rebuild the economy and education, much less the roads, bridges, and buildings of the city itself.

“So resilience is a matter of spirit, of finding the heart to come back. But its structure, the ladder resilience climbs, is learning. We pick ourselves up, we learn what we need to learn, and we get to work.

And it’s not just person-by-person resilience that drives the kind of change we have seen. It’s collective.

“Only big, complex teams can achieve what New Orleans accomplished in the past 16 years. The scale of the investment, the engineering, the overlapping interests, the cross-cutting visions and values – only politics can put all that together and sort all that out. …

“Yet humankind has made the world, per Mr. Lomborg’s numbers, more than 99% safer against natural disasters in the last century by scaling resilience. And we do that through the institutions we use to work together. 

“The only way we can learn and then act on as massive a scale as demanded of New Orleans is through the institutions we’ve developed over centuries – whether it’s a city council, a police department, a university, an engineering association, a religious denomination, a news organization, a Supreme Court, or an updated building code.

“It’s the lack of robust institutions that reduce resilience in a country like Haiti – where such institutions were undermined by Western powers for centuries – to a more individual matter. Anyone who has visited the nation has witnessed the sheer energy and unoppressed vitality of the people that crowd the streets of Port au Prince. The spirit is there, but it’s a resilience on foot, a personal challenge, and not yet a resilience that can collectively build safety from the next natural disaster.

“Individual learning can be a flashlight for families, communities, organizations, nations. But it is collective learning, what we achieve together, that holds real power. In fact, civilization itself could be defined as collective learning.”

More at the Monitor, here.

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Photo: Mark Naison.
Fordham students who helped launch the Bronx COVID-19 Oral History Project, stand with the project’s faculty adviser and an artist interviewed for the project outside the Crab Shanty Restaurant in the Bronx on May 20, 2021.

It’s hard to predict how anyone will respond to a stressful situation. A tightly controlled person may completely lose it; an anxious individual may find a reservoir of calm. As Harry Bruinius reports at the Christian Science Monitor, there were surprises like that in lockdown. What was clearly a stressful time had an unexpected positive side when kindness and resilience shone through the darkness.

“When Bethany Fernandez first began to document oral histories in the Bronx during the pandemic,” Bruinius writes, “her own life was ‘chaotic.’ … But the past year and a half has become, almost in a strange way, a time of profound personal growth and self-discovery, says Ms. Fernandez, a lifelong resident of the Bronx, a borough of New York City.

“The communities surrounding her were among the most afflicted in the country, and they were being documented relentlessly in the news. But when she decided to join a group of fellow students at Fordham University to launch the Bronx COVID-19 Oral History Project, she found a reality not fully captured in the news, she says.

“ ‘In moments like these, a cynical person might think,”Oh, people are going to be selfish” – resources are scarce, survival of the fittest, or whatever,’ says Ms. Fernandez. ‘But no, it was the complete opposite.’ …

“Far from tales of woe, in fact, she and the five others in the project found their subjects again and again using a particular word to describe their experiences: resilience.

“Resilience in the face of hardship and trauma has always been a part of the human story. But during the past few decades, researchers have probed more deeply into what some scholars call a ‘psychological immune system’ that enables many people to respond to even the worst of situations and to recover from their resulting traumas. …

“ ‘If there is a silver lining that could come out of this, it would be that people are understanding that while the negatives scream at you, the positives – the resilience you can always find in people – these are only whispers,’ says Ken Yeager, director of the Stress, Trauma and Resilience (STAR) Program at The Ohio State University in Columbus.

“Human beings are wired to take particular note of the dangers that surround them and even focus on stories of trauma and fear. ‘The fight-or-flight response actually helps the species as a whole to survive, but it does nothing to make you happy,’ Dr. Yeager says. ‘It does nothing to help you build resilience.’

“The Bronx COVID-19 Oral History Project tells this story.

“[According to] Alison Rini, a senior from New Jersey studying English and Italian … ‘It was such a surprising experience, finding these examples of people describing their resilience in the midst of such hard times – in the Bronx, in particular. …

“ ‘The pandemic has been a test of the global psychological immune system, which appears more robust than we would have guessed,’ wrote scholars Lara Aknin, Jamil Zaki, and Elizabeth Dunn in the Atlantic. ‘In order to make sense of these patterns, we looked back to a classic psychology finding: People are more resilient than they themselves realize.’

“The authors emphasize that such broad trends should not erase ‘the immense pain, overwhelming loss, and financial hardships’ so many have faced over the past year and a half, especially disadvantaged populations. …

“ ‘But [the] pandemic holds its own lessons,’ they wrote. ‘Human beings are not passive victims of change but active stewards of our own well-being.’ …

“In what Ms. Fernandez calls one of her most memorable interviews, the owner of a Bronx restaurant described how she lost nearly 85% of her business and struggled to stay afloat after laying off most of her employees.

“Though the restaurant specializes in Puerto Rican and American cuisine, the owner, Maribel Gonzalez, kept the original name of the restaurant she bought 16 years ago, South of France. …

“Describing herself as a person of faith, Ms. Gonzalez said she had always offered her local community a free buffet every Wednesday. During the pandemic, as she and one or two employees struggled to keep the restaurant open, she kept that tradition alive, providing a free buffet at the height of the shutdown, even if only for an hour or two a week.

“ ‘You know, in all of this devastation, there are also a lot of blessings, because you find that you’re more resilient, that you’re stronger than you may have thought,’ Ms. Gonzalez told the project. She said her restaurant provided hundreds of meals for front-line health workers in partnership with others, supported by donations from a GoFundMe page.

“ ‘When you need to lug that 50 pound bag because you have to make whatever money you can, because maybe some of it can go to feed families that can’t afford it, you find the strength, you get the stamina, you find the chutzpah, if you will, to lift that bag, because there are so many depending on it – myself, my business, my future, the future of my employees, and those of my community.’ …

“The project had a profound effect on Ms. Fernandez as she wrestled with the challenges in her own life. ‘It was the one thing that stood out to me, the generosity that was shown all over, even throughout the time of the pandemic,’ she says. ‘Because when you see how resources are limited, when you’re being stretched out by work, by family obligations, by life and all of that, even with all the suffering going on, people were willing to give, people were willing to offer compassion and kindness.’ ”

More at the Monitor, here.

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In March, ecoRI posted an article about a Rockefeller Foundation proposal for  protection of four sensitive coastal areas.

The website reports, “Leading climate scientists, engineers, designers and scholars recently collaborated to create comprehensive resiliency design proposals for vulnerable coasts along the North Atlantic, such as Rhode Island’s.

Structures of Coastal Resilience (SCR), a Rockefeller Foundation-supported project dedicated to providing resilient design proposals for urban coastal environments, focuses on four vulnerable coasts: Narragansett Bay; Jamaica Bay in New York; Atlantic City in New Jersey; and Norfolk, Va.

“Each of the project locations feature ongoing projects by the Army Corps of Engineers, and each location is highly prone to flooding and socioeconomic vulnerability, according to project officials. The goal of SCR is provide actionable project recommendations for hurricane protection and climate adaptation. …

“As Rhode Island was spared the worst of the devastation associated with Hurricane Sandy [in 2012], it’s an ideal location for developing structures of coastal resilience that can be advanced gradually and through systematic evaluation and adaptation, according to project officials. …

“As increased urban runoff and higher saltwater levels merge on the coastal zone, some species are threatened while others adapt. Marsh and dunes recede while weedy forest cover creeps closer to the beachfront. Plants with high salt tolerance that are capable of rapid establishment have begun to colonize areas with accommodating soil. Designers can capitalize on this process, deploying plants to prevent erosion and build resilient coasts.” More here.

Folks, a woman involved with a movie about saving the oceans (Revolution) e-mailed to ask if I would review it, and I said sure. So watch this space.

Photo: CityData.com

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