Rethinking Infrastructure and Resilience Amid a Blitz of HurricanesLeave a Comment
- Resilience is seizing an opportunity to move into a state of greater adaptability and preparedness — not just going back to the status quo
…Resilience is a property traditionally defined as the ability to bounce back. A host of engineers and urban planners have long warned this trait is sorely lacking in America’s brittle infrastructure.
Many such experts say the disasters in the sprawling suburban and petro-industrial landscape around Houston and along the crowded coasts of Florida reinforce the urgent idea that resilient infrastructure is needed more than ever, particularly as human-driven climate change helps drive extreme weather.
The challenge in prompting change — broadening the classic definition of “infrastructure,” and investing in initiatives aimed at adapting to a turbulent planet — is heightened by partisan divisions over climate policy and development….
…She and several other experts said a first step is getting past the old definition of resilience as bouncing back from a hit, which presumes a community needs simply to recover. “I don’t think of resilience in the traditional sense, in cutting how long it takes to turn the lights back on,” said Brian Bledsoe, the director of the Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems at the University of Georgia. “Resilience is seizing an opportunity to move into a state of greater adaptability and preparedness — not just going back to the status quo.”
In thinking about improving the country’s infrastructure, and provoking real action, Bledsoe and others say, language matters….
….After a terrible storm, he said, most Americans are willing to cheer a government that helps communities recuperate. But people should also embrace the side of government that establishes rules to avoid risk and make us safer. That’s harder, he said, because such edicts can be perceived by some as impinging on personal freedom….
….Thaddeus R. Miller, an Arizona State University scientist who helps lead a national research network focused on “Urban Resilience to Extreme Events,” said in an email that boosting the capacity of cities to stay safe and prosperous in a turbulent climate requires a culture shift as much as hardening physical systems:
“Fundamentally, we must abandon the idea that there is a specific standard to which we can control nature and instead understand that we are creating complex and increasingly difficult-to-control systems that are part social, part ecological and part technological. These mean not just redesigning the infrastructure, but redesigning institutions and their knowledge systems.”…