Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Getting Out of Nature's Way

Two news pieces that hit my Twitter feed on the same day share overlapping themes related to the inherent risks faced by the world’s large urban areas and the most effective ways to reduce those risks. 

The first, here, includes an introductory statement about the key role cities play in the battle against climate change.  The tweet says:  “Cities occupy 2% of the total land on Earth but they generate 70% of GDP, consume 60% of global energy, produce 70% of greenhouse emissions & 70% of global waste. How cities build & grow matter for #ClimateAction.” 

The linked article, here, asks the question: "What should the inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable urban development look like?"  The answers provided include:

1.  An "ability to anticipate, reduce, mitigate, respond to and recover from a wide range of risks"

2.  Governance that involves "a more integrated and mutually reinforcing planning and implementation approach among socio-economic development actors"

3.  “'Redundancy' or sufficient 'bandwidth' in urban systems and services

4.  Urban planning that "keeps pace with increasing urban development needs (and) the increasing exposure to vulnerabilities"

The second, a New York Times article (also the source of the photo above), suggests that “we rarely do much to protect our cities until disaster strikes. We fool ourselves into thinking we are safe, until a catastrophic event shows us how wrong we are.”  The article discusses a number of actions being taken by US cities in response to recent events, all toward mitigating future damage and loss of life.  It includes the following observation worth mentioning here:

Planning for more resilient cities means planning for the needs of everyone. But those living in poverty, they note, often get left out of the process. The National Climate Assessment states, “People who are already vulnerable, including lower-income and other marginalized communities, have lower capacity to prepare for and cope with extreme weather and climate-related events and are expected to experience greater impacts.”

Atyia Martin, a former chief resilience officer for Boston, said that these issues of equity, usually brought together under the rubric of climate justice, were often treated as an afterthought instead of an essential element of resilience planning. In a disaster, pain is widespread, Dr. Martin said, but “the people who are suffering the most in day-to-day life are also the people who are suffering most when there’s a disaster.”

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