Watching Hurricane Sandy and the storm’s effects even from afar was horrifying and tragic. Whether you had friends and family there, or just hated to see suffering and destruction, it seems to leave one with a feeling of dread. Are storms of this type the new norm? Is this complete disruption of normal life what it will look like after the “big one” hits, albeit drier?
Maybe it is just us Emergency Manager types that look at these disasters and wonder, “What would I do in this situation?” but I suspect that a lot of people are wondering that same thing. How does one prepare for, survive then get back to normal after that? Or does one?
Sustainability has been the buzz word for some time now. And it is a good idea. We want to do those things that will sustain us by doing things today that will allow us to continue into the future, in approximately the same comfort, or better, than we have now.
An article in the November 3, 2012 New York Times, has raised its hand in this discussion, however, that made me stop and consider where our focus should perhaps lie…
“… [a] new dialogue is emerging around a new idea, resilience: how to help vulnerable people, organizations and systems persist, perhaps even thrive, amid unforeseeable disruptions. Where sustainability aims to put the world back into balance, resilience looks for ways to manage in an imbalanced world.” (1)
This is not an ad for the New York Times, nor a soapbox lecture on climate change (not that I haven’t addressed that issue), but I wanted to stress how important the concept of resilience is. Resilience is not simply being tough when needed -- it is being tough before it is needed because you’ve understood how important it was to prepare for disasters in the first place.
We can pretend that future advancement will help us avoid or diminish disasters such as this, but that is probably much more wish than reality. One must simply look at the weather patterns over the past couple decades and see that our weather has changed and that we better figure out how to deal with it. One only has to look at the devastation from earthquakes in Japan, Chile and New Zealand and realize that it could just as likely be us on the news one of these days.
This is not the “be scared” tirade. It is the awareness that things DO happen, regardless of where you live. Whether a fire, terrorism, floods or earthquakes – things simply do happen. And to not only survive, but survive well, resilience may well trump sustainability. Sustainability is a good idea and a great goal, but we need the tools and will power to be resilient and ready.