Friday, September 20, 2019

How Resilient is Washington D.C.?

A kind of interesting article in the American University's radio station WAMU's website D.C. Wants To Be Resilient To Climate Change. Critics Argue Efforts Could Worsen Inequalities.
The idea of resilience — being able to bounce back from disruptive events — hasn’t always been applied to cities. In the 1970s, ecologists started talking about resilience in the natural world — in contrast to earlier ideas about a natural equilibrium in ecosystems. Since the early 2000s, resilience has been applied more and more broadly. After 9/11, the term gained traction in fields of psychology and national security, as the country grappled with the threat of terrorism. Lately, resilience has become a popular way to talk about adapting to a hotter world. But the resilience lens is not without its critics.

Malini Ranganathan, a professor at American University’s School of International Service, argues that resilience thinking often ignores the root causes that make some communities more vulnerable. Ranganathan and co-author Eve Bratman published a paper in June, looking at D.C. neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, examining how a long history of marginalization and pollution has made residents there more at risk to climate change.

The authors argue that resilience planning often overlooks “everyday threats, such as gentrification or food insecurity.” To assess those underlying threats, they conducted a neighborhood survey, talking to close to 200 residents of Ward 7 neighborhoods Kenilworth, Eastland Gardens, Paradise and Parkside.
I'll let you guess what kind of neighborhoods those are. I used to get to sample in them. "Gentrification" is when rich white kids improve a neighborhood so much that poor minorities no longer feel comfortable or can't afford the rents. However, the article does offer this alternative view of "resiliency":
Resilience has gained popularity in part due to philanthropic support — D.C.’s resilience office was initially funded by a Rockefeller Foundation program called 100 Resilient Cities (Rockefeller cancelled the program earlier this year, but D.C. opted to continue to fund the office locally.)

Within the disaster response world, some critics see resilience as a trendy word without a lot of substance. “Resilience has supplanted the terms formerly used to describe the disaster risk management cycle — mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery — although it is unclear why such a highly abstract term is preferable to more concrete ones that are universally accepted and well institutionalized,” wrote Kathleen Tierney, the former director of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, in a 2015 critique of resilience.

The term “resilience,” has nearly lost its meaning, argues Tierney, due to its “fadlike adoption.”

Others have a more philosophical critique of resilience. Finnish political science professor Julian Reid calls resilience a “neoliberal deceit.”  “The human is here conceived as resilient in so far as it adapts to, rather than resists, the conditions of its suffering in the world,” wrote Reid in a 2013 paper. “To be resilient is to forego the very power of resistance and accept one’s vulnerability to that which threatens.”
Resilience is one the those words, like "social" when attached to justice, that makes me bristle. It tends to brought out to buttress what ever leftist agenda item is under discussion, precisely because it has an infinitely flexible meaning.

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