Change Ahead! Time to Build Resilience
A few years ago, Macalester College, the City of St. Paul, the Science Museum and the Jefferson Center educated ordinary citizens in several St. Paul neighborhoods about the realities of climate change. Once participants really understood the issues, they were asked what they thought would be the most important things their communities could do to become more resilient and prepared. One of the most common answers was: “Know our neighbors.”
They were on to something. Researchers have found that communities with strong social connections do better after a disaster. They use recovery money better and distribute resources better. They are bounce forward faster. Socially connected communities are more resilient.
We don’t have to hope people will pull together when we need to. There are things we can do today to build stronger, closer social connections. If a weather emergency never comes; those relationships will still yield positive benefits every day in terms of longer, healthier and happier lives.
What is Resilience?
Resilience is a personal and a community quality that helps people withstand adversity and move forward in the face of uncertainty and challenges. Everyone has a level of resilience; but it’s also something we can develop.
Resilience brings together hard work, skill, creative thinking, adaptability and commitment. What does resilience look like? We can look to our grandparents and great-grandparents to see examples:
- Victory Gardens – some 15 million of them – produced 40% of all the fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in the U.S. during WWII.
- Black communities developed collective, cooperative financial systems outside of the exclusionary white systems.
- Immigrant communities (like the Sons of Norway) created hardship funds to help families after an illness or death.
Resilience can be building redundant systems to meet critical needs, like community gleaning projects and farmers markets, solar panels and microgrids, cooperatives, time banks, sharing circles and seed banks.
How Do We Build Resilience Today?
Many of the activities that Transition groups do are examples of building resilience. It’s at the heart of the Transition Town movement. Take a look at what local Transition groups have done, and what groups have done across the U.S. Visit the Transition Network to see what’s happening around the world. The website Resilience.org, from the Post-Carbon Institute, is another excellent place to look for actionable ideas. They are the creators of The Resilience Reader, shown above.
And check out the Resilience Resource page for personal action steps to help you and your family become more resilient. There are organizations working in Minnesota and across the nation that can help you. Contact Transition Twin Cities for ideas and resources.
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