What is resilience

Next months, these posts deal with the challenges of Earthlings of bringing humane cities closer. These posts represent the most important findings of my e-book Humane cities. Always humane. Smart if helpful, updates and supplements included. The English version of this book can be downloaded for free here and the Dutch version here

Ultimate resilience: Floating Oceanix City – picture Bjarke Ingels Group (public domain)

Building dykes as flood protection is one of the oldest forms of resilience. However, people only started building dykes after their houses, roads and crops had been flooded several times and they had managed each time to recover from the damage. Later, the dykes broke and they were reinforced. This brings us to the core of the concept of resilience:Building capacity within individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.

Resilience is an attitude of individuals and also a behavioral pattern of a group of people, for instance inhabitants of a city. The 100 Resilient Cities-movement (100RC) distinguishes seven qualities that together characterize resilience

Qualities of resilience – 100RC

The use of the term resilient city has been promoted by international organizations and associations of cities to improve the ability of cities to handle hazards such as hurricanes Katarina in the New Orleans region (2005) and Sandy along the east coast of North America (2012).

In subsequent years, the concept hazard has been expanded to include external pressures in general, varying from climate change, environmental degradation to poverty. That is why the 100RC-movement distinguishes between chronic stresses and acute shocks. 

 characteristicsexamples
Chronic stressRepeating events that weaken the fabric of a city on a daily or cyclical basis. High unemployment, inefficient public transportation system, endemic violence and chronic food and water shortages.
Acute shockSudden events that disrupt the life in a city. Earthquakes, floods, disease outbreaks, airplane crashes and terrorist attacks

Becoming resilient at city level refers to policies that deal with all these types of hazards. These policies include:

  • Precautionary measures based on the recognition and anticipation of imminent threats.
  • Coping strategies, including directs actions to limit damage, to help victims and repair the damage. 
  • Prevent risks or mitigate their impact. 

In these policies involvement of citizens is essential, as it is unpredictable whether hazards will undermine or destroy the executive power of the municipality. Citizens have to be trained to initiate actions, complementary to the official ones and possible even as replacements.

Each of these aspects will be discussed in my nest post.