Sunday, November 4, 2012

Resilient Readiness - will we ever get it right?

Resiliency is a word that shows up in conversations about improvement in emergency management, and more generally, adaptation to climate change conditions.   I've read 'resilience' often enough to know that the word is usually policy-speak for, "We want to be ready the next time, but we are vague about what that will be."

I'm frustrated by the columns on resiliency that don't yield a single example of success.

We've gotten some categories that are starting points. Revkin's column on resiliency quotes extensively from William S Hooke, who wants three measures: the equivalent of an NTSB review of emergencies, Environmental Impact Statements on any large project private or public, and public-private conversations on business continuity and insurability.

I look at this and say yes, of course let's not make the same mistake twice (NTSB), let's avoid ventures that endanger others (EIS),  and let's not subsidize foolish investment in high risk locations like a beach (no insurance).   Okay.

But that is a list of prudent decisions within a known system of risks. It doesn't reach the far more ambitious goal of resilience.

What are historic examples of resilient readiness?

That's a trick question.
Selection pressures are not all foreseeable;  neither castles nor antibiotics are infallible.What may seem like perfect readiness can still be side-swiped by a novel factor. Indeed we already know the dangerous dance between microbes and medicine that pushes microbes to evolve into drug-tolerant or drug-resistant organisms; our very efforts at readiness can kick back at us many-fold.

As I wrote earlier natural systems do provide some clues.
However (suspense, drum roll) although some readers are probably expecting an example of individual resilience, or some kind of  flexible infrastructure, resilience in nature shows up on other scales.

Some keywords to explore further:
Redundancy (the best natural kind you can find).

Planting ahead..

Updated 11-4-2012
Joan Savage

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