Progressing Towards Urban Resilience

Have you heard of the concept of urban resilience? Last week, 100 Resilient Cities hosted the 2017 “Urban Resilience Summit” for urban professionals around the globe to come together and share their work to advance resiliency. Urban resilience is defined by 100 Resilient Cities “as the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow, no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience”.

As Kevin Bush, Washington DC’s Resilience Officer, said to DCist, “resilience is really the immune system of a city—it’s the city’s ability to anticipate and recover from social, economic, or physical challenges.” In practical terms, he adds, it’s a process “that helps the city better understand and prioritize challenges and address them with interventions that pull in multiple departments at once.”

Why focus on resiliency at the city level, rather than on a regional or global platform? According to the UN, while making up just 3% of the world’s land use, cities consume over 60% of the world’s energy and contribute 75% of the world’s carbon emissions. More people than ever before live in cities, and the percentage of the global population living in an urban environment is likely to hit 70% by 2050. Urban settings directly affect the day to day life of most of the world’s population. They are also hubs of innovation, problem-solving, and culture, thus well-positioned to create and test resiliency solutions. And at the municipal scale, solutions can be implemented relatively quickly.

Speaking to those gathered at the Summit, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said,

“We understand there’s no time for complacency and we can’t wait on anyone else to save us … We are the voices of everyday people, and everyday people can’t wait for these problems to be solved decades down the line. They need them to be solved right now.”

Cities are an apt testing ground for resiliency solutions. Now – how can you implement urban resilience at the level of your own urban work?

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