Carol Coletta of CEOs for Cities and the radio program Smart City interviews Thomas Campanella, co-editor of The Resilient City: How Modern Cities Recover from Disaster, and Walter Reid, director of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment . (mp3)
CC: If a city wanted to set about deliberately developing the quality of resilience, could it do so?
TC: I think part of it would be making sure that the political system has a transparency to it. I think that it would involve solving socio-economic problems here and now, before something catastrophic occurs. ... If basic issues of equity, social justice, economic opportunity, education are in good order, in the face of a traumatic event, a city will be much better able to bounce back.
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WR: What [the Millennium Assessment] is telling us is that if we can be proactive about problems - whether, frankly, its hurricane risks in New Orleans or degradation to natural ecosystems - if we can be proactive, the actual net cost to society can be dramatically reduced. ...
[There were] four basic findings. The first was that the pace and scale of changes that humans have made to ecosystems of the last fifty years is greater than at any comparable period of time in human history. ...
The second is that, while we have certainly benefited substantially ..., the costs associated with this are growing. ... We're actually now degrading most of what we refer to as ecosystem services - these are the benefits that we get from ecosystems. It includes food production and water supply, but it also includes things like protection from storms, protections from floods, pollination, cultural benefits, and aesthetic benefits that we get from the environment. ...
We also found that the risks of very abrupt changes are going up and that ... the poor suffer the most from these changes. That was the second major conclusion - that these costs are growing. The third conclusion was that the current trends, if we don't change them, the problems will get worse in the next fifty years and already present a very major barrier to achieving the world's development goals of alleviating poverty and increase human health.
Then the fourth conclusion is actually the slightly more positive side. ... We found that [with] significant changes in policies and significant new technologies, one can actually solve much of this problem in a fairly short period of time.