“Instead of thinking of how I was limited by these legs, I started to think of the unlimited possibilities with these legs.”
Amy Purdy is a world-class adaptive snowboarder who has won three back-to-back Paralympic World Cup gold medals and is currently training for the Paralympic Games. At age 19, doctors amputated both her legs below the knee following complications from bacterial meningitis. She now has prosthetics.
Around 75% of the world’s population will live in cities within 40 years. Almost all of this population growth will happen in the developing world, with 4.6 billion people projected to live in already rapidly growing cities. How will these cities in the developing world cope socially, environmentally and economically with such accelerated urbanisation?
Future Proofing Cities assesses the risks from mega cities like Bangkok to smaller cities such as Zaria in Africa. It looks at their risk profile from climate hazards, resource scarcities, and damage to ecosystems and urges action now to future proof against these risks.
This report provides a fresh approach to the urgent issues arising from rapid urbanisation. It assesses the environmental risks facing cities in an integrated way and identifies more than 100 practical policy options that are most relevant and will be of most benefit to people living in different types of cities.
The report is set against a growing awareness of the need for increased funding for infrastructure development in developing countries at the city level.
“The argument would be that if you’ve got a reef with a thousand species, it is a lot more resilient, and a lot more capable of maintaining itself than a reef with a hundred species. I don’t think that is true.”
David Bellwood, a marine biologist and an internationally recognized expert in coral reef fishes and systems, combines skills in such disparate fields as ecology, palaeontology, biomechanics and molecular systems to understand the nature of reefs.
“Totally unnecessarily we get into a conversation where it is farmers versus conservation, where it is loggers versus conservation, where it is fishermen versus conservation.”
Watch: Peter Kareiva is the chief scientist for the Nature Conservancy. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Kareiva is often noted for his emphasis on nature’s resiliency, rather than its impending doom.
Andrew Zolli, Learning to Bounce Back
In my line of work, we no longer use the word “sustainability” very often. These days, it’s all about “resilience.”
Despite what the GOP is trying to sell you, global warming and its devastating effects are very real, and they’re only going to get worse. For the people who do the actual work to keep cities and populations on track, the focus is now on dealing with it — and thriving in spite of it.
By Andrew Zolli
FOR decades, people who concern themselves with the world’s “wicked problems” — interconnected issues like environmental degradation, poverty, food security and climate change — have marched together under the banner of “sustainability”: the idea that with the right mix of incentives, technology substitutions and social change, humanity might finally achieve a lasting equilibrium with our planet, and with one another.
It’s an alluring and moral vision, and in a year that has brought us the single hottest month in recorded American history (July), a Midwestern drought that plunged more than half the country into a state of emergency, a heat wave across the eastern part of the country powerful enough to melt the tarmac below jetliners in Washington and the ravages of Hurricane Sandy, it would seem a pressing one, too.
Yet today, precisely because the world is so increasingly out of balance, the sustainability regime is being quietly challenged, not from without, but from within. Among a growing number of scientists, social innovators, community leaders, nongovernmental organizations, philanthropies, governments and corporations, a new dialogue is emerging around a new idea, resilience: how to help vulnerable people, organizations and systems persist, perhaps even thrive, amid unforeseeable disruptions. Where sustainability aims to put the world back into balance, resilience looks for ways to manage in an imbalanced world.
It’s a broad-spectrum agenda that, at one end, seeks to imbue our communities, institutions and infrastructure with greater flexibility, intelligence and responsiveness to extreme events and, at the other, centers on bolstering people’s psychological and physiological capacity to deal with high-stress circumstances.
For example, “resilience thinking” is starting to shape how urban planners in big cities think about updating antiquated infrastructure, much of which is robust in the face of normal threats like equipment failures but — as was just demonstrated in the New York region — fragile in the face of unanticipated shocks like flooding, pandemics, terrorism or energy shortages.
Combating those kinds of disruptions isn’t just about building higher walls — it’s about accommodating the waves. For extreme weather events, that means developing the kinds of infrastructure more commonly associated with the Army: temporary bridges that can be “inflated” or positioned across rivers when tunnels flood, for example, or wireless “mesh” networks and electrical microgrids that can compensate for exploding transformers.
We’ll also need to use nature itself as a form of “soft” infrastructure. Along the Gulf Coast, civic leaders have begun to take seriously the restoration of the wetlands that serve as a vital buffer against hurricanes. A future New York may be ringed with them too, as it was centuries ago.
“We had children in the rubble…and there is no worse feeling in the world,” he said about the moments after the storm. “I can tell you, at this time in my life, I had 7,747 kids that I was responsible for, and I could only account for my two children.”
C.J. Huff is the superintendent of Joplin, Mo., schools who led his district of thousand of employees and students through the recovery effort that followed the infamous Joplin tornado.