Resiliency Takes Many Shapes and Approaches

Much of the work in combating rising sea levels and flooding entails building stronger walls and barriers, so Netherland’s approach to water management and flooding by letting the water in at times really caught my attention. It reminded me about the need for creativity and the importance of learning from others. This past winter’s ice storms and the recent high winds and deluge of rain in parts of Vermont on April 15th & 16th, 2014 are reminders of what we should expect, and they reinforce the need for proactive thinking and action to make us “Vermont Strong.” The recognition of changing weather patterns and the anticipation of increasing incidences of extreme weather events was reinforced by the National Climate Assessment report released on May 6th, 2014. There’s an excellent summary of the report in this New York Times article.

As we work within the complex natural and human communities to develop effective and creative approaches to building responsive and proactive resilience, we turn to Della Rucker, who provides sobering words in this article about Economic Ecosystems and Resilience. She states, “If we are honest about the complexities of our communities, then we have to be honest aboutthe fact that there are few, if any, simple solutions.” But the magnitude of the work shouldn’t stop us from taking action. It’s too important to do nothing.

Irene Rebuilding

Rebuilding Vermont’s Covered Bridges       Photo Credit: Corbis Images

Here in Vermont, there are lots of activities and thinking underway related to building resiliency. The Roadmap to Resilience produced by ISC takes a comprehensive look at current efforts and what is needed. The State has developed a website that will be substantively updated this summer and is promoting proactive work by our cities and towns through incentives. Nonprofits such as VNRC, White River Partnership, and (and many others) are working to support and even lead these efforts. Cities and towns are receiving advice on land use planning from their Regional Planning Commissions and VLCT. The Red Cross is playing a huge role in organizing the social sector for more efficient disaster relief efforts. The work that is happening in Vermont to recover from Irene and build resilience is also helping to inform national efforts. Last week top White House advisors toured the State with Governor Shumlin to take stock of our recovery efforts and learn from our experience.

One of the biggest challenges is finding information about what towns, cities and surrounding regions are doing to improve resilience across the state. In this implementation phase of the Resilient Vermont project, funded by the High Meadows Fund, ISC is working with Slow Communities and a diverse advisory committee to explore ways to efficiently and effectively make all of this information available to the public. Our blog posts on this website are an early attempt to provide some of this information and thinking while we seek a more comprehensive solution. We are also looking hard at the best way to ensure the disparate efforts across the state spanning from agency to local town are informed, coordinated and accessible. We’ll keep you informed as we make progress and welcome all your ideas.

If you want to learn more or sharpen your skills consider attending Local Solutions: Northeast Climate Change Preparedness Conference, hosted by Antioch University in New Hampshire on May 19-21. Contact VLCT or your Regional Planning Commission about grants to help with the cost of attending.

This blog post was written by Bill Roper, Slow Communities and Debra Perry, Institute for Sustainable Communities.

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