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Why is resilience important?

100 Resilient Cities defines resilience 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.

Across the globe, more people live in cities than rural areas, and that is especially true in economically mature countries like Canada where over 80% of the population lives in urban centres. For those of us who call cities home, we rely on future forecasting to design the buildings we inhabit, to develop the energy grid we use, and to build water and food systems that will consistently deliver life sustaining elements. As the impacts of climate change become more pronounced, cities are going to be susceptible to impacts related to rapid change and uncertainty, which makes planning for the future extremely difficult. Without a doubt, we will face stresses and shocks related to economic, social and environmental challenges in forms that we are unable to foresee, and the best that we can do to prepare is build resilient systems that can adapt to a diverse range of circumstances.

What's happening in Calgary?

Four hundred local leaders expanded their climate communications toolkit at Talking Climate in Alberta with Katharine Hayhoe & George Marshall. Thanks to the new Alberta Narratives Project, many more are uncovering language and narratives that reflect the values and identities of Albertans, and are finding new ways of talking about climate change and energy that can build bridges to better conversations about a sustainable future.

My key takeaway from this event is that we need to thoughtfully consider how the values underpinning climate work can connect with the values of potential opponents. For creationists, we can have a conversation about how God entrusted stewardship of the earth to humans, and reflect on how taking care of our environment is clearly aligned with that duty. For business members at a Rotary Club, connecting climate work to the 4 way test is a powerful way to inspire action, as that test is at the core of their communal identity and guides their activities. Taking a personal approach to advocacy is compelling because it develops personal agency in others when they can see how they fit in to the bigger picture, whereas arguing with scientific facts is psychologically disconnected from peoples' lived experiences and often leads to resentment.

A few notable resiliency building projects in calgary include...

The evening ended with a speech by Mayor Nenshi about the steps Calgary is taking to become more resilient, and hearing him talk about these changes inspired hope for a better future for our city. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Building a better transportation network
    • Installation of bike lanes for low-carbon transportation
    • Capacity improvements to transit to increase ridership
    • Investment in new light rail transit vehicles
    • Creation of the Green Line, Calgary's largest infrastructure project to date that will expand the delivery of transit
  • Improved waste management in form of green bins, which have decreased the volume of waste going to landfills by half
  • Planning for extreme weather - over $150 million committed to flood mitigation projects
  • Installation of LED lights across the city which reduce electricity consumption and decrease light pollution
  • Greater civic participation through engagement initiatives such as 3 Things for Calgary
  • Construction of the New Central Library, a place for Calgarians to connect and share knowledge

We still have a lot of work ahead of us to adequately prepare for the impacts of climate change and other environmental challenges, however I'm heartened by the great number of highly motivated individuals and organizations that are working together to create a sustainable future in which all people can flourish.