What does "resilience" mean? In new plan, it drives disaster preparedness

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Resilience: "the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens."

FEMA director Craig Fugate said he loves the word because it means whatever you want it to mean.

And if you've been paying attention over the last couple of weeks, you'd think he was right. "Resilience" has replaced similar words, or been used in sentences where it didn't necessarily need to appear, to define the City of New Orleans' philosophy as it prepares for the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failures. Mayor Mitch Landrieu has planted his "resilience" seed (or some form of it — "resilient," "resiliency") in speeches throughout his terms as mayor. (And if you're keeping score at home, you can add "vibrant," "new Orleans" and "NOLA for Life" to Landrieu's list.) The word has seemingly grown into a jungle of word salads with business lingo and jargon-y nothing phrases that have taken over dozens of panels, events and speeches this week. Its overuse implied it not only didn't mean anything but that there wasn't anything to be "resilient" about. But the word now defines a plan that the city will look to over the next decade and beyond.

Today, Landrieu, city officials and city partners revealed their hallmark plan to ensure New Orleans is capable of withstanding potential disasters and threats in the future. "Resilient New Orleans" — in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation's 100 Resilient Cities initiative — outlines the city's key areas for improvement and provides more than three dozen solutions.

"Being resilient means more than having levees and wetlands to hold back water,” Landrieu said in a statement. “To be a truly resilient society means also combating the longstanding, generational challenges around crime, education and income inequality. It means replacing hatred with empathy, disassociation with harmony, and striking a balance between human needs and the environment that surrounds us."

The plan includes steps toward emergency funding for low- and moderate-income families; a comprehensive storm water management plan; creating "Resilience Centers"; building solar systems for sustainable energy backup at City Hall; and assisting small businesses recovering from disaster.

The plan includes input from the Foundation for Louisiana, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development, the Neighborhood Partnership Network, the Institute for Women and Ethnic Studies, and Broad Community Connections. Its "chief resilience officer" is Jeff Hebert with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority.

Read the plan here and submit your comments and suggestions here.


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