Photo caption: Master’s Candidate, Meredith DeCock and Lincoln resident, Brian Jaworsky discussing bank stability of 16 Mile Creek despite significant climatic events and human influence (such as the building of the QEW).
You may have noticed that a number of municipalities—such as Hamilton, St. Catharines, Toronto and Kingston—have recently declared climate emergencies. One of the reasons for doing so was to make changing environmental conditions a priority and plan the best way to build resilience at the local level. But what exactly is resilience, and how can it help us adapt to the risks posed by climate change?
The easiest way to think of resilience is by comparing it to a rubber band: you can stretch the band to just before its breaking point, but when you let go, it returns to its previous shape fully intact. That’s resilience. Alternatively, if you pull too hard, the elastic breaks and can no longer be used for its original purpose. In that case, we have to consider transformation, meaning the system is no longer sustainable and must change to another one.
Resilience is the ability to return to a normal state after some sort of disruption. For the sake of this article, we are referring to events or situations caused by climate change: floods, drought, heat waves, etc.
Resilience strategies can involve enhancing the natural ecosystem, the social make-up of communities or modifying the physical environment. Being resilient means protecting your home against flooding, building parks and green spaces that maintain the natural buffering capacity of the land, developing emergency response plans, and re-designing roads and bridges to withstand increased freeze-thaw cycles and extreme wind. In some cases, resilience may also mean moving assets far away from hazards, such as coastline vulnerability. We also often talk about “remove, retreat or restore”: a few strategies that can help our communities become more resilient and sustainable.
Our communities, businesses and homes can all be made more resilient to the hazards and risks of climate change. So, when you think of resilience, think of the rubber band: flexible and adaptable.