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Monday rant on resiliency

Monday Rant

I’m on my way to the Up North Studio this morning to talk with Dave Barrons about transportation and it’s relation to community resilience. The former weatherman has a new show called Outside In that has evolved into a series of discussions on different topics as they relate to community resilience.

Community resilience helps explain and measure how systems surrounding issues like agriculture, energy and transportation communicate the ability of a community to respond to adverse situations with the least amount of disturbance. Resilience theory is an entire academic field, best articulated by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, who introduce the concept as: Resilience is the capacity to deal with change and continue to develop.

Some systems are more resilient than others

From my understanding, which involves some last-minute prepping this morning, the more resilient a community is, then the more livable, vibrant and healthy a community it will be. The shocks of life are absorbed and day-to-day life is spent in a better balance of needs and desires. As far as a transportation system, it doesn’t seem wise for a resilient community to depend on an expensive, dirty, 100% imported resource to fuel 95% of its mobility needs. That type of system neglects primary elements of resilience: diversity and variability.

That’s why many of us, even if we aren’t aware of it, are articulating for the tools that offer more transportation choices for more people. We also want the most intrusive and community altering forms of transportation to be discouraged.

Our collective dependency syndrome

Of course, the BIG problem is that our social and economic systems are over-dependent on oil and the automobile. We are many years away from breaking that dependency; I personally want to take it one-step further. I don’t believe hybrids and super-fuels are necessarily the answer to a better life. They have a role, for certain, as the destruction of eco-systems in the name of extracting oil needs to end and we need a transition. Is dependency on lithium for batteries just another addiction?

I’m also really concerned with the amount of public space that we give up for our car culture. Even with hybrids, solitary human transport pods continue to increase and they take up lots of space. It’s most evident when you pull up to Any Mall USA. What’s the first thing you notice? Parking capacity stretching for miles. Where else do we notice it, albeit seemingly burying it deep? Within our own neighborhood and community. We have our roads, which many falsely argue are for motorized use only. We also have our $10 million temples to the parked car and, in Michigan, about 3 parking spaces for every single car owned.

I’m reminded of this occupation of public space every time I see a pedestrian running across a street. Why do we feel compelled to run? Beyond the obvious reason to avoid getting hit, when we run, we surrender and we re-enforce the notion that streets are for cars.

That brings me back to another concept of resilient communities: local control and involvement. Reclaim the streets. Beginning with your own.

I’m out of time today and need to save some rant for the interview. Cutting it short…to be continued…

(Locally, The Neahtawanta Center hosts Barrons archived show and publishes other local articles and programs investigating resilience at www.ir.nrec.org. Full disclosure, I serve on the The Neahtawanta Center Board).

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