More from the 2013 Hazards Workshop

The stream of consciousness flowing through Monday’s sessions…

(Don’t you wish you’d said it?) From John Plodinec, in an early plenary:  Resilience is not a display of weakness, but an exertion of strength. Resilience is knowing what your strengths are, exerting that strength, nurturing that strength.

Two sessions that made an impression:

The Next Generation: the Role of Youth in Community Resiliency. Part 2.  This session featured Milan Taylor, Laura Sauriol, Jordan Allen, and their mentors. Milan is founder and president of the Rockaway Youth Task Force that was founded to help youth deal with teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, and other challenges facing inner city kids[1]. A couple of months in, he and his friends woke up after Sandy hit their New York City neighborhood to find themselves alone amidst devastation. Wasn’t long before their group of 200 was feeding and meeting other needs of 5000-7000 area residents… work they sustained for weeks. Laura Sauriol got the idea for a tornado facebook page Monson Tornado Watch 2011 even as the tornado was tearing her Massachusetts town apart; two years later, her page has 2000 members and continues to identify ways the youth of Munson can support their community. Jordan Allen, sponsored by SOARS, found himself for ten weeks in Terribone Bayou working with Bayou Land RC&D Council and community members, building relationships and trust, and learning about participatory action research by doing…getting involved in water quality projects as well as larger community challenges.  For ninety minutes, these panelists and their mentors talked about their work, about mentoring and being mentored, about dealing with the media and high profile personalities who came to their projects not to help but for photo ops, and what they’ve learned and want to share with young people seeking to make a difference. The overarching message: when disasters come, young people aren’t just victims. They’re a powerful source of community resilience. The session was more than informative, it was profoundly moving. It was spiritual.

Resilience Revisited. In 2012, the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council reported out its landmark study: Disaster Resilience: a National Imperative. Panelists in this breakout session reviewed the report’s findings and recommendations (Monica Schoch-Spana), assessed its impact and prospects (Claire Rubin, John Plodinec), and discussed a similar report developed by the state of Oregon, looking to mitigate the effects of a future earthquake and tsunami along the Cascadia subduction zone (Jay Wilson). Mr. Plodinec asserted that communities will have to be the wellspring of resilience, but that this won’t happen without incentives developed at the national and state levels. He suggested that when communities start investing their own resources in resilience, then we’ll start to see real progress. Mr. Wilson indicated that the Oregon plan is a fifty-year plan. He stated that Oregon experience with mitigation efforts attempting to accelerate this pace had foundered. Speakers mentioned that legislators tended to focus on costs rather than come to grips with the profound benefits derived from resilience… from saving lives and keeping commerce flowing. They agreed that public education of the younger generation could significantly improve progress for success. There was talk of the four R’s: reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic, and resiliency. The tone was sobering, punctuated by periods of optimism.

Just two sessions out of eighteen that made up the day; as always, the workshop is proving to be an fertile incubator for ideas.

[1] The mission of the Rockaway Youth Task Force is to empower youth in our local communities through civic engagement & volunteer opportunities. We seek to spark social change in the Rockaways through youth leadership and provide opportunities for teenagers and young adults to become productive citizens of the Rockaways.

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One Response to More from the 2013 Hazards Workshop

  1. eve gruntfest says:

    Bill. good insights and excellent to hear about sessions i was not able to attend! during the plenaries i kept thinking about your blog post about how there is no “give” left in any of our systems when you wrote about the day that fed employees were allowed to “telework” because there were severe thunderstorms predicted for morning and afternoon rush hours. having that “give” in the systems that we have had historically – would allow for some resilience…alas

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