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Does Every City Need A Chief Resilience Officer?
Emily Badger / The Atlantic Cities / May 14, 2013
For cities, developing a plan for “sustainability” no longer sounds like enough. The word carries with it an environmental connotation (we need to live alongside nature in a “sustainable” way). And the absence of sustainability implies environmental disaster (resource shortages, rising sea levels, super storms). But many of the major problems facing cities in the 21st century don’t quite fall under this category (poverty, economic crises, pandemics). And “sustainability” only speaks to half of any environmental story – you may power your entire city with solar cells, but what happens the morning after a hurricane passes through?
The new goal is now something more like “resiliency.” This updated rallying cry takes as a given that some pretty bad things will inevitably happen: Cities will flood, and diseases will spread, and whole transportation networks will shut down. But now the mark of a competent city is this: How quickly can it bounce back?
There is obviously some overlap between the two terms (as well as some contradiction). But the broad idea is that cities of the future need to be ready for anything, climate change and foreclosures included.
The Rockefeller Foundation, this year celebrating its 100th anniversary, is throwing its weight (and its money) behind this mandate. Today, it’s announcing a 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge, a three-year, $100 million prize with one particularly interesting component: The foundation plans to put up the money to hire a Chief Resilience Officer position in 100 cities around the world. Ultimately, though, these cities will have to scrounge up their own funds to keep the job alive.
The Chief Resilience Officers are “part of the prize,” says Neill Coleman, Rockefeller’s vice president for global communications. “But they’re also key to getting the other components of the prize done.”