Regional Resiliency

Chicago SkylineThe Institute just met with Bob Doppelt of the Oregon-based The Resource Innovation Group. Doppelt wears a variety of hats, including teaching at the University of Oregon and supporting the Climate Access network. Now he has set his sites on identifying the most resilient regions in the U.S. 

This initiative, tentatively titled “The Climate Safe Haven Program,” will determine what “regions” (a geographic area relatively self-sufficient in food, energy and water) posses exceptional ecological, social, economic and governance resiliency. Indicators will be developed to identify these resilient “hot spots” to ensure that these areas are protected and possibly favored for human habitation.

What might be a counterintuitive goal to some (shouldn’t all adaptation efforts be directed toward the least resilient areas?), for Doppelt is based on principles of conservation biology:

When systems are fragmented and degraded, the first and most important step is to secure the best remaining habitats so that organisms - in this case humans and other species - have a place to ride out tough times in decent shape. Restoration efforts then expand out from the refuges. Eventually, a set of intact habitat strongholds can be linked together into a ‘string of pearls.’

"Migrating" to resiliency likely becomes easier and easier the more local the decision making — think of a household residing on a hill v. a vulnerable floodplain. However, at a global scale, all nations must become more resilient. The idea of bolstering one country over another based only on its current resilience would be an untenable policy position at the international level (we all can’t move to Denmark and Switzerland).

Ultimately, researching “safe havens” will benefit more vulnerable regions and communities. Understanding what factors make a region resilient can help areas less so work towards improving upon key ecological, social and economic indicators. In fact, at a national scale, that is one important goal of the Global Adaptation Index.