Non-stop media coverage aside, it does feel like we are experiencing more frequent natural disasters. . Perhaps we should call them natural events since they seems to happen with such regularity that we should be very well prepared and learn to live with them. It was somewhat ironic then that the city of Christchurch should receive an international Civil Defence Award prior to the recent 7.1 earthquake. The response to the earthquake was very impressive from the Civil Defence HQ downwards into the community. Of course nothing is perfect and it’s probably telling about our level of expectation that some were unhappy about how the council handled things. The fact that no one died is quite incredible, due to a combination of strict building standards, low population density and the time of the quake. But what was of interest to me was how the city residents responded. There was a definite feeling of everyone looking outwards and willing to help. The fact that the city could get back on its feet so soon was testament to the resilience of its people.
So what makes systems resilient? Simply the ability to bounce back from a shock or unexpected event. Generally this is applied to ecosystem shocks: the ability of ecosystems to regenerate. But people can be resilient, in the way they respond to shocks such as the loss of a loved one. Communities can also be described a resilient if they can recover from an event which effects the whole community. More and more resilience will become a major part of any community planning scenario. Christchurch has done well in this area and I am sure lessons will be learnt from recent events.
When we look at building resilience into our systems it’s worth looking at the key stress points. During the earthquake a couple of these stressors became clear: one was money and the other was the exchange of services. People needed to buy stuff yet with power down there was no way of paying via the usual channels and many people didn’t have cash on them. Also people needed to exchange goods and services but again there were problems with communication, power and availability.
It’s at a time like this that we see the promise of local community currencies come to the fore. One such system was the Lyttleton Timebank which operates in a small and geographically constrained community. This is a perfect setup for a successful community system. More and more these type of systems will become part of the fabric of a successful and resilient communities. Watch a story about them here