In his excellent article about Resilience, Michael Lerner emphasizes the importance of relevant, practical and local actions and points out that it is emergency planning that brings people together across political, cultural, sectarian, and ethnic lines. Thinking about the nature of future shocks, I googled “emergency planning Devon”. The Topsham Community Association defines an emergency/major incident as “any event or circumstance (happening with or without warning) that causes or threatens death or injury, disruption to the community, or damage to property or to the environment on such a scale that the effect cannot be dealt with by the emergency services, local authorities and other organisations as part of their normal day-to day activities.” Looking at a few case studies, these are mostly the kinds of triggers that groups are planning for:

  • Met Office National Severe Weather Warning Service email alerts for South West England (by email)
  • Environment Agency Flood Alerts for waterways (by phone, text and email)
  • Devon & Cornwall Police Community Messaging system (by phone, text and email)
  • Local observations (e.g. severe weather impacts, road closures, etc), reported via members of the community or the media.

Interestingly, here in South Devon we experienced a drought last summer although it wasn’t officially called that. River water had to be pumped in from the Tamar and doubly cleaned to provide us with tap water. In my book that’s a major incident. And I’m not sure how comfortable I feel with the decisions that were made not to let people know. It needn’t have been alarmist, but it was an opportunity to let people know in a way that could start to open the door to thinking about collapse-readiness. In the worldview of Deep Adaptation, Jem Bendell defines collapse-readiness as including “the mental and material measures that will help reduce disruption to human life – enabling an equitable supply of the basics like food, water, energy, payment systems and health.”

Building resilience happens in many ways. For example, thinking about what we most value that we want to keep and how, or helping to ready a rural region to accommodate urban refugees. But in both cases in starts with us–citizen scientists, in-place, in-conversation, constantly widening our view of significance (beyond incidents, to include cumulative effects or tipping points) and without expectations of a cavalry.

Michael Lerner’s article can be found here.