Society today is faced with a multitude of complex issues — economic volatility, deteriorating infrastructure, land scarcity, an aging population, poverty, inequality, xenophobia, rising energy costs, climate change… the list goes on.
The challenge locally is how do we keep our community from being negatively impacted by these global conditions.
The concept of ‘community resilience’ is increasingly being embraced by municipalities as a way to not only bounce back from a crisis or disaster but to proactively adapt to a changing world.
As a local councillor, I look for areas where we can build community resiliency at every opportunity. It is a key component of sustainability.
The case for resiliency planning becomes obvious when you consider recent natural disasters that have hit communities like Fort McMurray, which is still recovering from the damage and economic fallout from last year’s wildfires.
In times of crisis, collaboration between individuals and between organizations is essential. A resilient community needs to be co-operative and also caring. Together, we need to ensure those residents most in need continue to have access to essential services such as food, housing, water, and energy.
The planned water shutoff March 3 to 6 will provide an opportunity to see just how prepared we in Summerland are to deal with an emergency. It should tell us where we need to improve our resilience.
In Summerland, the Fire Department is responsible for local disaster planning, training, coordination, and public education. Our fire fighters are skilled and rightly highly praised. However, no municipality has the resources to plan for every potential hazard, which locally includes wildfires, dam breeches, drought, landslides, health pandemics, and many hazards that may seem inconceivable or remote.
Last summer many people were surprised when local gas stations ran out of fuel because of the Fort McMurray wildfires and a refinery outage in Edmonton. Imagine when “the big one” hits the west coast: damage to bridges and roads in the Lower Mainland would likely disrupt supply chains to the Okanagan. Very quickly our grocery stores could run out of food.
A resilient community is one that moves towards self-reliance. That doesn’t mean we hunker down and wait for the apocalypse, but it does mean we are strategic in how we diversify energy generation, food production, land use, and service delivery.
Smaller-scale local and regional food systems would help us withstand shocks to the global food industry. Alternative energy sources like community solar installations would ensure power is available for critical infrastructure during emergencies.
Such resiliency initiatives can help a community rebuild after a disaster but they are also worth pursuing in their own right: local food is healthier and tastier, alternative energy reduces costs and is good for the environment.
By embracing resiliency, we will be able to get through any crisis that comes our way, and come out of it a stronger and more cohesive community.
Doug Holmes is a Summerland councillor.