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The rush to resilience: an investment worth making

Published on 13 Nov 2013 Written by Jason Hartke Posted in Greenbuild

I’m reminded of that old line, “You can pay now or you can pay a lot more later.” Sometimes that lesson can be tough medicine, especially in Washington, D.C. But fortunately, this is a message that’s resonating in cities and communities across the country as they face the challenge of preparing for disasters, more frequent extreme weather, and escalating impacts of climate change. 

For example, New York City isn’t waiting for the next Sandy. Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s leadership, the city has developed the most comprehensive municipal resilience plan in the nation, calling for a more than $20 billion investment in a variety of future-proof solutions. And while that sounds like a lot of money, it’s negligible when you consider that the New York City metro area represents 8.6 percent of our national GDP.  So, think of it this way: Bloomberg’s resiliency plan is proposing to invest $20 billion over the next several years to protect the metro area’s annual economic contribution of $1.2 trillion and 6.4 percent of the nation’s jobs, both respectively represent the most of any metro area in the country. That’s an investment worth making.

These protective, future-proof measures pay back.  In fact, studies have shown that for every $1 spent on preparedness, saves us $4. That’s a calculus that any city in America can get behind, especially when they’ve seen the destruction from the multitude of threats we face, including floods, wildfires, storms, tornadoes, or earthquakes. It’s one of the reasons that policymakers are rushing to resilience.  Preparedness pays back. Resilience returns on investment. An ounce of resiliency is worth a pound of disaster relief.   

Cities, in concert with many organizations like USGBC, are taking up this new resiliency agenda. Efforts like Resilient Communities for America are bolstered by the leadership of hundreds of local elected officials who are taking action to create more prepared communities that can bounce back from extreme weather, energy, and economic challenges.

And as this movement builds, we’re coalescing around a common language for risk and vulnerability. We’re identifying and developing the tools to get us there — the plans, the metrics, the standards, and the best practices. And we continue to marshal the data and the evidence to demonstrate how preparedness pays back; how resilience saves money, and, more importantly, how it saves lives. That’s the simple economics of resilience.

At a special resilience session at Greenbuild next week, some of the country’s preeminent experts are gathering to speak about “The Rush to Resilience: Building Greener & Stronger Communities in the Face of a Changing Climate.” I hope to see you at this timely session that features Jay Carson, C-40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, Maj. Gen. Warren Edwards, Community and Regional Research Institute, Mayor Bob Dixson, Greensburg, KS and Jon Powers of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. It will be an engaging session exploring how bold and innovative leaders are addressing the global challenge of building more resilient communities and developing future-proof solutions. These featured leaders are driving the solutions we need, and they certainly know that we need to get this done now or else we’ll pay a lot more later. 

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Jason Hartke

Vice President, National Policy and Advocacy U.S. Green Building Council

3 commentsLeave a comment

Director, Technical Policy, U.S. Green Building Council
What a great session this was! For those who missed it, the video is posted on YouTube and linked in the 2013 Greenbuild Playlist!
Director, Technical Policy, U.S. Green Building Council
What a great session this was! For those who missed it, the video is posted on YouTube and linked in the 2013 Greenbuild Playlist!
Partner, DooConsulting, Doo Consulting LLC
Thank you for writing this jason - i've started to see people burning out on resiliency already, so we're going to have to do something to engage in creative ways. Technology is a boon and a bane!

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