The Resilience Journal
Now the world knows. Even data from the IPCC, the UN's governing climate-change body, has the world blowing past the dreaded 2-degree-C temperature rise in the coming 30 years, on our way past 4 degrees by century's end. The best the Paris Climate Agreement may do is keep us within 3 degrees. Maybe.
The urgent imperative, therefore, is preparing. And recovering. Climate disruption is upon us. Already begun, with a 1-degree rise thus far. Look at 2017, the year with the most billion-dollar disasters in history, following more than a decade of record-breaking temperatures and more climate-change signals than scientists can keep up with.
Yet, most press coverage on the matter, when not distracted by smoke, remains focused, overwhelmingly, on mitigation, or reducing carbon emissions enough to prevent 2-degree disruption. That is insane. The longer we wait to become resilience literate, the more we place lives and prosperity at tremendous risk. I live in Puerto Rico and witnessed the gap first hand following Hurricane Maria. Such dissemination is the work of journalism, and there is simply zero time to waste.
The right information must get out, and that is the mission of The Resilience Journal.
Our editorial coverage will be guided by five fundamental dimensions:
1. Going where the science takes us
A month before Paris, November 2015, I published a piece saying that no smart business person makes plans counting on a miracle. Rather, we plan and prepare for what is most likely to happen, and/or the worst-case scenario, based on known facts and reasonable assumptions.
Fast forward two years later to the Nature Journal story showing the current temperature trajectory moving right along the IPCC's worst-case scenario, and sure enough, that is what we should all be planning and preparing for: the temperature hike mentioned above and the consequences it will engender.
This isn't alarmism or pessimism. It is science, and therefore the smartest and most reasonable assumption available, one we should ponder, write about and act upon with the greatest care and urgency possible. At TRJ, we're ready to ponder and write. You, our readers, have lots of acting upon to do!
Upon what? The consequences, of course, some of which are captured by the landmark June 2017 New York Magazine story you may have seen and that will serve as one of our editorial layers, because the disaster types in the article are as complex as the science itself. We're already being hit by some. As we approach and surpass 2C, we will be hit by them all. Again, according to the best science and set of assumptions out there, the ones we must plan around.
If we're to become more resilient, let's do it across all fronts, not just the ones typically written about. That is the first thing that will set us apart as a news source. We will cover resilience in all its dimensions, complexities and possibilities.
2. The resilience ecosystem
Our job is made easier by the promising resilience movement just now maturing around the world. There's ICLEI's Resilient Cities Initiative, Rockefeller's 100 Resilient Cities program, a growing cadre of companies and universities offering cutting-edge research and solutions, committed NGOs sparking indispensable partnerships and community work, and faith-based organizations providing inspiring relief.
It has become a vibrant ecosystem with a life all its own. Yet, no one has yet written about it as such, but rather as fragmented, disconnected, if we judge based on the stories that stumble into our news streams. TRJ columns will dig into each component, chronicle their progress, call attention to their work, raise their collective voice, reveal fresh angles, trigger original thinking.
For the sake of organizing our coverage further, we layer four elements on the ecosystem. If you can envision a diagram, the disasters or climate events go in the middle, physical effects are on the left (infrastructure, properties, that sort of thing), the human dimension is on the right (migration, healthcare, all kinds of issues forced upon people), and money matters are at bottom (government and corporate budgets, insurance claims, bank loans, etc.). This on top of the science and disaster-type layers mentioned in item #1.
The trick is to cover it all and connect the dots systemically. None of this works in isolation.
3. Tier 1 Disasters, those you recover from
The first task of resilience is to shorten the time and cost it takes to recover from a disaster, when possible. A forest fire? Hurricane? Drought? Winter bomb cyclone or polar vortex? We'll bring you the information you need before the hit to reduce that time and cost afterwards.
This includes most extreme-weather events we're experiencing today, the ones that allow the lucky ones sufficient time to recover before being hit with the next one. It so happens this is the tier most folks in the ecosystem are working on: city planners, corporate innovators and solution providers, university researchers, NGOs, others.
4. Tier 2 Disasters, the anti-normal
These are harder to wrap your arms around, the ones you simply will not recover from. When the heat becomes unlivable, the plagues unmanageable, when the ocean rises above all seawalls and flood your city permanently. This we call Permanent Displacement Scenarios, and we know they're coming soon, so they must be pondered and acted upon starting NOW.
Others we call Extended Recovery Cycles, because you have not recovered from one hit when the next one comes, and so on. With each hit, people relocate, businesses can't reopen, government budgets become stretched, economies collapse.
This isn't the New Normal. It is the Anti Normal, because resilience in this tier does not mean returning to a normal status quo.
The disruption is so constant or permanent as to render normalcy an inappropriate description, and this might very well be the first column to engage the visionaries thinking through what this will mean and what we should be doing in advance.
5. Ten Cities. Ten Communities.
It might actually be seven of both, or 12 of one and 15 of the other. I don't know. What we do know is that, on one end, the livability of the planet and the stability of the global commons depends in great measure on how resilient these driving cities become, the extent to which they survive and thrive. Or not.
On another front, we want to identify, showcase and closely follow certain communities in various places that are doing resilience as well as can be and therefore serve as priceless examples to the rest of us.
These stories must go viral. They have to spread widely and quickly. I suppose we'll want that of all our columns, but these...well, these will merit special attention.
Thank you for joining
I hope that gives you a sense of what we're all about and where the column is headed. The Resilience Journal in Byline is the first of several efforts to use independent journalism for this purpose. Next is a blog or digital magazine, a YouTube channel, book, theatre show and film. As a supporter and/or follower, we hope you stay with us the entire way.
If it helps, here is a bit of the writing that has led up to the publication of TRJ, some of my previous columns:
Be sure to reach out. Share a story idea or just say hola. Comment on the columns, write me at [email protected], call me at 787-923-0743, look for alexdiazeco in social media. Let's build a community of the resilient, of those who see beyond today's headlines and long to create a new one.