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Posts Tagged ‘resilient’

Landslides are normally triggered either by hydro-meteorological events or by earthquakes. Whatever the immediate cause, the vegetation cover of the affected area is going to determine the degree of devastation that the landslide will have. Factors such as “topography, geology, soils, hydrological conditions, landslide history and vegetation cover determine the response of a landslide-prone catchment to a specific trigger”[i].

Changes in the vegetation cover may be influenced by:

  • Climate change which might slowly but constantly alter it.
  • Extreme events -fire, wind, rain- which might result in rapid changes
  • Anthropogenic forces such as forest logging, changes in agricultural practices, and waste disposal with an immediate effect

Of the three factors, the third one is the one more clearly in the hands of individuals.

Policymakers and individuals, through their acts and inactions, affect how climate change evolves: positively or negatively. The problem, and probably the reason why “earth’s surface continues to significantly warm, with recent global temperatures being the hottest in the past 2,000-plus years”[ii], is that the solution has to be applied today in order to obtain a result in the mid to long term. Humans are not good at working today for a distant reward: at heart we are all kids.

But anthropogenic forces are different. The effect of deforestation is sensed immediately. A change in crops affects the soil in a matter of months. These actions are very near us: individuals are directly involved in them, policymakers can influence them, but the actors are you and me, our relatives and our neighbors. That being the case, what is preventing us from acting now in the right direction?   


[i] Papathoma-Koehle, M& Glade, T. The role of vegetation cover change in landslide hazard and risk. United Nations University, 2013

[ii] https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/

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Last year I started my New Year’s greetings with “2020 has a nice ring to it, a magic kind of sound.” And I continued with a post talking about resilient societies. Probably all of us would have liked a “nicer ring”, but society has proved to be resilient. Let us work towards a brighter future and work towards a New Happy Twenties, the same way that our grandparents were able to make the best after a devastating war 100 hundred years ago.

Societies have proved to be resilient. History talks about “World Wars”, but the number of countries affected hardly compares to those affected by Covid-19. Covid-19 truly affects the whole world. Happily, its effect on society has nothing to do with the number of casualties caused by either of the two world wars.

We now hear about the “new normality”. I don’t know who invented such a stupid word or imagined the concept behind it. I think we should learn from what society did after the two world wars: reinvent themselves. Be it the Happy Twenties -after WWI- or the Trente Glorieuses as the French called it -after WWII- it had nothing to do with “new normality”. There was a complete overhaul of how society behaved, sociologically and economically.

It is this kind of overhaul that I am looking forward to this time. A push for a better world; more humane and at the same time more technologically based. With technology working for the person, the same way that during the “Trente Glorieuses” an invisible revolution (J. Fourastié, la Révolution invisible) transformed Europe, combining high productivity, higher wages and, above all, a level of social benefits unprecedented in the history of humankind.

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I have been wondering what the connection between people, especially old people, and a resilient society could be.

What is more resilient than an old person? They have demonstrated their resilience through the years. An 80 or 90 year old European has gone through at least one war, if not several if he or she is from one of those unfortunate countries (the Balkans, Ukraine, …) which have suffered also their own national wars.

And yet, when devising processes for a resilient society, we do not look to those generations that have proved to be resilient. What have they done to survive in such an unwelcome surrounding?

My answer is simple: adaptation.

I had a teacher in high school who provided an easy explanation for the difference between democracy and dictatorship. Dictatorship is like a concrete wall; it withstands high winds but if the wind grows strong enough it collapses and disappears. Democracy is like a wall made up of a sheet of paper; it bents with the wind and, when the wind does not blow anymore, it falls back in place. That is adaptation.

Going back to how to design for old age or for resilient societies, I think we should look at the same characteristic: adaptation. We will survive if we can adapt ourselves and our society to a changing world, be it new technologies or climate change.

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Either because it is mandatory or out of the realization that a disaster, natural or manmade, can put the soundest enterprise out of business, almost all big companies have a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) for proper Disaster Risk Management (DRM). Is it the same for SMEs? I am afraid it is not the case.

I have written before about how individuals should take control of their own safety. This post is an extension of the need for SMEs to be an active part of a disaster resilient society.

So far, I haven’t been able to identify too many actions directed at helping SMEs implement actions enabling them to be prepared for a disaster. As a matter of fact, according to a paper by Juan Pablo Sarmiento et al of the University of Florida (USA), only 14,1% of business with fewer than 100 employees had a BCP in place (2013). The recent flooding in south-east Spain, one of the vegetable gardens of Europe, has shown that only 37% of the 50,000 damaged hectares have something as simple as an insurance policy, let alone a BCP.

Are we going to do anything about it? If we look at the last issue of the H2020 WP in Security, this is something that has not even been contemplated, except for cybersecurity risks. Do we assume that SMEs are not an important part of society? This is not the case. According to Eurostat, SMEs provide 66,3% of the employment in EU28, approximately 137 million people. Imagine if we could get 137 million people involved in a resilient society? Imagine if we could get 99,8% of the total number of enterprises involved in a resilient society?

Maybe it is worth a try.

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