Musings on Resiliency of Cities – More than Just Recovery to Ex Ante

I have just gotten back to the office after a day and a half conference on cities.  One topic discussed was resiliency.  A graphic used was similar to the one below:



The concept is that given a shock — a natural or manmade disaster, resilience is a property wherein the ex ante state can be re-attained.


But I have started to wonder whether we should explicitly acknowledge that in fact this type of resilience is settling for second best.  Perhaps a highly surpra-resilient system can take advantage of a shock to recover to an even better ex-post state. 

Perhaps the concept of chemical activation energy is more apt.



In this figure a low energy is considered more favorable.  But it is only the shock of a disruption that permits the system to attain a more favorable (lower energy) state due to the barrier.

So by looking merely to return to ex ante conditions, we are ignoring opportunities for improvement (e.g., more sustainability, more equity, etc.).


3 thoughts on “Musings on Resiliency of Cities – More than Just Recovery to Ex Ante

  1. I agree, destruction provides great opportunity for improvement. This reminds me of an article about a town in Kansas that was destroyed by a tornado and rebuilt sustainably.

    “In the aftermath of the storm, some people said the town itself was one of the casualties. Dixson didn’t think so. Instead of despairing, he ran for mayor and promised to rebuild the town. He planned to attack climate change head-on and make Greensburg a safe, sustainable city.

    Dixson, a Republican, won the mayoral election in a landslide. Now halfway through his second term, Dixson has delivered: Greensburg has a new hospital and a new school built using sustainable architecture. There are wind turbines and solar panels all over town. He says he had to get past the idea that being “green” was a liberal principle.”

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