At its core, resilience is the capacity to deal effectively with shocks and disruptions of all kinds. In our rapidly changing world, the risks we face from economic interdependence and environmental changes are greater than ever. Globalization of the economy has created tremendous interdependence, leaving us less self-reliant and more vulnerable to disruptions elsewhere in the world. Environmental change is causing upheaval in entire industries, ecosystems, cities, and continents—in coastal cities threatened by resource scarcity and climate change impacts such as storms and sea level rise, and in water-stressed regions facing worse droughts and erratic rainfall and reduced snowpack and river flows. As a result, the concept of resilience is receiving attention from individuals, businesses, communities, and nations around the globe.
One iconic example of resilience is the town of Greensburg, Kansas. When 97% of this economically challenged community was destroyed by a tornado in 2007, local residents chose to rebuild at the cutting edge. By attracting green innovators and investors, Greensburg became a showcase for the conservation of energy, water and capital and is now a destination for eco-innovation tourists.
Other communities around the world have successfully increased their resilience in unique and innovative ways:
Chattanooga, Tennessee: One of the most polluted cities in America, Chattanooga began its comeback with the formation of Chattanooga Ventures—a non-profit organization that engaged the public in setting a new vision for the city and creating an agenda for revitalization. Chattanooga Ventures then successfully mobilized investments to realize the city’s goals.
Bilbao, Spain: When Bilbao’s mining industry collapsed, the city went big and successfully petitioned to become the home of a new Guggenheim Museum. City planners began to envision Bilbao as a center for arts and tourism and invested in other assets including a concert hall, library and university buildings. At the same time, they initiated projects to improve the city’s transit system and walkability. Bilbao is now reinventing itself again, building on these investments to grow a knowledge-based creative economy.
Leavenworth, Washington: When logging could no longer sustain the town, Leavenworth reached out to the University of Washington for guidance. With the University’s guidance, the populace undertook a visioning process and chose to become a tourism destination, subsequently making investments to bring that vision to life.
For leaders of all stripes—whether heads of state, small-town mayors or corporate CEOs—building resilience is a core responsibility. Here in Sun Valley, where our natural assets are central to our quality of life, we are focusing on resilience to strengthen our ability to bounce back from harm to our local economy. The Sun Valley Institute for Resilience is being founded by the community to ensure the sustainability and prosperity of this special place for future generations of residents and visitors alike, and to serve as a model and resource to vulnerable communities everywhere.