Home Adaptation Resilient Cities Series: How to be Successful Given What you Have to Work With

Resilient Cities Series: How to be Successful Given What you Have to Work With


Background: History of our civilization

The history of our civilization is an interesting study in progression and development. Essentially, it goes something like this:

  • In our prehistoric phase, we were hunter-gathers, going out each day to kill proteins and gather the other components of nutrition to sustain our species.
  • Once we discovered and developed farming, which supplied all of our non-protein needs, we were able to stop gathering and settle in single locations, only venturing out to hunt proteins.
  • Once we discovered and developed ranching, which provided all of our protein needs, then we were able to stop hunting and further settle in permanent locations.
  • In the early days, we employed our people in farming and ranching. But as automation developed, and workers were needed less and less, those jobs disappeared and people needed somewhere else to go to achieve economic success.
  • Workers seeking a better life migrated to cities. This created an economic boom during the industrial revolution. When everyone wanted a car, a refrigerator, or any other consumer good, cities built around factories provided that. This created jobs that lifted countless people from poverty into the middle class, and provided entrepreneurial opportunities for business-minded people to build the cities and services to support these populations.
  • Cities were sometimes well conceived. Seattle, New York, and Los Angeles, for example, positioned themselves to be import-export hubs for a country hungry for goods that support the better life -- so they have done well.
  • Cities were sometimes poorly conceived. Without naming names, if a city went through a 'boom' period that was followed by a 'bust' period, then that city was not founded on resilient concepts of the kind that will be discussed here. And that left countless citizens feeling betrayed by implied promises that were not kept. We're still working through the ramifications of that, and it's arguable that this issue could be the greatest economic and quality of life threat to our society.


So the purpose here is to introduce my new series on EDM Digest. Over the next few months, I will be choosing cities that have done well, and cities that have done poorly, and will describe what each city did that was effective or not from a sustainability perspective.

This is a critical issue for emergency and disaster managers, because the phenomenon of urbanization is accelerating as the development portrayed plays out, and these issues are going to impact our profession.

Anytime you hear that:

  • A municipality has run out of water
  • An infrastructure system has failed
  • Citizens are dying of heat or cold
  • The livelihood industry of the municipality has moved away

... then you need to understand that the city or town that you protect has not been as resilient as it could have been. And as an emergency and disaster manager, there is no greater disaster than to watch your community deal with a spiraling death. So, if you're tempted to say that this doesn't involve you: DON'T!! It does.


I would love to have your stories and examples to work from! So if you have a story to tell, please contact me.

Otherwise, please keep watching EDM Digest as we continue our mission to improve the lives of our served public. My colleagues and I will do our best to make your time investment worthwhile. See you soon.

Randall Cuthbert Dr. Randall Cuthbert is a retired APUS Professor of Emergency & Disaster Management. He has also worked as a Red Cross Shelter Supervisor, and spent a 20-year career as a US Air Force Civil Engineer Officer. His blogging interests include: protecting & enhancing the EDM profession in the areas of integrity, honorable public service, and social justice; education regarding the 'big picture' role of EDM in our society; educating our professionals and neighbors with regard to the greatest threat to our civilization--climate change; and in general terms, creating a better world for our children and grandchildren.