What is Urban Resilience?

Cities face a growing range of adversities and challenges in the 21st century. From the effects of climate change to growing migrant populations to inadequate infrastructure to pandemics to cyber-attacks. Resilience is what helps cities adapt and transform in the face of these challenges, helping them to prepare for both the expected and the unexpected.100RC defines urban resilience as “the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.”Building urban resilience requires looking at a city holistically: understanding the systems that make up the city and the interdependencies and risks they may face. By strengthening the underlying fabric of a city and better understanding the potential shocks and stresses it may face, a city can improve its development trajectory and the well-being of its citizens.
Of course, the challenges cities face often aren’t a single shock or stress. Most cities face a combination of these challenges, which can contribute to further threatening a city’s resilience. A good example of this is Hurricane Katrina, which hit the southeastern U.S. in 2005 with devastating consequences. But it wasn’t Hurricane Katrina alone that led to such a crisis in the city of New Orleans. The storm’s impact was exacerbated by stresses like institutional racism, violence, divestment and aging infrastructure, poverty, lack of macroeconomic transformation, environmental degradation, and other chronic challenges. The compounding pressure of these unaddressed stresses undermined the city’s resilience and, when a terrible shock hit the city, it exposed and exacerbated these weaknesses—ultimately making it far more difficult for the city to bounce back.
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