Using Disasters for Systemic Change

The adaptive cycle concept propose that crisis is followed by a period of reorganization that looks for new forms of organization.  Often these periods rely of plans developed prior to crisis, and are helped by links to areas unaffected by crisis and legacies of past systems that preserve resources during a crisis, for more see Panarchy on RA website or on WorldChanging (Gunderson and Holling eds 2002).

On WorldChanging Matthew Waxman writes about Using Disasters for Systemic Change:

What if we could plan to use the future’s inevitable disasters as opportunities for change and innovation?The planning policy would focus on finding sustainable solutions to broken or destroyed systems. Disaster in this way is used to jump-start changes in infrastructure and thus alter daily habits, patterns, and preferences on everything from energy consumption to transportation, housing and health, economic development, community and civic facilities, open space, food, and lifestyle.

Changes would be contingent on disasters occurring, so this type of planning policy wouldn’t necessitate immediate results without the destructive context – as would planning codes, LEED guidelines or simply better design practices – but it would produce readily-available plans and design-response focused on long-term, large-scale changes to infrastructural systems beyond the scope of a single, smaller-scale project. In the long-view I believe this would speed up the eventual implementation of large-scale change.

One thought on “Using Disasters for Systemic Change”

  1. Using disasters or crises for systemic change is an entirely practical proposition and one that the RA should develop the capacity to exploit. I would suggest that there is nothing to equal the motivational power of a threat to people’s livelihood when it comes to creating change. Without that threat, its too easy for people to continue with business as usual. Ruitenbeek and Cartier’s monograph on adaptive co-management includes some evidence from practice that supports this proposition. The business community commonly use crisis as a basis for “change management”.

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