Reflections on urban resilience

Two recent reflections on resilience in cities, which use different definitions of resilience than the resilience alliance.  The first focuses on resilience as social trust and while the second on resilience as persistence.

Arjun Appadurai on the Immanent Frame writes: Is Mumbai’s resilience endlessly renewable?

Many well-meaning observers have stressed the “resilience”, the mutual generosity, the quotidian heroism and the remarkable resistance of Mumbaikars to jump to quick conclusions or hasty reprisals. I too congratulate and celebrate these facts. But I fear that all resilience is historically produced. And what history gives, history can take away. Yes, we are all Mumbaikars now. But in a world that links Mumbai, Kashmir, Karachi, Madrid, Peshawar, London, Wall Street, Washington and Faridkot, that is not necessarily a source of comfort. Resilience is a public resource. But, unlike terror, it is not indefinitely renewable.

In the Detroit Free Press columnist Sarah Webster quotes Steve Carpenter on resilience to explain why Detroit will come back in Detroit: Not a town of quitters:

If you’re from Detroit, you probably already know how much resilience has been fused into your bones.

This town is full of it.

In a YouTube video (Watch Carpenter explain it )posted by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Professor Stephen Carpenter, who specializes in ecosystems at the University of Wisconsin, said resilience explains how things can “change and persist at the same time.”

“A resilient system could be able to withstand a shock without losing its basic functions,” he said. “A resilient system is able to transform to a different way of life when the current way of life is no longer feasible.”

But where resilience comes from – and why some people get it, while others don’t – isn’t a subject that’s very well understood. …

Like much of America, Detroit is full of immigrants. Those who came to Detroit, however, came to work in the factories at a time when factories weren’t so clean or safe, and there was a lot of competition for those $5 a day jobs. Factory work was for thick-skinned men who could breathe smoke, slog away near blazing fire pits of molten steel and assemble heavy car parts with their bare hands.

Wimps were not needed. Only the strong survived.

As somebody who came to Detroit just a decade ago, it seems to me that children of these immigrants – many of whom still work today in Detroit’s factories, or as engineers, designers and managers throughout the region – still know how to fight for what they believe in. And they seem to know that sometimes fights are best won in the final rounds, not in the early ones.

From time to time, I think it’s a good idea to remind folks what makes them so special — especially when they’re feeling down, as Detroit seems to be lately.

So, Detroit, know this: This is not a town of quitters.

And it’s why I feel so sure that Detroit, and its auto industry, will make a big comeback someday.

One thought on “Reflections on urban resilience”

  1. The thought of Detroit bouncing back is inane enough America’s current economic situation, but the auto industry making a comeback? This is beyond comprehension.

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