Resolving the Tension Between 'Resilience' and 'Sustainability'

Although "two of the hottest buzzwords in urban planning" - resilience and sustainability - are often used interchangeably, in many cases they actually work against each other. David Biello examines why both are crucial for the future of our cities.

Biello uses the example of oft-polluting combined sewer outflows as one instance of a resilient system - one that "bounces back from challenges, unharmed" and can fail safely - that incorporates unsustainable actions. "Some of the most obvious ways to become more resilient are not sustainable," observes Biello. "For example, if you are concerned about reliable electricity, you can increase the resilience of your local grid by buying a diesel generator, or two, or more."

"Fortunately, there are ways to think more creatively about how to achieve the same resilience. So, instead of buying a couple big extra generators, a thousand small generators on rooftops might be better, as in the case of solar power on homes. Or programs that reduce the overall demand for power-reducing the stress on the existing electrical grid-can help avoid issues like the 2003 blackout."

"In the end," says Biello, "any enduring city must be resilient to a whole host of challenges-from floods and fire to economic collapse-in order to last for the long-term. And what could be more sustainable than that?" 

Full Story: Can Cities Be "Resilient" and "Sustainable" at the Same Time?

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