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Op-Ed: Talking Resilience Isn't the Same as Being Resilient

Resilience, as such, isn't a problem. But Alex Beam takes issue with the current flood of resilience-related jargon. Can you blame him?
May 31, 2016, 9am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Florida - Hurricane Frances Approaching (2004)
Roger Wollstadt

Alex Beam has a problem with "resilience," as in the cottage industry that has sprung up around that concept. "Resilience means the ability to bounce back after adversity," a simple trait that most people, and most cities, possess to a certain degree. But what about the constant talk of resilience, so often turning it into some undefined holy grail in the realm of the public good?

Beam highlights the jargony prose that characterizes resilience-speak, no doubt well-intended but lacking in the common sense department. "[The Rockefeller Foundation] is all in on resilience, with a Global Resilience Partnership, the National Disaster Resilience Competition, and the 100 Resilient Cities program, in which Boston is participating. Among the resilience officers' duties, the foundation's website explains, is 'ensuring that the city applies a resilience lens so that resources are leveraged holistically and projects planned for synergy.'"

The point: resilience may be joining "sustainability" as a word that has been done to death. As Beam puts it, "Resilience talk is just a little too glib, a little too modish, a little too nonsensical for my tastes. Americans seem to me like the least resilient people on earth, obsessing over bathroom access and Twitter wars while one-tenth of the planet starves to death. Starbucks ran out of one percent milk? I'm calling my congressman!"

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Published on Sunday, May 22, 2016 in The Boston Globe
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