Resilient cities / Newsletter of 7 Octobre 2019


I want someone to tell me how we’re going to end emissions growth by 2020, and drastically reduce emissions to net zero by the middle of the century”. António Guterres, Secretary General of the UN, addressing political and economic leaders in New York on 23 and 24 September on the issue of combating climate change. Ever since the Rio World Summit in 1992, the recurring question is no longer “why” but “how” we’re going to stop the ticking clock that’s looming over us. One idea that emerged from the many conferences devoted to sustainable development in 2012 was replacing sustainability with resilience. 

Derived from the Latin resilire, which literally means to “jump backwards”, the term evolved into English to give the idea of rebounding, adopting a more positive connotation. It also appeared in the 20th century in French mechanical vocabulary, referring to the shocks and deformations material can undergo without breaking. The term was further popularised in psychology and in the essays of Boris Cyrulnik, who explained it as “the art of navigating through torrents”. 

“Fluctuat nec mergitur”, which is the motto of the city of Paris, “meansbeaten by the waves, but never running away.The very metaphor of resilience”, explains Noémie Fompeyrine, in charge of Paris City Hall’s own resilience initiative. “Individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and systems, like a city, are most resilient when they survive, adapt, transform and grow, regardless of the chronic stress (pollution, unemployment, a scarcity of resources, recurring violence ...) and shocks (bombings, fires, earthquakes, flooding ...) that they experience. These processes help us do better - both on good days and bad - for the benefit of everyone”. 

In a city or company’s fight against climate change, these resilience processes target a maximum number of objectives, including preserving the economy and biodiversity, reducing carbon footprints, the equity and solidarity of residents, welcoming migrants ... “As such, resilience covers every part of the system and should be considered as part of a wider holistic approach”. 

A number of cities and regions have embodied this resilience. They include Detroit, Loos-en-Gohelle, and southern Alsace. To the others - hesitant, as fragile and destitute as they’ve ever been - they’re showing them the way. 

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