Grow­ing re­silience

The prin­ci­ples of per­ma­cul­ture will help to en­sure that Auck­land can be ready for al­most any even­tu­al­ity.

Element - - Primary Industry - By Gary Mar­shall

It used to be the stuff of Hol­ly­wood movies – when dis­as­ter crip­ples the in­fra­struc­ture of a city and chaos reigns – but in­creas­ingly it is hap­pen­ing for real. Events such as the tsunami in Ja­pan, floods in Australia and on­go­ing earth­quakes in Christchurch have bought at­ten­tion to the need for in­di­vid­u­als, com­mu­ni­ties and our in­sti­tu­tions to plan for nat­u­ral dis­as­ters and other events be­yond our di­rect con­trol. In­ter­na­tional crises such as the fi­nan­cial melt­down sweep­ing through Europe, peak oil, the ‘Arab spring’ and ‘Oc­cupy’ move­ments raise ques­tions about how Auck­land en­gages with the ‘global econ­omy’ and how re­silient and ready we are as a com­mu­nity to respond to these ‘man-made’ events.

In 2002, the Civil De­fence Emer­gency Man­age­ment Group (CDEM Group) out­lined a range of sig­nif­i­cant risks for Auck­land, which in­cluded is­sues such as in­fra­struc­ture fail­ure, vol­canic erup­tion, a hu­man epi­demic and in­creases in ex­treme events such as cy­clones and drought re­sult­ing from changes in our cli­mate. Given re­cent events it would be pru­dent to in­clude ad­di­tional fac­tors such as trade dis­rup­tions, pop­u­la­tion growth, car de­pen­dency, ecosys­tem health and hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity to that list. It be­comes clear when we con­sider all of Auck­land’s de­pen­den­cies and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties that com­mu­nity re­silience is not sim­ply about our abil­ity to re­act to im­me­di­ate im­pacts and emer­gen­cies but needs to en­com­pass larger so­ci­etal pat­terns and be­hav­iours and our on­go­ing abil­ity to respond to changes in life­style over time.

For many these is­sues are sim­ply too large and com­plex to con­sider – as a re­sult think­ing about these is­sues can be over­whelm­ing and dis­em­pow­er­ing. A grow­ing num­ber of peo­ple, how­ever, are learn­ing that em­pow­er­ment comes from en­gag­ing with the is­sues proac­tively and we are see­ing a groundswell of Auck­lan­ders be­com­ing in­creas­ingly re­silient through their life­style choices, be it through get­ting in­volved with com­mu­nity projects or Tran­si­tion ini­tia­tives, home gar­den­ing, re­learn­ing tra­di­tional ‘life skills’, sup­port­ing farm­ers’ mar­kets and food coops such as Ooooby, Kaitika, or par­tic­i­pat­ing in so­cial and pro­fes­sional net­works fo­cused on par­tic­u­lar is­sues such as the Auck­land Food Al­liance and The Auck­land Trans­port Blog.

Com­mu­nity re­silience starts with be­ing pre­pared, as in­di­vid­u­als, fam­i­lies and the com­mu­nity to man­age change pos­i­tively; ed­u­ca­tion is there­fore crit­i­cal. Cre­at­ing a com­mu­nity of learn­ers is one of the most em­pow­er­ing ways we can in­crease skills and knowl­edge across a widerange of peo­ple and in­crease our un­der­stand­ing of likely en­vi­ron­men­tal, eco­nomic and so­cial forces such as cli­mate change, pop­u­la­tion growth, and re­source de­ple­tion. Ad­dress­ing our life­styles will help us to make more in­formed choices about the fu­ture and how to build re­silience to­day.

This is a ques­tion we have been ex­plor­ing at Auck­land Per­ma­cul­ture Work­shop. We dis­cover so­lu­tions from around the world and ex­plore new op­por­tu­ni­ties for in­no­va­tion in a range of sec­tors. In the busi­ness and fi­nance sec­tors, so­cial en­trepreneur­ship, credit unions and lo­cal banks, com­pli­men­tary cur­ren­cies as well as lo­cally owned and op­er­ated en­ter­prises should be en­cour­aged. The build­ing and con­struc­tion sec­tors need to fo­cus on walk­a­ble, mixed use com­mu­ni­ties – older build­ings where ap­pro­pri­ate should be retro-fit­ted while new builds should fo­cus on af­ford­abil­ity and cli­mate re­spon­sive de­sign. Agri­cul­ture and forestry is be­gin­ning to re-emerge in our com­mu­ni­ties with growth in school and com­mu­nity gar­dens, food forests, ed­i­ble streets and in­creased train­ing in or­ganic pro­duc­tion, seed sav­ing, agro and ana­logue forestry. Sus­tain­able land use prac­tices will help to im­prove our re­gional food se­cu­rity and econ­omy as well as help our lo­cal food in­dus­try to di­ver­sify and de­velop. Lo­cal health ini­tia­tives should in­clude nat­u­ral ther­a­pies and lo­cally avail­able green and pre­ven­ta­tive medicines and in­dus­try can be­gin to re-in­dus­tri­alise for small-scale lo­cal pro­duc­tion of nec­es­sary goods.

At the po­lit­i­cal level we can en­gage with lo­cal boards, en­cour­age neigh­bour­hood fo­rums and pro­mote de­cen­tralised, con­sen­sus­based decision mak­ing and con­flict res­o­lu­tion mod­els. Fi­nally in our com­mu­ni­ties and neigh­bour­hoods we can be­gin to es­tab­lish tool ex­changes, lo­cal based power gen­er­a­tion and re­cy­cling. In­ter­na­tion­ally and lo­cally there is an abun­dance of small and large scale, in­no­va­tive and creative re­sponses to on­go­ing change that in­crease lo­cal re­silience and im­prove the lives of those in­volved in these ini­tia­tives. As cit­i­zens we can work to­gether, shar­ing skill sets to achieve a de­sired col­lec­tive out­come.

“A groundswell of Auck­lan­ders are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly re­silient through their life­style choices...”

Michelle Hunt­ing, Gary Mar­shall and Finn Mack­esy of the Auck­land Per­ma­cul­ture Work­shop.

Photo: Ted Baghurst

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