About The Resilience Institute

The Resilience Institute is part of WWU Huxley’s College of the Environment. It facilitates scholarship, education, and practice on reducing social and physical vulnerability through sustainable community development, as a way to minimize loss and enhance recovery from disasters in Washington State and its interdependent global communities.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The future of flooding

Today, Alex Prud'homme wrote an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times entitled There Will Be Floods. The piece discusses the likely increases in levee failure. As Pred'homme states, levees fail and reach their limit - rodents and tree roots, land subsidence and rising water and trigger events like earthquakes.

The US Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees many of the nations levees, has suffered budget losses for decades. This, as more development occurs behind levees and deterioration of existing levees grows. The Corps has listed 122 levees as at risk of failure, 19 of which are in Washington State. While the Netherlands has moved towards levees that protect against a 1 in 10,000 year event, many of our levees do not even meet the 1 in 100 year flood event protection criteria. With this rather depressing statistics, Prud'homme argues that the situation may be an opportunity to work towards a greener flood management system, one that combines current levees construction and dredging with wetlands and land use restrictions.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Corn has duped us again

I found this video of Michael Pollan on the TED.com lecture series. Here he argues that perhaps humans aren't the pinnacle of evolution, but just one species duped by another into fertilizing and spreading another. It's a humorous but fascinating view of ecological systems - one that he argues may help us all address current and future food security crises.

The approach is also useful for considering other natural hazards. Much flood mitigation debate is stuck in the "nature wins, we loose" or vise versa. Lewis county commentaries on the recent December flooding often pit environmental policies for preserving stream ecological systems for salmon habitat against flood victims, arguing that debris buildup and dredging restrictions causes more extensive flooding. Others arguments for why flooding occurred pit marshland protection against developers. What we need to look for is solutions enhance human and non-human system interactions.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

businesses in Centralia and Chehalis

Over the last week, I have been talking with local business association leaders and economic development officers in Chehalis and Centralia, two towns heavily impacted in the December flooding that closed Interstate 5 for 4 days.

Concerns are starting to mount. Directly after the flood waters receded, local businesses were able to gut and clean out their businesses. Many of them had a flood of support from friends, families, and even their clients. This represents the best of what small towns and dense social networks have to offer. It offered bright hopes of recovery for local businesses.

Two and a half months after the flood, association leaders and the economic development officers say that things are bleaker. Taxes are being filed and bills are coming in. Many younger businesses cannot apply for SBA loans. Others are concerned about getting further into debt. The downtown business association president says most businesses are reporting a loss of sales of about 35% for the 2007 year. This area was not hit by the flood directly. But with many local clients devastated by the flood, Christmas sales were minimal. Others didn't come shopping in the city, assuming everything was closed. A few businesses are closing.

There is also a need to retain manufacturing and outwardly oriented businesses. Businesses that have a non-local client base may find that it is easier to start over in a less risky location. A location that hasn't had 3 floods in the last 17 years...

The towns are struggling, as all cities do after a disaster. IGCR is going to be working with them to survey the businesses. We all want to try and learn what policies, incentives, education or support would help these cities bounce back from this event. The goal, however, needs to be bouncing back in a way that reduces future flood risks. Like elsewhere in the world, disasters wipe out (unsustainable) development. These events also undermine the resources a city has for moving towards sustainable planning and development.

Getting out of that negative feedback loop is going to be Centralia and Chehalis' grand challenge in the years ahead.

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Monday, February 4, 2008

The Future of Food

Last week, I participated in a panel discussion on the "Future of Food " at Western Washington University (contact me for copies). I was greatly encouraged that we can well easily have a 20 mile diet in this county! A diet that includes healthy fats! In a recent review of Performance without Pain: A Step-by-Step Nutritional Program for Healing Pain, Inflammation and Chronic Ailments in Musicians, Athletes, Dancers…and Everyone Else I wrote of the extensive work on refined grains and sweeteners, and refined and pasteurized food products in general and how such relates to degenerative diseases. King Corn (see http://www.kingcorn.net/) provides more information on "metabolic disease" and the "plague of corn" (in the word of nutritionist Daphne Roe) in this country. Such books and films tell the sad story of how lack of quality fats (including saturated fats from farm-fresh dairy and pasture-fed meat animals, and healthy doses of high-nutrient cod liver oils) and an overdependence on all refined foods, including sugar, has resulted in epidemics of obesity and other diseases. Basically, this is all a call for nutritional ecology -- establish a healthy digestive ecosystem and follow a nutrient-dense diet, guided by the maxim “It’s not what you eat, it’s what you absorb!” Both on the screen, and off.

Gigi Berardi

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