It’s hurricane season, where TV coverage moves from one disaster-stricken town to the next. But these crises began well before the weather forecasts. Thousands of communities who have recently faced catastrophe have had to endure the collapse of their economic immune systems well before they were on the news.
But consider this slower and much more commonplace trends effecting those same communities, as well as virtually every other in the country:
- The replacement of local economies with distantly-owned corporations and franchises;
- the collapse of the local sales tax base through consistent and reckless tax breaks to big box stores;
- the disappearance of the middle class career and rise of the high-insecurity, no-future, low-wage temp job;
- the lean logistics of modern businesses with no space for disaster mitigation or community support
The hurricanes were for those communities merely the latest of a series of disasters to afflict them. A sober view of disaster recovery as a profession is that it will be required one way or the other:
- Faster in the case of floods or hurricanes;
- Slower in the case of urban decay and the failure of aging infrastructure.
And we are really only equipped for natural disasters- “Acts of God.” Acts of Greed, or Negligence, or Poor Planning- are off the table as far as professional disaster mitigation is concerned. The average American town or city lasts many times longer, decades longer, than the average Fortune 500 company. Communities are built to be conservative; stable; responsive; supportive. And yet they are being asked to do more and more while their resources are being undercut.
Community resilience starts with community prosperity, solidarity, and mutual aid for surrounding communities. All of those starting points are undercut when the economic foundation of a community is swapped out and a corporate skeleton crew replaces it. It’s time to recognize the value of the City or Town as an enduring and resilient community- and broaden our view of the unnatural disasters which afflict them.