This past year, 2017, was the year of news.
If you’ve been watching cable TV news all year, it’s easy to remember the year that was as a non-stop soap opera emanating from the White House.
But really, what’s going on in Washington couldn’t be farther from the center of so much of the tragedy that was 2017. From Houston’s floodwaters to a horrifying concert on the streets of Las Vegas to the burning hills surrounding Los Angeles and Santa Rosa, from Maria’s ravaging of Puerto Rico to the chaos in the streets of Caracas, Venezuela, to the borderlands between Burma and Bangladesh and the DMZ between the two Koreas, we’ve had a doozy of a year.
The concept of resilience is one that is easy for us, in good times, to brush aside. Resilience is just a word for toughness in many of our minds, and most of us believe we can tough things out if things get bad. But it’s been a long time since things got really bad in the good old US of A.
Resilience is a concept that emergency planners, climate worriers, and the people hanging out making policy at the Pentagon think a lot about. Some people and organizations are far more resilient than others. Some cities and nations are more resilient than others as well. There is wide variety in how we all respond to everything from the smallest setback to a major catastrophe.
But resiliency can be trained into our psyches and our organizations, and that’s one of the key concepts to living in an increasingly chaotic world.
People who spend a lot of time thinking about climate change get a bad rap. They’ve been running around this planet for decades sounding to most people like Chicken Little. For a long time, it was easy to dismiss them as part of a lunatic fringe. Chicken Little never fixed anything, she just ran around telling all her neighbors that the sky was falling. It’s as easy to roll your eyes at someone who says the sky is falling as it is to wonder if you should really be worrying that winters just aren’t as cold as they used to be. It’s good to be warm.
Every time buckets of snow fall onto our doorsteps in winter, you’ll hear people who pshaw at climate change point to the deepening white stuff as if it’s proof that climate change is not real, despite the fact that the severity of the snowfall is really just another indicator of how real climate change actually is.
Three-foot snowstorms falling on budding forsythia in January on Long Island are just as much a part of climate change as Category 5 hurricanes that devastate U.S. commonwealths while we are busy watching the Twitter feed from the Roosevelt Room at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
There are a lot of people in this country who are very proud to step in and make things better when disasters happen. This year, they jumped up from their couches, sometimes without their shoes, whether to run out and chase down a mass murderer, or to bring an entire Cajun Navy to the canals that used to be streets throughout the gulf coast of Texas to rescue people from their flooded homes.
A lot of people who don’t give two hoots about climate change are going to continue to jump up and come to peoples’ rescue as the weather worsens in our world. That’s another reason why Chicken Little just seems so silly. She never fixed anything. But maybe she thought there was nothing she could do to fix such large-scale problems.
Everyday heroes are the key, as are our public policy makers, to why our future can and will be more resilient than our present. We have no choice. The world is going to give us a lot of lemons. And we are already busy making lemonade, whether we know we are or not.