When you hear the word ‘resilience,’ you may think of houses along the water being raised, or shoreline hardening structures that shift the burden of coastal erosion from one property to the next one down the beach. 

Building a resilient coastline is certainly going to be a growing part of the conversation in the years ahead, but building resilient communities is a much broader idea that will take all of our hands. The good news is, you don’t have to be a bulldozer operator or a coastal engineer or a member of Congress to have an impact. We all have a role to play.

Why should we build resilient communities? It’s for the same reason that we aspire to personal resilience by opening savings accounts or taking part in training to advance our careers. Despite everything we try to do to guide our futures, there are plenty of external reasons we might not reach our goals.

The good news is that we are all in this boat together. Our personal economic resilience is tied to that of our community. 

You know Yogi Berra’s quip, ‘that place, it’s so crowded nobody goes there anymore?’ If you’ve been hiding in your house every July weekend for the past several years, you’re probably thinking he must have been talking about the East End.

For those of us out working and getting to work on the roadways, summer here is brutal, and there’s little time for the relief of an afternoon at the beach. The off-season is recovery time, but it’s also a time of penny-pinching and worry about personal financial ruin. 

There’s nothing resilient about the seasonality of our economy here, and it’s a rat race that is obscuring broader issues that are keeping our communities from achieving the resilience we will need in the years ahead. 

Demanding, non-stop work schedules are a driving factor behind the hollowing out and aging of our volunteer fire and ambulance services, and runaway housing prices have many people who would otherwise be engaged in community life working around the clock. 

It’s difficult to step back and see the need for social freedoms, an equitable justice system or access to education and health services when you’re stuck inside the race to pay the rent, or to find a new home. 

But many people in leadership roles in our community are aware of the unsustainability of our economy here, and they’re working to change this paradigm. It’s difficult to find good-paying careers with opportunity for advancement here, but it shouldn’t be difficult to create rewarding and engaging work. We need fine woodworkers and wooden boatbuilders. We need people who know how to upgrade our electrical and HVAC systems and reinsulate our houses. We need farmers of kelp and oysters and, yes, potatoes. But people can only choose these careers when they know they can afford the roof above their heads.

The corporate work-from-home boom during Covid has not gone away, and these workers are going to be part of the East End’s resilience story. They can sustain our downtown businesses through the off-season. 

And if these at-home workers have any downtime that they’d like to use to become involved here, there’s one thing they can do that will have a great big impact: Join the fire department or your local ambulance corps. They are the thickest of organizations, and a great place to learn more about the history and the needs of the place you live.

These organizations will need all hands to help us all make it through the as-yet-unseen challenges ahead.

They also provide the training and tools, free of charge, for ordinary citizens to be able to see the way through to the resolution of a crisis and to work together with their neighbors to solve any problem. 

Yes, it’s a big commitment, especially in the first couple of years of training. But the skills you will learn there will prove valuable in every aspect of your life.

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East End Beacon
The East End Beacon is your guide to social and environmental issues, arts & culture on the East End of Long Island.

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