In his book Politics, the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote that “Man is by nature a social animal” (2000). There is no doubt of this. Our ability to thrive and survive comes, in part, from our tendency to form relationships with others. We are constantly forming and maintaining relationships with friends, family, and significant others. One of the most important social relationships we can form is with our communities. A strong community provides us with connections that aid all aspects of our health and well-being. But how exactly is a community made? It requires the joint effort of all of its members, not just a few driven individuals. Even more difficult to create is a sustainable community, one that will stand the test of time.
Innumerable things go into making a community sustainable, but one of the most important is resilience. First and foremost, resilience is the ability to recover from challenges. Every community will eventually face difficulties.
Without the ability to adapt to challenges and make the changes necessary to overcome them, no community can survive for long. An excellent example of a community that has sustained because of its resilience is New Orleans, Louisiana. In 2005, New Orleans experienced one of the most devastating natural disasters in recent history: Hurricane Katrina. As a result of the hurricane, more than a thousand people lost their lives, and billions of dollars worth of damage was incurred to buildings, infrastructure, and homes throughout the city. If the community was to maintain its sustainability, something had to be done. Changes had to be made in order to address the city’s damage and prevent so much ruin from happening again. So, in 2006, the Unified New Orleans Plan was created.
The plan, which was “funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, and the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, … addressed a variety of concerns, including the city’s safety from future flooding, the need to rebuild safe and stable neighborhoods, the demand for affordable housing, and restoring public services” (2007). The Unified New Orleans Plan was successful to a certain extent in addressing the problems plaguing the city immediately following Hurricane Katrina; however, more work was needed to return New Orleans to its pre-Katrina state. Plus, the city was facing new problems, including rising crime and poverty rates.
Consequently, New Orleans joined with “the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative” (Kinney, 2015) to release a new policy agenda called Resilient New Orleans. The agenda “called for 41 actions in three broad areas: environment, city services, and social and economic equity. Policy proposals included improving stormwater drainage, redesigning a regional transit system, and establishing a savings-matching program to help low- and moderate-income residents set aside emergency funds” (Kinney, 2015).
Proposals made in the Unified New Orleans Plan were furthered by this initiative. Resilient New Orleans focused on addressing the problems that persisted from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina as well as those that emerged in the years following the disaster, including social inequality, economic inequality, poverty, and crime. Since the policy agenda’s initial release in 2015, the city has experienced further recoveries. Of course, there are some areas that are still struggling to recover completely from the disaster, but overall, New Orleans has made vast improvements. Both the Unified New Orleans Plan and the Resilient New Orleans initiative illustrate the community’s resilience.
Without these programs, New Orleans would not have been able to overcome the challenges caused by Hurricane Katrina. The community was able to recover from the difficulties it faced because of its ability to create and execute solutions. The resilience that New Orleans conveyed allowed it to maintain its sustainability. Although there are countless things that go into the creation and maintenance of a sustainable community, one of the most important is resilience.
No community would last without the ability to adapt to and overcome challenges. Communities must be able to recover from any and all difficulties, from the smallest quarrels to the largest disasters like Hurricane Katrina. It is necessary for communities to be resilient so that they can remain strong and sustainable for their members. We, the community’s members, benefit from the social connections and relationships provided by well-built communities. As social animals, we would not be able to survive without strong, sustainable communities.