Photo: pixabay user congerdesign.

In the moment of crisis, the wise build bridges and the foolish build dams.” –Nigerian Proverb

Climate catastrophes are raking our world across the coals. From flooding, forest fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, sea level rise and heat waves- we have been hit by the worst of it all.

In these globally trying times we need to harness all the appropriate resources necessary in order to assist those in need as best we can. Even a morsel of suitable accountability could have prevented Trump from yet again making a mockery himself. In one of the most recent American “diplomatic” debacles, Cheetos-in-Chief had the audacity to throw paper towels into a crowd at a relief centre in Puerto Rico.

Get real Prima Donald- disaster relief is not somehow contingent upon access to absorbent paper. While it slowly dawns on Trump that Puerto Rico abides by the same geographic features as all islands and is in fact surrounded by “water, big water, ocean water,” (likely the apotheosis of Trump’s intelligence) 90% of Puerto Rico remains without power and half the population without potable water.

Puerto Rico’s lack of access to humanitarian relief must be addressed. While communication and transport remain difficult many organizations have been raising support including, Uprose and Unidos Relief. Grassroots efforts carry on regardless of political malfeasance. Government relief aid and policies must soon follow and with no strings attached.

Political aid and policy often strives to maintain the status quo. Disasters are used to set the agenda for more of the same: unjust action, privatization and exploitation. The typical corporate perpetrators responsible for industrial practices that helped to catalyze and worsen this year’s devastatingly, record-shattering storms are then appointed to lead relief efforts.

The post-Hurricane Harvey rebuild has already been high jacked by Shell execs in an attempt to no doubt halt progress in the right directions. Unfortunately, but not all that surprisingly, Houston, Texas Mayor Sylvester Turner nominated the former head of Shell U.S. operations Marvin Odum to direct relief efforts. It would be wise to question Odum’s interests and intentions. These corporate driven, political maneuverings surrounding crisis relief efforts further expose the depths of the revolving door of politics.

Liable companies alongside government entities should be held responsible for the financial burdens of crisis relief. However, corporate enterprises that exasperate environmental damage and consistently exploit communities for the sake of profits cannot be the ones doling out relief aid.

Houston is a city that has experienced enough at the hands of oil execs, refinery, and chemical operations. Organizations including, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Environmental Health and Climate Justice Program are all standing up in solidarity with Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) for a just Harvey relief effort. Organizations and citizens alike are rightfully concerned that the rebuild will begin to replicate the interests of oil, gas, and petrochemical companies leaving communities out in the polluted floodwaters. The climate crisis will only worsen if these corporate and political culprits continue with business as usual.

While grasping at silver linings it can be easy to come up empty handed in the aftermath of climate chaos and political inaction. We need to mobilize our imagination and our power to prepare for the change we wish to see in the world.  In the aftermath of so many storms, we can help by generating solutions that focus on rebuilding community resiliency and promoting regenerative regrowth.

One approach to rebuilding community resiliency involves ecological restoration. Planning and design techniques can be used to mitigate damages caused from storms and extreme weather events. Seattle, Washington and Seoul, South Korea are two of several cities that have uncovered their rivers. Waterways all over the world were once forced underground in the name of development. Unearthing our subterranean river systems if done correctly can revitalize city landscapes and allow for waterways to fluctuate. Vast well waters of possibilities can emerge from ecological restoration projects including decreasing urban heat and providing habitat for wildlife.

Our attempts at waterway containment have all inevitably met some type of failure. There are no dams, dykes, levees, or floodgates that will eternally hold up against climatic forces. While unearthing our urban rivers remains controversial and not without it’s own challenges, it is a movement indicative of a rising paradigm shift.  These projects exemplify our global society’s desire to realign with nature.

A reemergence of design techniques that tap into ecological system components do not need to be so eco-modern, technocratic or complicated. We can aggregate positive impacts simply by expanding our green spaces. This leads to an increase of vegetative growth and increased soil quality while simultaneously creating shared communal spaces.

Green roofs and water catchment can be used to increase community water storage capacity. Municipalities also employ plant species in many green spaces to decrease impacts from droughts and flooding. Plants and mushrooms are being implemented to assist in the removal of toxins from our air and water, a process known as bioremediation. Consideration of ecological principles in future planning and design allows nature to stand as our weather mediator. Natural barricades like mangroves, dune-ecosystems, and coral reef systems have always acted as our greatest storm protectors. It is time we reciprocate and restore our natural lifelines.

There are so many solutions and so little time. Plenty of projects exist as proof that community-based ecologically driven endeavors can give rise to endearing, positive social change. Successful relief efforts and rebuilding community resiliency depend upon a foundation of inclusive community-led dialogue. Any future frameworks must enable just and appropriate growth while also addressing the needs and vulnerabilities of local communities. For a truly regenerative rebuild recovery dollars and efforts cannot fall back into the hands of immorally interested corporate execs and politicians who refuse to have the backs of their constituents.

I wish everyone strength, solidarity and support. Remember, promising solutions, projects, and organizations do exist and are helping to revitalize and reshape our communities for the better. Say YES! to rebuilding community resiliency and promoting regenerative regrowth. Let’s do this on our accord! What are some relief, recovery, and regrowth efforts, ideas, or initiatives out there that deserve our accolades and support?

  • This article is part of an ongoing series on Bright Green responding to Naomi Klein’s book ‘No Is Not Enough’ exploring new directions for progressive politics.