Resilience is the ability to bounce back quickly from an adverse situation. A community is resilient when it is able to effectively to prepare for, recover from, and thrive after difficult situations. Some significant current challenges facing Minnesota communities relate to extreme weather and other impacts of our changing climate.
A community’s assets help to increase its resilience. These assets represent a strength of a community. Creating assets for climate resilience may be straightforward (such as planting trees in yards and boulevards) or less direct (such as creating phone trees to check in on vulnerable neighbors).
What can community assets for resilience do?
- provide places where people gather and recognize neighbors
- offer safe and durable shelter to withstand extreme weather
- generate renewable power
- absorb rainwater to reduce flooding and replenish aquifers
- use vegetation to provide shade and improve air quality
- build social networks to support people in need due to extreme weather
- bring healthy local food to underserved areas
Investing in these assets to strengthen community resilience provides multiple benefits for human health, the economy and the environment. And these help to build the relationships and social fabric that research has shown are the important for communities to prepare for and recover successfully from challenges such as extreme weather events.
Resources for more information about community resilience
- Resilience: Resources on community resilience from the RAND Corporation
- The Minnesota GreenStep Cities website offers a wealth of implementation resources for best practices to increase the sustainability and resilience of communities through public engagement and local government action.
- Great Lakes Climate Adaptation Toolkit
- Adapting to a changing climate (MPCA)
Nine communities got help with projects from a partnership between the MPCA and Conservation Corps Minnesota. Teens worked on projects to help strengthen resilience to climate change.
Key challenges and strategies
Looking more specifically at issues related to climate change, Minnesota communities may confront some key challenges that require thoughtful strategies.
Beat the heat: Increased temperatures and dew points endanger public health
There are many things individuals and communities can do to help cool neighborhoods and provide safety during extreme heat events.
General information for communities on addressing extreme heat.
There are some community actions to address extreme heat which will also save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions or lead to other environmental benefits.
Healthy tree canopies on streets
Leafy branches shelter people from the hot sun and keep pedestrians, parkways, pavement and vehicles cooler. Leaves help slow the falling rain to reduce run-off and erosion. Tree roots absorb stormwater to lessen flooding.
Encourages cities and towns to recognize trees as critical, functional infrastructure and offers climate-smart actions to protect and enhance the health of the urban forest.
White or cool-colored roofs
Reflective white and cool-colored roofs keep buildings as well as their surrounding areas cooler. They also help solar photovoltaic (PV) panels produce electricity more efficiently.
Helps cities, countries, and others cost-effectively save energy, improve health and quality of life, and combat climate change by reducing excess urban heat.
Shaded public parks
Shaded parks offer residents a place to relax and stay cooler during heat waves. These trees also help reduce flooding and erosion. Neighbors become acquainted and are more willing to support each other through extreme weather disasters when parks are inviting places to gather.
Article on the importance of parks for community sustainability from the National Institutes of Health.
Weather resiliency: Extreme weather damages buildings and public infrastructure and threatens public safety
Extreme weather events, including heavy rainfall with flooding, are occurring more frequently. Designing landscapes to absorb rainwater where it falls will help storm and sanitary sewers handle downpours and keep homes, drinking water supply, lakes and rivers safe and clean.
Vegetation on roofs and walls
Vegetative roofs and walls keep buildings cooler by providing natural insulation that also absorbs stormwater. When the plants also produce fruits and vegetables, these roofs provide local nutritious food that cannot be disrupted by storms or drought in other parts of the country.
Planted in appropriate locations, rain gardens filter and infiltrate stormwater to help replenish aquifers that maintain lake levels. Rain gardens reduce erosion and help keep pollutants that might endanger recreation and drinking water supplies out of nearby lakes and rivers.
Solar electric, hot water, and hot air panels take advantage of the sun’s energy to produce electricity or heat. They lower utility bills, reduce the need for additional power plants, can the shade roofs, and – if compatible with batteries or a special inverter – can provide electricity directly to homes or businesses during utility power outages.
- Minnesota Renewable Energy Society
- Solar energy resources (Minn. Dept. of Commerce)
- Community solar gardens (Minnesota CERTs)
In a community with a car share program, residents can be more open to walking, biking and transit to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases while still retaining access to a car. During extreme weather, one does not have to worry about their personal vehicle getting stranded or damaged.
Carsharing is designed to replace car ownership for people who do not need to drive to work every day, and to significantly reduce congestion and pollution.
Secure healthy food: Lack of food security due to interrupted supplies or increased prices
Food produced close to home is fresher, more accessible, and often less expensive. Relying solely on distant food supplies increases vulnerability to extreme weather. Flooding, heat, drought or wind in other locations may disrupt transportation or destroy crops. A diverse network of food providers will help ensure that healthy food is available and affordable.
Tilling community garden plots increases appreciation of what it takes to grow crops in our changing climate while providing healthy food for meals. Community members get to know each other and are more likely to offer a helping hand if extreme weather strikes nearby.
Fresh food from the farmers’ market tastes better, helps support the community’s economy, and can provide local access to healthy foods despite bad weather in other parts of the country.
Growing fruits and vegetables in yards offers a source of affordable, healthy food, even if extreme weather in other areas reduces supplies or increases prices.