Hope for the best but prepare for the worst

KEEPING HOLD OF THE REINS AND BUILDING PERSONAL / LOCAL CAPACITY

Benjamin Franklin said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. There has been a lot of discussion recently about the climate adaptation strategies at County Council level and nationally. While our governing bodies plan for a future of climate induced complexities, it is essential that we do too as individuals, families and communities. By preparing ourselves for potential crises we retain a semblance of control of our own destinies. Michael Connolly explores the concept of crisis preparedness in more detail.

CRISIS PREPAREDNESS

Crisis preparedness differs from disaster preparation in that what we are dealing with is not a single, local or temporary event. Instead, what we are considering here is a systemic event that often emerges quite slowly and undermines the state’s ability to meet the basic needs of the population. Disaster / emergency planning and crisis preparedness are not mutually exclusive, but they are also not the same. You can do a perfect job of planning for a disaster only to find that a slow-moving crisis can exhaust all your best laid plans and leave you in the same condition as all those who did not prepare.

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY A CRISIS?

So, what are we talking about here? Examples of disasters are easy to find, they happen somewhere in the world on a fairly regular basis, e.g. earthquakes, storms, acts of terror. These are temporary and limited events that can be planned for and managed. The crisis we need to prepare for, however, could be something like the collapse of the banking system, which almost happened here in 2008. If your money system stops working there is practically no bottom to the crisis it could cause. Venezuela is currently going through a currency collapse that is almost beyond the state’s ability to cope and is a good example of the kind of crisis we need to consider.

There are many such threats stalking humanity at the moment such as climate change and biodiversity loss, but it is most likely that a crisis will show up first in the economic system as this is the dominant way in which we see the world. For example, a food security crisis caused by climate change will be experienced initially as very expensive food but will rapidly morph into a social or political crisis.

PREPARATION

What is it that we can do to prepare for such overwhelming events? Fortunately, we don’t need to invent anything as nature has already done it for us. Survival does not go to the fittest, the biggest, the strongest or the deadliest; instead, evolution shows us it goes to the most able to adapt.

Adaptation is not the possession of weapons or ammunition and it is not long-term food storage or a concealed bunker. Adaptation is a mindset and the absence of assumptions; it is your neighbours as collaborators, not competitors. Adaptation is simple not complex; it is resilient not efficient, and local not global. Adaptation is a process of adjusting to reality, not wishful thinking, and it is a journey, not a destination. If we are to be successful in adapting to changing conditions, we must teach each other useful, practical and effective skills; we will need to relearn skills that we have forgotten and then share them. We will also need to learn how to trust. Not everyone sees the need to prepare and that’s a personal choice; for those who do, welcome to the adventure.

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