Environment

This week, Louisville will take the next step toward evaluating and addressing future challenges posed by factors like climate change and economic inequality.

Representatives from the group 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) will be in town Tuesday to lead a workshop identifying Louisville’s resilience priorities — or, how the city can prepare to bounce-back from disasters.

Last spring, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced the city had been chosen to join the program, which is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. As part of the program, Louisville will hire a chief resilience officer, and the program will pay for the position for two years. This week’s workshop is the first step of that process.

Or, as Otis Rolley of 100RC puts it:

“It is in so many ways, the beginning of the beginning.”

Why ‘resilience?’

The workshop is designed to bring in various stakeholders in the city — from government workers to business leaders to community organizers — to lay the groundwork for Louisville’s resilience strategy.

The term “resilience” is often used in reference to climate change, and cities adapting to the new environmental realities of threats like flooding or extreme heat. Rolley said climate change is part of what the new chief resilience officer will be looking at, but it’s broader than that.

“When we discuss urban resilience, we’re talking not just in terms of environmental resilience, but we’re talking about the economy, we’re talking about social well-being, social cohesion,” he said. “The shock of flood or earthquake is as damaging to a city in many ways as a riot or the destruction of a major industry within a particular municipality.”

On its website, 100RC identifies factors like poor air quality, economic inequality, unreliable transportation and heat waves as Louisville’s specific challenges. But during the workshop, facilitators will see if others agree with that assessment.

In announcing Louisville’s selection in the program last year, Fischer alluded to environmental justice issues as another area in need of addressing.

“Our application recognized Louisville’s commitment to addressing environmental issues that disproportionately impact low-income and minority neighborhoods. It will also examine income inequality in our city,” Fischer said. “As a new member of 100 Resilient Cities, we can work with the best in the private, government, and non-profit sectors in developing and sharing tools to plan to and respond to the resilience challenges ahead.”

Rolley said a main part of that is hiring someone whose full-time job is to address urban resiliency. He said the reason 100RC funds the chief resiliency officer position for two years is to give the person a chance to demonstrate the importance and financial benefits the role can bring to a city.

“Cities are getting it that this position is a position as a chief financial officer or your chief of police, that to have someone thinking about resilience throughout municipal operations, all day, every day, is highly beneficial to the overall success of the city, whether it’s in Norfolk, New York, New Orleans, Atlanta, and soon in Louisville.”

Rolley said 100RC will create a report within a month laying the ground for Louisville’s resilience strategy, and the goal is to have a chief resilience officer on board within 90 days.

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL. She is also Enterprise Editor.