The beginning of a new year is always a good time to take stock, identify things that need to be fixed, and them improve them. When it comes to resilience and sustainable development a few resolutions might make 2022 different from the past two years in a good way.
(1) Change strategies about how to manage Covid. Covid messaging has been unsure, inconsistent, and politicized. Americans have to turn the page in more ways than one. We have to consider that instead of thinking of COVID as a short-term pandemic that we can cure, we may need to transition to thinking of it as an endemic health hazard that will never fully go away. How do our strategies change, if we have to live with Covid as a part of our lives? This seems impossible to contemplate now, but we have a precedent. A century ago, America transitioned so effectively from the 1918-19 Spanish flu epidemic that the 1910s turned into the Roaring 20s.
Converted Hospital in Philadelphia in 1918
Flappers Doing the Charleston in 1922
They didn't eradicate the disease. To this day, different variants of flu recur every year. Despite the fear and carnage of the time, policymakers were able to create a set of measures that helped people cope, scaled them up, and communicated them effectively so that people could move on with their lives. If we did it 100 years ago with a lot fewer resources, we can certainly figure out how to do it today.
(2) Resolve to reframe environmental policy issues. It's hard to remember that up until the late 1980s, environmental policy enjoyed broad bipartisan support. There are many reasons for the growing partisan divide since then. People argue about the premises, the goals, the strategies, the definitions, etc. to the point where it seems like the real concerns that unite most of us are getting lost in the discussion. None of us want to see the California wildfires continue to set new records every year. None of us want to see the Gulf Coast decimated by hurricanes every decade or more. Everyone in Norfolk, Charleston, Mobile, and other low-lying cities will tell you flooding is a problem. We need a new national conversation around adaptation and resilient infrastructure.
(3) Resolve to strengthen the community fabric. In management theory, when you come across an organization or a community that is hurting, there are two strategies that most people take. The most common is to focus on the pain point, call attention to what is wrong, and throw resources at the problem. The second is less obvious, but it ends up doing much better over the long-term. That is to focus on the assets and strengths of the community, the things that bring people together. Americans have been in a season of discontent. We know all the reasons why we don't like each other. We need to focus more on what we do like about each other and this country. Research shows that optimists live longer and are wealthier, healthier, and happier. Communities don't work unless they connect people to each other. It's how we all become healthier, wealthier, and wiser.