Standing on the Stone Arch Bridge in Downtown Minneapolis you overlook the Mississippi River and can almost smell flour. You look out and can see a history of rail and river transportation. All around you is an evolving human ecology story of sustainability and resiliency.
For example, below the bridge the St. Anthony locks, once an active Corp of Engineers site and now closed, was part of a recent light art show. Across the river the now closed Pillsbury Mill, has become a collection of artists lofts. The Washburn Mill fire left riverfront ruins that now host the Mill City Museum, where the story of grain, wheat and river transport is told.
Are these a stories of sustainability or resiliency?Bay Nature magazine recently published on article titled “A Tale of Two Buzz Words: Trying To Sustain our Resilience.” In this article, Brendan Buhler, examines the use and overuse of the terms sustainability and resiliency. Buhler refers to resiliency as the “leatherman” of terms, “an everything for everyone term”. At the heart of resiliency is the concept of “preserving options”. Buhler provides examples and concludes that “sustainability was the word for the optimistic late ’90s when we might have kept things the same.” Resiliency is a word about preparing for the future, it is a watch, prepare, and be ready for anything term. It is truly about preserving options.
The closing of the St. Anthony locks is a great example of resiliency. The Corps of Engineers closed the dam due to reduced river traffic. Yet, the locks will stand tall as a barrier to Asian Carp that are swimming up the Mississippi River; threatening many native fish populations. In addition, there is now some talk of removing the next down river lock to restore the Mississippi river to it’s native whitewater flow. Retaining one dam for ecological protection and removing another for river ecology and recreation is building resiliency for the future. It creates options. A mill closes and becomes an artist loft or museum. A train bridge becomes an artistic walkway for residents. Resiliency or Sustainability?
As you look around your community and organization, where have you seen shifts from sustainability to resiliency? Where do you see the creation of options for the future? What can we do together to support people, systems, and structures to be resilient?