Get Over Sustainability; It’s Time to Embrace Resilience.
By Robert Reed, Assoc. AIA, Director, Residential and Community Sustainability Services, Southface
The vocabulary around sustainability is changing. Forward thinking involves looking beyond “sustainability” toward regenerative solutions. Mitigating damage is no longer enough; restoring ecological systems is the order of the day as we go about our conservation work and environmental activism. Southface and a growing network of organizations are holding provocative conversations about resilience and restorative solutions for some of Atlanta’s most vulnerable communities.
In Atlanta, as in many urban areas, when it rains, it pours. It’s no surprise that low-income communities are disproportionately impacted by flooding and other problems associated with severe weather events. Poor stormwater planning, impervious surfaces and combined sewer overflows exacerbate the situation. According the US Environmental Protection Agency, single-purpose gray stormwater infrastructure—conventional piped drainage and water treatment systems—is designed to move urban stormwater away from the built environment, while green infrastructure reduces and treats stormwater at its source,delivering environmental, social and economic benefits. Green infrastructure provides solutions that mitigate immediate impacts, restore disrupted ecological systems and often provide area amenities for health and recreation.
Organizations like Park Pride, The Conservation Fund, Greening Youth Foundation and Trees Atlanta have recently worked together on exciting projects like the Lindsay Street Park in the Proctor Creek Watershed. Southface is in discussion with these groups, along with Partnership for Southern Equity, American Rivers, Atlanta Workforce Development Agency and the Atlanta Regional Commission about planning and advocating for green infrastructure solutions to build equity and resilience for communities in need and the metro region as a whole. Resilient communities not only adapt to or bounce back from climate related events, but prosper and thrive as efforts are deployed to reduce demand for energy and water. Improving resilience demonstrates opportunities for economic prosperity and improved health.
Southface will be focusing on institutionalizing a method to train and deploy a workforce to bring green infrastructure jobs, projects and maintenance capacity to Atlanta. The Southface Green Infrastructure and Resilience Institute is envisioned to provide target populations with a direct training-to-work pipeline that provides students with the necessary skills, credentials and certifications to place them in employment positions which revitalize their communities and provide them with sustainable career and employment pathways. The primary goal of the institute is to implement, evaluate and sustain an environmental job training program that will directly support community revitalization with a triple bottom line:
- Train and place individuals facing the most economic and social barriers to employment
- Enhance the environmental quality of housing by improving home health, efficiency and performance
- Improve the resilience of target communities through economic development and improved natural and built environments
One of the founding tenets of Southface was to lessen the environmental impact of energy production and use, including specifically addressing climate change. Climate resilience is at the core of our work. Southface also recognizes that market-based approaches that emphasize decentralized, community-based solutions and create economic opportunity for all are essential for success. Once we identify funding and formalize our partnerships in this endeavor, we look forward to sharing news of next steps. Please feel free to contact me to be a part of our conversations around green infrastructure and resilient communities.