Part I. Research Introduction
Community centers like urban farms are strategically positioned to become Community Resilience Hubs during times of crisis that make critical difference in the first week after a major disaster. They just need the clarity of a plan like this one, investment power, and a champion for implementing these measures. The strategy in this case study is focused on Hurricanes in South Florida but its framework could apply to many places. I encourage you to customize this Resiliency Toolkit to create your own Community Resilience Hub in the Case of a Climate Disaster.
The inspiration for this project came from my time as a CLEAR (Community Leadership on the Environment, Advocacy, and Resilience — Apply here!) Fellow for Catalyst Miami in 2020 during our session with Veronica Perez from Miami-Dade Office of Emergency Management. The last time Miami had a big hurricane was Category 4 Irma in 2017 and most of the trees in my neighborhood fell on people’s cars. Threat of another worse impact loomed. Cautious about what the future might hold, I started studying success stories from Puerto Rico’s response to Category 5 Maria in 2017. Two stories stood out and each one exemplified the two building blocks of a thriving response: BUILDING COMMUNITY and GATHERING RESOURCES.
1. ON BUILDING COMMUNITY. The essay “Community Is Our Best Chance” By Christine E. Nieves Rodriguez from the book All We Can Save (2020) shared a story of how a community in the mountains came together to provide energy, cooking, and assistance amid system failures. I was fascinated by analyzing the variables that lead to this community catalyzing: a strong social network, kitchen resources, energy infrastructure, etc. You can watch her TEDtalk to hear more about how Christina has grown the Community Kitchen that sprung up after Maria into an Education Hub project for Puerto Rican youth.
2. ON GATHERING RESOURCES. In the Netflix series “Down to Earth with Zac Efron” Puerto Rico (TV Episode 2020), Casa Sol BnB in the capital city San Juan became a resource in peak crisis because they have certifications for environmental measures as part of their business incentives: water catchment systems, solar energy, etc. When all of San Juan’s city-wide infrastructure collapsed, they were a resource for neighbors to charge their phones and more.
After doing work-trade in permaculture ecovillages like Finca Morpho and Pachamama Nosara in Costa Rica during the pandemic and seeing how resilient they were amid global chaos, I decided to attend Heartland Collective’s Permaculture Design Certification taught by superstars Ryan Rising and Sarah Wu in California in 2021. I received a merit scholarship to develop this climate resiliency project you’re reading now which I was then calling “A Climate Resiliency Toolkit for Urban Farms.” Here are the 12 Permaculture Design Principles which are a great paradigm to apply to designing anything and everything. Beyond these principles, there are two secret golden rules in Permaculture: 1. “the problem is the solution” and 2. When in doubt, try “stacking functions.” I learned ways one can design for resilience. A system can hold its ability to function in the face of change and shocks if it is designed to be:
1. flexible (roles and methods can adapt)
2. redundant (multiple elements serve multiple functions)
3. decentralized (there are pockets of autonomous decision-making that interconnect in a network rather than depend on a hierarchy)
I hope these insights serve you as you design what works for resiliency in your community. Since the PDC, I have considered applying for grants to implement this idea across many locations. I made some moves to build rapport with the local urban farms like Little River Cooperative, Greenhaven Project, Earth n Us Farms, and Finca Morada because they are all located in strategic locations across Miami to reach vulnerable communities. While those relationships grow, and this proposal lands in fertile soil, I hope to see some successful grant applications in the future for similar projects from you readers. I currently do not own an urban farm, yet I do want to create an urban eco-community inspired by Aguacate Sanctuary near me in Kendall, Lee Pivnik’s forthcoming Symbiotic House, and Huerto Roma Verde in Mexico City. I know for sure I want to prioritize designing for resiliency in Miami in the case of a climate disaster. For now, I want to share this vine of an idea with all who can find it valuable so it can propagate. Take your cuttings, please!