The Oregon Resilience Plan: A call to expand the sustainability conversation

Edward Wolf

Edward Wolf, a Portland writer whose books include Salmon Nation (1999, 2003) and Klamath Heartlands (2004), served as a citizen member of the Advisory Panel of The Oregon Resilience Plan.

Resilience and sustainability are not the same, but they have a lot in common.

Resilience tends to be concerned with the capacity to withstand and recover from disasters, both natural and human-caused.

Both concepts involve footprints. Here’s one way to put the difference: Sustainability seeks to reduce society’s footprint on the environment. Resilience seeks to reduce the environment’s footprint on society.

Last month, Oregon’s earthquake commission released a report to the Legislature titled The Oregon Resilience Plan: Reducing Risk and Improving Recovery for the Next Cascadia Earthquake and Tsunami.

The plan drew media attention, but for the most part, the sustainability community took little notice. Earthquakes. Tsunamis. Yawn. Wasn’t there something in there about a nuclear power plant?

But if your business plan centers on sustainability, listen up. How long could your business continue to operate without grid power, wireless connectivity, or cell phone service? How about your vendors and your customers? The Oregon Resilience Plan concerns interdependencies that you count on, and vulnerabilities that you share with the state’s business community as a whole.

Responding to a request from the Legislature after the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the earthquake commission assembled eight task groups comprising nearly 170 professionals to describe a Cascadia earthquake scenario, examine its impacts on Oregon’s roads, bridges, buildings, and utilities, explore the special challenges facing coastal communities, and anticipate the disruption of business continuity that could jeopardize recovery.

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