Community Resilience After Natural Disasters


In May 2011 Joplin, Missouri, was struck by an EF5 multiple-vortex tornado. In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy ripped through New York City. While both were natural catastrophes, though the community stressors and the timescales of each were distinct. Joplin was a rapid, single-day event, while Hurricane Sandy left Queens and much of the Atlantic coast not only broken and flooded, but also worried about the long-term vulnerability of the coastal communities.

The integrated team of designers, researchers, and community groups is exploring how nearby nature can contribute to community resilience and may help people to bounce back from major crises—human, natural, technological, and even political. The science team on this project, representing Drury University, Cornell University, and the USDA Forest Service, are social scientists studying how nature can contribute to the resilience of communities as people work together on memorial events and recovery. A recent book Greening in the Red Zone includes writings from some of team members and describes how people turn to nature in times of hardship and disaster.

The garden in Joplin was completed and dedicated in May 2014. It features space frames that symbolise the homes that were demolished during the brief but extreme winds of the tornado. The design symbolically weaves together design themes related to Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning, the path a healthy person takes to work through the pain of grieving for a loved one or something lost. The site in Queens, New York, is still in design, as the property is associated with the New York City Housing Authority and post-hurricane recovery has delayed approvals.

CITYGREEN, January 15, 2015.

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We are a private nonprofit that supports, informs, and inspires the creation of publicly accessible urban green spaces. We believe that every city resident needs nearby green space to provide opportunities for mindfulness, respite, and renewal. The Foundation has issued its final grants to build five Open Spaces Sacred Places and research the impacts on a variety of users with the hope that the powerful connection between nature, spirit and human wellbeing will be scientifically proven.

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