Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 10.15.09

Mitigating Uncertainty
Learning to be a more resilient community
by Jan Spencer

I start most days reading The New York Times. There are stories every day about topics and issues I have never thought about, and articles that describe people making changes in their lives, before they have to because of concerns over climate change, resource depletion or an economy they have decreasing confidence in. 

Those concerned with earthquakes, struggling to pay the bills and anticipating deeper economic disarray have much in common. All those scenarios can seriously challenge and disrupt lives, families, health, employment and community well being. Preparing for different versions of the unknown, no matter if human or natural, share somes common turf.

Several programs in Eugene can be very helpful with preparing for the unknown, and many local groups and initiatives dovetail nicely with those programs. 

• Most cities and towns have contingency plans in the event of natural disasters. Locally, one can become a citizen first responder by taking Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT) training and learning first aid, preliminary search and rescue and helping the professionals. 

• Knowing one’s neighbors is an essential part of a resilient neighborhood . Neighborhood Watch, a program offered both by the city and county, provides tools and know-how for creating networks that help neighbors look after each other for mutual safety and security.

Permaculture offers many approaches to building more resilient homes and neighborhoods such as designing for edible landscapes, rain water catchment, solar energy and local economics. 

All three programs focus on safety and security for the community and rely on citizen participation. Consider how these three programs might cross fertilize. Turning a front yard into a garden, for example, benefits the goals of all three programs: Food growing in the front yard puts eyes on the street, which is safety for neighbors; it also provides local fresh food, unaffected by disruptions to transportation and supply systems whether by natural or human causes.

Neighbors will be interested in the new front yard garden, a great way to start new friendships. For those willing but unable to start their own garden, volunteers — neighbors, Scouts, school groups — can help out. Neighborhood organizations are perfectly placed to help. They know their neighborhoods, have communication tools and leadership skills.

Neighborhood Watch, emergency preparedness and permaculture could include basic information about each other when doing outreach and teaching classes. They could share speakers, organize site tours and follow up and collaborate in creative ways to expand interest in community resilience. 

Many people in town have valuable knowledge about a wide range of important skills relating to community resilience. A neighborhood committee already has a speakers bureau available to any community organization. Communities of faith have a big part to play. The could make space available for classes teaching first responding, effective communications and permaculture, in effect, becoming neighborhood community centers. Local media can help let people know about these programs and opportunities. 

Creating a more resilient community and region should be a civic priority. By sharing our best with each other, can evolve more effectively with changing times for building a more resilient community.

To learn more, please join us at 7 pm Monday, Oct. 19,  at the Annex, 1055 River Road, two blocks north of Goodwill, or visit 



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