Relocalising Disaster Risk Reduction
Relocalising Disaster Risk Reduction
Boulder Valley Relocalization (BVR)
The Flatirons of Boulder Valley mark the start of the Rocky Mountains.
Relocalization originated in concerns about "peak oil" and the ensuing crises from limited fossil fuel supplies. Peak oil refers to the time when the extraction rate of oil—now expanded to all fossil fuels—reaches its maximum, leading to an increasingly restricted supply of petrol, oil, and now all fossil fuels used for energy and electricity. Consequences envisioned include food supplies being reduced because trucks have limited petrol to transport supplies to supermarkets; blackouts during hot and cold temperature extremes because electricity generating plants depending on fossil fuels must shut down; and emergency services being unable to respond promptly due to petrol restrictions. Relocalization aims to make services such as food, energy, and manufacturing more locally-based so that they will be minimally affected by fossil fuel restrictions.
Relocalization, though, goes beyond fossil fuel restrictions, as peak oil is just one possible concern which could affect society with such wide-ranging effects. Other examples are economic instability, a rapid decrease of water resources, and the sudden decentralizing of large sovereign states. The work which is being done related to relocalization assists in preparing for and dealing with all forms of crises, including the possibility of many occurring simultaneously. Although peak oil is a helpful illustration for relocalization and although much of the discussion here focuses on peak oil, crises related to fossil fuels should not be the only consideration and relocalization should apply beyond fossil fuel issues.
A Relocalization Network exists at http://www.relocalize.net and some local groups are pursuing relocalisation plans based on peak oil occurring. In August 2005, in Colorado, U.S.A., Boulder Valley Relocalization (BVR) was founded by Michael Brownlee and Lynette Marie Hanthorn as a local residents' group to plan for peak oil's effects on the Boulder Valley community. Boulder Valley is a loosely-defined area northwest of Denver with approximately 300,000 people scattered over approximately 2,000 km2 of the Rocky Mountains and central plains of Colorado. The largest settlement is the university city of Boulder with a resident population of 95,000.
Nine BVR subgroups were created initially, each tackling one aspect of relocalization:
Overlap led Groups 2 and 7 to merge, becoming the Renewable Energy / Transportation subgroup. Many sectors are missing--such as shelter and water--because leaders did not step forward to found these groups. Each BVR subgroup is autonomously undertaking the following five mandated tasks:
Throughout, various actions will be undertaken to engage the community and to ensure that BVR can be sustained as both an organisation and as a process. Unfortunately, in 2007, BVR's leaders decided that the organisation and process could be achieved only by shifting their attention to a for-profit group to raise money for their salaries. This decision was made without consultation with or accountability to BVR. Yet again in the USA, profit dominates principles. The main consequence so far is that the relocalisation process, as outlined above, has fallen apart.
Pearl Street Mall in Boulder City.
BVR Crisis Preparedness Group
The work of the Crisis Preparedness Group (CPG) to relocalize disaster risk reduction particularly within the context of peak oil is reported here. CPG's mandate is to provide information on and to recommend actions for preparing for crises which could result from peak oil as illustrative of relocalizing general disaster risk reduction. The group is evolving and at times is referred to as the Disaster Risk Reduction group.
For crisis preparedness, Boulder Valley is ostensibly defined as Boulder County because the existing crisis preparedness infrastructure is delineated by that boundary. We nevertheless accept that we cannot draw arbitrary lines and expect to achieve best results, so this definition is amorphous and has flexibility, depending on the exact context. Each BVR subgroup might have its own (amorphous) lines.
Michael Brownlee and Lynette Marie Hanthorn, founders of Boulder Valley Relocalization. In 2007, with neither consultation nor accountability, they shifted their attention and the group to a for-profit organisation.
Step 1 Understanding the current Reality
The Boulder Valley Relocalization Crisis Preparedness Group provides information on and recommends actions for preparing for crises which could result from peak oil as illustrative of relocalizing general disaster risk reduction. The first of five steps in this process was to understand the current reality. This step was achieved by:
Emergency services resources in Boulder County were inventoried by detailing services provided by police, fire, medical care, search and rescue, incident command, and non-governmental organizations. Basic information on the salaries of emergency medical personnel has also been listed, indicating the challenges of localizing crisis preparedness when skilled personnel cannot afford to live in the area they serve especially for the City of Boulder.
Possible disaster events and conditions which could affect Boulder Valley were listed followed by a judgment of each disaster's estimated probability (low, medium, high) and estimated consequences (low, medium, or high). For any event, peak oil could:
Some disaster events would be particularly exacerbated by peak oil: blackouts/brownouts, dam failure, disease, drought, heat waves, terrorism, winter storms, and wildfires. Some disaster conditions would be particularly exacerbated by peak oil: civil disorder, creeping environmental changes although some might be advantageous, erosion of civil liberties, crime, environmental deterioration, poverty including declining social services, and racism particularly in terms of the majority trying to scapegoat minorities.
Overall, Boulder Valley displays impressive crisis preparedness within the constraints faced and within their mandates. Specific aspects to be considered for improvement are detailed, but the level of public engagement, recognition of risks, planning, preparedness, and ability to respond are examples of good practice which will support relocalization efforts and which could be emulated elsewhere. The most prominent constraints are:
Increased focus with community involvement would be particularly useful for crisis preparedness related to peak oil. The next step for the Boulder Valley Relocalization Crisis Preparedness Group is to consider possible scenarios and general solutions for averting those scenarios.
Boulder Fire-Rescue Dive Team.
Step 2 Considering the Options
The Boulder Valley Relocalization Crisis Preparedness Group provides information on and recommends actions for preparing for crises which could result from peak oil as illustrative of relocalizing general disaster risk reduction. The second of five steps in this process was to consider possibilities and options regarding peak-oil related crises. This step was achieved by:
Based on the inventory of risks and vulnerabilities developed in step one, potential scenarios were defined by a brief title followed by a short description. Three categories were developed and are listed with one illustrative example each:
Solutions were developed to avoid experiencing such scenarios. The suggested solutions provide a list of options from which possibilities could be selected. They do not to imply every solution should be used for everyone all the time. Understanding particular circumstances would be essential before implementing any of the ideas in a specific instance. The framework used, with one illustrative example per category, is:
The next step for the Boulder Valley Relocalization Crisis Preparedness Group is to articulate visions and goals to which the solutions from this step would apply.
Local businesses should be involved in crisis preparedness, which includes planning for taking care of your pet.
Step 3 Visions and Goals
The Boulder Valley Relocalization Crisis Preparedness Group provides information on and recommends actions for preparing for crises which could result from peak oil as illustrative of relocalizing general disaster risk reduction. The third of five steps in this process was to articulate visions and goals for which to strive. This step was achieved by describing what should ideally be reached along with parallel, realistic statements which have a good possibility of being reached.
The ideal visions are:
The achievable visions are:
The ideal goals are:
The achievable goals are:
Even reaching the achievable visions and goals will not be simple and will require detailed plans to determine which actions to take. The next step for the Boulder Valley Relocalization Crisis Preparedness Group is to formulate specific recommendations and to develop concrete proposals to ensure that the achievable goals and visions are reached.
With relocalisation, will a supermarket's empty shelves matter?
Step 4 Principles and Pathways
Download the full description of Community Relocalization Teams (83 kb as a Word document) which is a work in progress.
Download the summary of Community Relocalization Teams including a request for contributions (27 kb as a Word document).
These two documents will continue to be developed even though, in 2007, BVR's leaders shifted their attention to a for-profit group. This decision was made without consultation with or accountability to BVR. Yet again in the USA, the main pathway selected is profit, irrespective of the consequences for principles.
Boulder City Limits
Step 5 Master Plan
In 2007, BVR's leaders shifted their attention to a for-profit group. This decision was made without consultation with or accountability to BVR. Despite several efforts to focus on the Master Plan as per BVR's original commitment, the Master Plan is now on hold indefinitely in order to focus on profits.
Boulder Creek is a major flash flood hazard, but the recreation pathways provide some room for floodwater while keeping buildings farther out of the floodplain. Crisis preparedness solutions should have multiple advantages.
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