Call to Action

climate sign outside blur

As the climate changes and extreme weather events become more severe, it is critical that our built environment be more resilient: capable of withstanding these changes and adapting to new ones. Although today’s youth are passionate about environmental stewardship and emission reductions, disaster resilience and climate adaptation are critical issues that young people also need to mobilize around, but education is challenging when they seldom receive the attention they deserve from decision-makers, investors, or the popular media. We must ask: Why are our assets so weak, what can we do to protect them, and how can we better plan for future events?

The built environment is humanity’s largest investment, growing rapidly with population and urbanization, but little is being done to adapt to the increasing frequency and severity of floods, natural hazards, and extreme weather. Most people are unaware that the built environment is primarily to blame for widespread damages and societal losses from disaster events.  Unfortunately, communicating disaster risks and engaging individuals, businesses, and the public sector in smart behaviors is extremely difficult.  In particular, misaligned incentives, low risk perceptions, and lack of transparency contribute to adoption of weak building codes, use of cheap materials, and building in high-risk areas.

Purported cost saving measures result in trillions of dollars in disaster losses for the public, losses that are escalating at a disturbing rate. While the impacts of natural disasters are not wholly preventable, the degree of damage can be greatly reduced by prioritizing actions that mitigate risks or at least do not further increase risks, such as investing in more resilient infrastructure, implementing stronger building codes, and creating disincentives from building in high-risk areas (like the wildland-urban-interface or flood and earthquake prone areas). Currently, public resources are disproportionately directed at disaster response and recovery instead of building stronger, safer, and smarter from the start.