Design considerations in almost biblical times

My adopted homeland of Australia has experienced during the last few years a number of severe and unpleasant environmental events. Fire, flood, storm and pestilence of what one imagines to be of truly biblical proportions have been visited on this vast continent. The terrible inundation of brisbane and an area of Queensland, equivalent in land mass to the size of Europe, is just the latest in the litany. If this is a foretaste of the environmental effects of climate change then we are all in for a very hard time indeed.

So how will we all cope? For cope we must, as it seems clear that both we and our political leaders have been unable to contemplate anything like the level of change that would make mitigation possible. The answer I suggest is threefold. Firstly we must quickly learn to build resilient systems that can withstand a series of ongoing shocks. In this process perhaps we can design infrastructures that operate on a sort of plug and play model. Secondly the imperative will be to invest and support systems, places, communities and approaches that can adapt at the rate that is required. As we do so we will need to find some way to gently migrate from those that are unable to do so. Finally as we restore and rebuild we need to do so in a way that justn’t just replicate what we have always had. Rather such effort should be designed to shift us towards a world where we can use far fewer resources to achieve significantly better outcomes that what we have now.

This concept of resilience to shocks, speed and design for the world we will live in ( as opposed to simply replicating what we had) should ideally be part of the DNA of adaptation. As we come to understand its benefits, as well as the limitations of 20th century, only then will we be in the space to talk about serious mitigation strategy. It is to be hoped that we get to that point sooner rather than later. Otherwise much of the suffering of these neo biblical times will have be for so little.

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