I’ve been trying not to analogize between the banking crises and the California drought, not because the comparisons aren’t there, but because analogies are the devil. So this is totally not an analogy. Instead, I am pointing out some truths that both crises reveal. We already talked about how losing trust makes it extremely difficult to solve policy problems.
Here, Ezra quotes a guy who wrote of regulating banks:
And if a highly interconnected, highly complex but small financial institution fails, the system as a whole would be fine.
This isn’t limited to banks. This is a generic recipe for resilience and it is the direction our water system should go in as well.
Resilience is a Big Deal in adapting to climate change. The notion is that with increased and more severe weather events, there are going to be more disasters. So we should arrange our built environment to be resilient, to suffer less during a storm and to bounce back faster afterwards. The way to do that is with “highly interconnected, highly complex but small … institution[s]”.
I wrote this for something for work. It totally got bounced*, but it goes to show you that I’m not just making this up now.
One way to avoid having extreme events become catastrophes is by building widely distributed and mildly redundant systems. A flood that destroys a large regional wastewater treatment plant is harder to recover from than one that takes out one of several smaller plants; other facilities can assume some of the load or people will be less dislocated by a search for working facilities. The cost of replacing a single major piece of infrastructure will be a higher burden on the region than that of patching a distributed system. Because the ferocity of weather perturbations cannot be predicted now, armoring a single crucial facility can’t be assured of success and will be very expensive. Smaller distributed systems mean that after an extreme event, pieces of the region will still work.
As of yesterday, I’m starting to turn my attention to managing the recovery from perturbation. If any of you know of any good work on how modern built environments respond when crises end, I’d be super interested. It can’t be as simple as “they all instantly go back to acting normal”. How do they reactivate themselves?
Later: I’m doing the obvious, googling “Drought Recovery”. I loved both of these presentations. Also, with my public library card, I can request books from college libraries throughout the west. They come to me! Civilization is remarkable.
*I estimate I get about 15% of my thoughts through one layer of management review. I have no idea if any make it past that. That’s OK, though. I have a lot of thoughts.