Put the words together and what appears is an idea of a place that is both a human settlement and a force of nature. The City Resilient is an alluring vision for 21st century urbanism. It speaks of strength and survival. It speaks of longevity and legacy. It speaks of vitality and victory in the face of adversity. But here’s the catch: Though it’s true that an individual person can be resilient, urban resilience is a concept that can only succeed at the scale of the collective. And from the individual point of view, the vision might not be quite as idyllic as we first imagined.
The phoenix is a mythological bird that goes up in flames when its time has come, only to be reborn again from the ashes. In the real world, there are no such birds. Instead, there are plants and trees that have come to rely on periodic fires in order to release nutrients, hatch their seeds, or access sunlight. From the point of view of the individual tree, wildfires may seem incredibly destructive. But the collective ecosystem still needs them in order to survive.
It’s a grim example, I know, and perhaps a bit extreme. Still, it goes to illustrate an important point, which is that in any living system, old components must sometimes perish for new ones to flourish. In nature, this process occurs entirely organically. But what happens when the components are controlled not by the environment, but by conscious human beings? By people who have a sense of free will, and the choice to either start the fires, or put them out (figuratively speaking, of course).