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In the Age of Resilience

Samuel Carter - Former Managing Director, The Rockefeller Foundation


When Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast of the United States, it breached more than 50 levees and floodwalls, leaving nearly 80 percent of New Orleans underwater and killing nearly 2,000 people. Before this moment, the city of New Orleans, like many other great cities around the world, was aware of the risk of hurricanes and other threats. Yet, Katrina shook us to our core—bringing to light the failing infrastructure, the broken communication systems, and the lack of adequate protocols for disaster response in New Orleans and across the United States.

What news outlets called the “perfect storm” was in fact the perfect demonstration of the need for resilience: the capacity to adapt and thrive in the face of short-term shocks and long-term stresses.

In the 21st century, cities around the world are increasingly susceptible to physical, social and economic challenges at a scale and frequency never before seen. Increasing urbanization in our cities, more frequent and severe climate related events, and easier access for goods, resources, and mobility have created an uncertain future. In order to thrive, cities must confront these challenges head-on through innovative and strategic planning that considers multi-purpose solutions.

“What news outlets called the “perfect storm” was in fact the perfect demonstration of the need for resilience.”

The age of resilience is indeed upon us, and with smart development and investment, our cities will be better equipped to manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable. To highlight this transition, we are thrilled to announce the release of The Resilience Age, a gripping new documentary that looks at the diverse challenges our cities face and the different ways they integrate resilience into their framework to create more unified and collaborative futures for their communities.

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From El Paso to Medellin, the documentary explores urban centers across the globe that have developed innovative ways to address and overcome the challenges they face. Furthermore, it brings to life the complex concept of resilience and illustrates the benefits resilience planning and practices can yield for cities around the world.

The proximity to the Gulf and the meandering waterways of the Mississippi Delta, made New Orleans an economically attractively place to build a city. At the same time, this proximity to the water, and the natural wetlands and features that make up the landscape, made it an environmentally challenging place to develop. To recover from Hurricane Katrina, the city of New Orleans and its residents had to do more than just build back as it was before—they needed to address the deep-seated challenges the city faced and build resilience for future disruptions of any kind. In Louisiana, this meant bringing together engineers, elected officials and community members to build green infrastructure in and around the city.


The Rockefeller Foundation developed this film alongside a curriculum to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to be engaged in the discussion on resilience and its benefits. The Resilience Age is something we can all be a part of, and we encourage all those interested to share this documentary and website with their communities. By working together, we can continue to bring resilience to more communities not just in the U.S., but across the world.

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