Crisis in the New York/New Jersey area after Hurricane Sandy, October 2012
Hurricane Sandy came through the NY/NJ area as a 900 sq mile storm, with 90 mph winds. It did something no storm had done before: it made a left turn from the Atlantic, moving ashore at Atlantic City. It pushed a "wall of water" 4-8 feet high up the shores of the ocean and the area's many rivers. This created a "mini tsunami," as it was called by Hoboken's mayor. The breadth of the storm has led to unprecedented problems of the regional infrastructure of roads, railroads, electrical grid and housing, to name a few domains. A complex repair process has been launched. But the context of the storm -- in a new era of extreme weather -- means that the repair has to consider new ways of doing business. This is root shock on two levels: the immediate displacement from daily life, and the need to reorganize how the region will operate in an era of frequent and intense storms. The costs of doing business just changed. How are these changes to be done equitably? This is an issue demands attention.
Crisis in Japan, March 2011
The massive destruction created by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis have created root shock at a massive scale. How is such upheaval to be repaired? After the massive destruction in the US Gulf Coast area caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, our team created a list of the "Nine Habits of Highly Effective Recovery." Here is our list:
Acknowledge everyone’s suffering, including your own.
Practice democracy-in-diaspora using radios, newspapers and the internet.
Build ecological cities, beautiful, sustainable, human-sized
Ensure every citizen has the right to return home.
Ensure that local companies and workers rebuild the affected areas.
Give excellent medical care to all.
Support families as they re-establish themselves.
Celebrate the area’s history and culture.
Be generous with the paper clips.
We have also observed that recovery from massive disasters takes many years, but the public loses interest after a year or so. We can length the outside support by supporting personal attachment. In getting support for the Gulf, we proposed that local leaders create a "Mardi Gras Foundation" to develop national support for rebuilding, drawing on everyone's love of the Mardi Gras tradition. For Haiti, we helped develop a "Hearts for Haiti" program that works to develop long term commitment by sharing the story of the disaster and the people's love of the country with others. For Japan, we propose that a sister cities program be set up, to match cities around the world with Japanese cities that have to rebuild. Some of these are small fishing villages, so it might seem unusual for a tiny place to have "sister cities," many much much larger, in 30 countries. Indeed, it's not the way sister city programs usually work. But this program would get people connected to a local story that they could follow and help.