What’s Waiting for Melbourne’s New Chief Resilience Officer?

The Rockefeller Foundation announced yesterday that its 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge is officially open for applications. It’s also launched an official website for the challenge, which you can find here.

The challenge is a $100 million effort to build global urban resilience. According to the foundation’s president, Judith Rodin, each winning city will receive support in three forms:

  • Membership in the newly formed 100 Resilient Cities Network, which will provide support to member cities and share new knowledge and resilience best practices.
  • Support to hire a chief resilience officer (CRO), a new innovation. The CRO will oversee the development of a resilience strategy for the city.
  • Support to create a resilience plan, along with tools and resources for implementation.

A recent article by The Sydney Morning Herald sheds some light on what those chief resilience officers (CROs) will face, in particular, what the new CRO in Melbourne, one of the cities participating in the challenge, will face.

“It's a job that comes with a curious title and a generous $236,544 yearly salary, but Melbourne’s first 'chief resilience officer' could have the toughest gig in town,” the article begins.

It says that dealing with the impact of longer and harsher heat waves in Melbourne will probably be high on the CRO’s agenda, and the following four big challenges will be part of it.

1) Death and illness: Ambulance Victoria’s manager of emergency management, Paul Holman, told The Sydney Morning Herald, that heat waves kill more Australians than any other natural disaster.

Sadly, the article explains, many of these deaths don’t make headlines because the victims are often poor people who die alone. Paramedics have also found that elderly people experience long-term effects, even months after heat waves. They often die at higher rates because their bodies can never completely recover.

Holman said Melbourne’s new CRO will have a big challenge making city dwellers take heat far more seriously, because sometimes when an ambulance arrives it is far too late.

2) A suffocating economy: The article tells us that in just four days of 40-degree-plus (Celsius) temperatures in January, it is estimated that businesses in Melbourne’s city center lost $37 million in revenue, as one in 14 air conditioners broke down. It states that “the effect on the city’s construction industry during this period is expected to have been even greater, as workers were forced (to) go home early when the mercury hit 35 degrees (95 degrees Fahrenheit) by mid-morning.”

3) Threats to vital infrastructure: The city’s transportation network also gets affected during heat waves, big time. To prepare for more extreme weather, the article tells us that there may need to be major testing conducted on all railway lines, trains and signals, to make sure they can cope. Retrofitting may also be required, which could include building apartments above train lines, creating new tunnels and redesigning the sewage system.

4) Civil harmony: Rob White, professor of criminology at the University of Tasmania, told The Sydney Morning Herald that Melbourne is facing a future crime threat created by a battle over scarce resources – including food and water.

“You’re going to have a lot of social conflicts and they’re not going to be resolved nicely for a whole range of reasons,” said White. “The tendency will be to retreat into our different enclaves, when the only way to get through this crisis is through solidarity.”

The article also points out that U.S. studies have already found that higher temperatures can go hand-in-hand with increased crime.

That’s all food for thought as more cities take on the challenge of building resilience. It’s likely that CROs around the world will be facing similar issues.

 

For more information about the challenge, click here: http://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/blog/100-resilient-cities
For the original article about Melbourne’s new CRO, click here:
http://www.smh.com.au/victoria/four-big-problems-for-melbournes-478088-chief-resilience-officer-20140730-zyf3p.html