Ten Years Together - Resilience
A Story of Resilience
“Nana korobi, ya oki.” That’s an ancient Japanese proverb, which is translated to English to roughly say, “Get knocked down seven times, get up eight.” Of course, if proverbs aren’t your thing, Thomas Wayne also put it eloquently to his young son, Bruce, after lifting him out of the well in 2005’s Batman Begins, saying:
“Why do we fall, Bruce?”
“To learn to pick ourselves back up.”
Either way you go, that’s some fitting wisdom that perfectly describes Calgary. No matter how many times we take it on the chin here, we get back up and we make things better. There is a spirit in Calgarians that we all know and recognize, and far too often, one we don’t credit ourselves with enough. It’s the spirit that made a tiny prairie town on the dry and sometimes frozen prairie grow into the third-largest city in Canada, an economic powerhouse, a volunteer city, and the best place to call home in the entire western hemisphere.
But standing strong isn’t enough. Facing the challenges that we’ve been presented with makes us more resilient, even when those challenges damage us, it only adds to our resilience.
The City of Calgary is taking a lot of steps to improve our resilience – be it economic, environmental, social, or otherwise. But I have lots of opportunities to tell you about that. For this project, I wanted to hear about the last ten years of resilience in the words of my fellow Calgarians.
When you’re having a conversation about resilience in Calgary, particularly over the last 10 years, you have to start that with talking about the 2013 flood. One of the groups that’s been fighting on behalf of our flood protection is the Calgary River Communities Action Group (CRCAG). Its co-presidents, Brenda Leeds-Binder and Tony Morris offer this perspective.
The floods along both rivers led to an enormous amount of damage. While the group continues to advocate for the construction of the Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir (SR1), Tony acknowledges that progress has been made, including the doubling of The City’s doubling of the capacity of the Glenmore Reservoir.
“The Glenmore Dam work has been key. It helps provide some comfort and get us through hose vulnerable times in the early springtime.”
And even with SR1’s application to the federal government moving forward, Brenda adds that the work of CRCAG won’t end, with the need for more flood resiliency ongoing.
“The scale of the challenge we’re trying to overcome here is enormous. The work of this group could easily go another 7-10 years. Until there’s projects built on the Elbow and the Bow, the work’s not done.”
And they do this work to protect the people that are most affected by this threat. Christie Page, a resident in Sunnyside now and in the time of the flood, shares a story of her community’s resilience and the city and country that helped her family and neighbourhood recover.
“Our whole property was underwater with the river going over it. When the water receded enough that we could go in and start cleaning, I was blown away by the amount of Calgarians that walked down that bluff and knocked on doors and asked, ‘How can I help?’ And so many of them helped. It really made me feel not alone, and really happy and proud to be Calgarian.”
Once she received this overwhelming support from her neighbours, she started to think about what it means to be part of something bigger than yourself.
“Going through that has made me realize that I need to give to the community. I’m not worried about the future, I know we’ll have setbacks, but I believe the future is bright.”
In addition to the 2013 flood, The City of Calgary has been home to many of the largest and most expensive natural disasters in Canadian history, including the hailstorm that caused $1.5 billion to homes in Calgary’s northeast. To protect Calgarians, we’ve partnered with groups like Alberta Ecotrust to help us identify and make progress towards those goals. Pat Letizia, the group’s CEO, talks about how her organization is helping move the environmental resilience piece forward with The City of Calgary.
“In Alberta, the environmental community works very closely with industry and with government. In the last few years we’ve entered into a partnership with The City of Calgary in establishing the Climate Innovation Fund, which came from a large investment through Natural Resources Canada,” she says.
And why are governments, companies, individuals, and the non-profit and charity sectors working so quickly towards establishing these strategies?
“I think that the stakes are much higher and we all should be able to stand up for what we believe in. We’re talking about science and people and the impact that will be on people, and the impact will be on the economy,” she explains. “I’m very confident that any conversation I’d have with any Albertan, we’d find a lot of common ground on what’s worth protecting.”
And how does Pat see the next 10 years, as Calgary’s economy continues to recover and we set our strategies to build resilient cities?
“I want to caution all of us to not think about the good old days and let’s get back to something. This is an amazing opportunity for us to look forward and move ahead. We’ve got some space now to change the way we’ve done things. And we can protect ourselves, 10 years from now, so we are resilient, so we can bounce back better, and bounce back quicker. We always have to be looking ahead and stand up for the things that are really important to us.”
The world is not going to stop changing. We need to continue to build our financial, social, and environmental resilience. And we will do that the way we always do things: together.