What It Means to Become “More Resilient”: An Analysis of Local Resilience-Building Approaches in Three Florida Communities

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Social Science, Climate change, Communications/decision making, Local effects, Planning, Societal impacts

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From international to local scales of governance, resilience building is being presented as the way to prepare for impacts of both slow- and quick-onset disasters. Having transitioned from ecological to social applications, the concept of resilience has multiple interpretations, and definitions tend to emphasize both resistance to and acceptance of transformational change. The purpose of this research is to investigate how the concept of resilience is being conceptualized in three south Florida communities in order to understand and compare what ideal types and dimensions of resilience are prioritized at those local scales. To do this, content analyses of city and county documents were conducted to extract explicit definitions of resilience as well as implicit definitions based on context clues using carefully selected keywords. The term resilience appeared 684 times in documents from Broward County, Lee County, and the city of Punta Gorda, yet only one document provided any explicit definition. Based on a keyword analysis, the engineering resilience concept was most prevalent across all three study areas. Furthermore, keywords related to the dimension of the built environment were most common by far in Broward and Lee Counties. While this could indicate a need for communities to shift toward more progressive, social–ecological conceptualizations of resilience, a more central conclusion of this research is that local applications of resilience frameworks need to be more explicit about how they define resilience and what resilience building looks like in that particular context.

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Weather, Climate, and Society, v. 9, issue 3, p. 405-419