The United States and indeed the world are entering a period of great turbulence with unforeseen consequences at every turn and cascading events at every failure to anticipate risk and pre-invest in resilience. Resilience as a national priority is defined by the ability to withstand and spring back from shock events and attritional losses.
Our oceans no longer shield us from distant enemies and the days of Fortress America have been replaced by vulnerability to global shocks and insidious threats of the man-made, natural and emerging variety. A mere mosquito bite half a world away and a wayward traveler imports the next human pandemic. Our policymakers, political, military and business leaders can no longer debate or search for causality for these grave changes, we must now respond to their impacts and do so in a concerted, collaborative and urgent way. The role of the private sector in building a resilient society is as stark as it was during the industrial revolution.
30 years ago, when black swans (large scale risks) were still rare enough for us to ignore them, it made sense for our counties, cities and states to pick up the pieces, dust themselves off and rely on Federal disaster assistance to rebuild. Today, with sovereign debt presenting an emerging threat to national security, black swans are not only increasingly commonplace, they appear to be flocking around our country and coming home to roost.
Boston’s record shattering snow fall, California’s perennial dry spell, wildfires and noxious methane leaks that displaced thousands of Los Angelinos, are but a few recent examples of the convergence of man-made and natural risks. We have not only reached a tipping point, we are sliding off the other side.
Katrina, Irene, Sandy and, more recently Patricia, the most powerful hurricane ever recorded, have set their sights on iconic U.S. cities.