Dr. Judith Rodin joined us at the ULI meeting last night in Paris — an ideal place, she said, to reflect on the “limitlessness of human imagination and ingenuity.”
She began by sharing J.C. Nichols’s first trip to Paris as a college student. He was struck by the streets being “straight and clean” — though he noted the transportation options weren’t quite ready for “rushing Americans.” But Nichols loved the style and approach of Paris, later saying, “European cities taught me never to apologize for beauty in city planning. . . . European cities were built to last.”
Dr. Rodin shared that the sad reality is that many cities aren’t lasting. She spoke of how, while cities have always faced disruption, our days are more turbulent and volatile because of the “dramatic collision” of three trends — urbanization, globalization, and climate change.
She stressed that not every disruption has to become a disaster. This is where she made her fundamental points: the importance of “building resilience and building resiliently”; the “Resilience Age” is upon us; and “ULI and its members will either lead our companies and clients through it, so they can reap the dividends along the way, or be dragged along behind them.”
When speaking of the resilience dividend, she gave three great examples of cities that are doing it right — Medellin, New Orleans, and Glasgow. What they have in common is that all were galvanized by a crisis, and all built back better.
But must we wait for a crisis? she asked. She was passionate about taking action on the water crisis that awaits us around the globe.
When I listened to Dr. Rodin speak about water, I thought about how most of us think about infectious waterborne disease in developing countries when we talk about water. While that is an incredibly critical and growing challenge, she is expanding the issues around water. In the past, cities worried about keeping water out. And while that still matters, it’s increasingly about the demand for water. 60% of the 800 cities that applied for the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities challenge cited water as a major problem. Further study by the Rockefeller Foundation and its partners revealed that it was really 85% at great risk of coastal or river flooding.
Dr. Rodin’s new book, “The Resilience Dividend,” explores more facts and solutions that can help our industry build better. She ended the evening challenging ULI members to think about the responsibility and opportunity we have to impact the “Resilience Age,” saying no other profession has more power to change the course of the urban future than ours.