Background for Teams Planning a 2020 Presentation
As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, our communities – and the whole world – are finding ourselves in unmapped territory.
An old world is dying. A new one is up to us. The world looks very different than it did just a few weeks ago, and is changing by the day. Covid-19 is upending many expectations and assumptions about the future. We have only begun to understand the changes underway – politically, economically, and socially – that will affect our relationship to the environment. What will the world look like on the other side? How can we make it a better place? It is hard to tell which answers are right and which are wrong. We are understanding what really matters in new ways.
In some ways, the world beyond this pandemic will be very much UNchanged. From an environmental perspective, the challenges – slowing climate change, creating an economy not based on fossil fuels, protecting biodiversity, building healthy soil, managing forest and water resources, ensuring food justice, reducing waste – will remain as urgent as ever, if not more so. Sustainable Safe Water Supply, the official Mass Envirothon Current Issue topic (see https://massenvirothon.org/areas-of-learning/current-issue/2020-current-issue/), remains critically important for Massachusetts communities.
What do young people have to say about all this? That’s what the 2020 Envirothon invitation is about.
Resilience is a concept that may be useful, no matter how your team chooses to focus its presentation.
Resilience is the capacity of a system to cope with disturbance and change. The term has become popular, even overused, probably because it seems more appropriate to an era when climate change is shifting the foundations of our ecological and social systems. We live in an era of unprecedented environmental and social change. Unpredictable challenges, particularly extreme weather, but also stressed ecosystems, failing infrastructure, new health threats, contamination incidents, and potential cyberattacks, are surprising us at every turn. Resilience in the water supply system is a high priority.
What kind of resilience? If resilience is defined narrowly as a community’s capacity to “bounce back” after disaster, we may find ourselves bouncing back to a status quo that degrades the environment and undermines our ability to cope with new conditions in the longer term. On the other hand, if resilience is understood as an opportunity to “bounce forward”, it can become motivation for important positive action. Resilience, in the context of “bouncing forward”, can be defined as the capacity of a community to anticipate, plan for, and mitigate the risks associated with environmental change, and to seize opportunities for ecologically sound, economically viable, socially just development.
This document and background information was written and assembled for the Mass Envirothon Steering Committee by Will Snyder, UMass Extension, with extensive input from members of the Steering Committee and Council.