Planning After the Earthquake: How breaking apart can turn into breaking open
I look at this photo in the Croatian newsfeed, download it, and wonder who this woman is.
I see a story about the resilience.
Reports of massive disasters after the recent earthquakes in my native Croatia come together with such images of individual strength and stunning collective solidarity. They make one feel a glimpse of encouragement in total disarray.
However, persistent hardships and feelings of helplessness still raise the question: “How to carry on?” followed by the inevitable “Why to carry on?”
Although crises like these look like the grim dead-end of any system, they also reveal the resources that can direct the whole system in a way better than anyone could predict.
The ”threshold” time holds the most potential for capturing released resources and setting the right course for future developments. It is a turning point from where we either break apart or break open.
That is the brief period between the earthquake and renewal, where familiar things are gone, and their replacements not yet formed.
The ”threshold” time is the juncture between old and new ways of living and thinking, wondering how to survive the chaos and imagining innovative solutions for a better world on the other side.
Planning decisions made in this “threshold” time have the power to transform Banovina, the area hardest hit by the earthquakes and the home of Vesna S., the lady in the photo above who is making the coffee morning after the tremor from inside the earth wiped out her world.
Making the Most of Threshold Time
Even in the impoverished, marginalized, disindustrialized, and mostly abandoned area of Banovina, enough resources are now released and exposed to make long-term strategic renewal possible.
During such times, uncertainty is high, institutional control is weakened and confused, and unpredictability is great. Hence individuals have the highest chance to assess freed resources to influence events, and their smaller actions can bring massive consequences.
To use this chance actors need first and foremost to agree on the ultimate values - such as social equity, sustainable development, environmental protection, or economic growth - to set their aims.
Second, actors need to know where to find and how to attract the capital of all kinds.
Revealing physical and natural capital
According to the experts’ analysis, some of these seismically unstable areas will not be habitable, and people and animals will have to evacuate. Safer places for a living are spacious areas in their vicinity, owned by local governments or the state.
Planners will have the opportunity to create development strategies from scratch, unburdened of out-of-date regulations and existing infrastructure, free to initiate actions for fully sustainable communities.
That means implementing new, autonomous, and renewable energy systems, more efficient transportation systems focused on public transport and modernized, self-sufficient agriculture systems. It also means building brand new sustainable houses from local, climate-friendly materials like clay and wood.
To meet these goals, we have to develop local industries, such as the food industry, wood processing, carpentry, cement, brick, and concrete production and situate them in the abandoned, unused, or underused former industry facilities.
Acknowledging human and social capital
The current crisis in Banovina brings into view proactive local people and organizations able to (self) organize quickly and effectively. Those actors are recognized as competent and trustworthy, which is a precious resource in any local governance. These actors will hopefully get more power and higher authority in future governance processes.
Likewise, people’s awareness about the impact of government on their everyday lives and their new connections with public and civil institutions can pave the way towards more inclusive participative planning processes in the future.
The new industry will need workers, and workers will need education for themselves and their children. Feasible strategies and plans for housing, jobs, and education will both revive the potential of existing - and bring in new - human capital.
Cultivating financial capital
In the next years, the Banovina region will have access to recovery funds on both the European and national levels.
When we enhance basic renewal strategies with sustainable development plans - such as renewable energy implementation, green technologies, or participative planning - we can reach additional specialized development funds. That is how financial capital can significantly increase and further attract far-reaching new investments from the business sector.
Those examples show how recognizing resources released in the “threshold time” can turn calamity into a rare opportunity to make the region thrive more than ever before.
Even more, they show how vital it is to have the vision to follow after the shock.
Visionary direction gives us a sense of reaching out towards the better future, stretching our awareness beyond the immediate experience of loss, into offering the reasons why.