Innovation is key to resilience.

Jim Murley, Chief Resilience Officer, Miami-Dade County

From my experience as a public servant, innovation is key to building resilience in a community. Innovation forms the basis of the solutions we need for the issues of today and tomorrow. For Miami-Dade County, those issues are very real, from sea level rise and stronger hurricanes to income inequality and lack of affordable housing. The County, like many other coastal communities around the world, is confronted with irrefutable information and scientific data that indicates a need to plan for a future with long-term climate change. This generation and the next will face a different set of environmental conditions than we see now, and the landscape will continue to change over time.

Of course, there are things we know how to manage and to prepare for. We know how to prepare for hurricanes. We know the timing and magnitude of high tides. We have built elaborate systems over decades to manage flooding events. The problem is that each of those systems assumes a set of conditions that, over the coming years, are going to change radically. We need innovative ideas now—from our resident scientists at our world-class universities, from global experts from other coastal cities—so that we aren’t surprised by those new conditions and so that we can provide some level of predictability to our community. There are new and exciting innovations every day, and it is our job as leaders to connect cutting edge technologies with real-world challenges.

As public servants, we are tasked with being good stewards of tax dollars. We have to make decisions based on the best information we have and work to protect the best interest of our residents. Innovation is at the heart of creating smarter and more resilient communities that can bounce not only back from a shock or a stress but, bounce forward. We can’t do this alone, it will take support from every part of our community working together to face our challenges as one Resilient305.

Living in South Florida has always meant accepting a certain level of vulnerability. In fact, the land here was so inhospitable that at the time of the California Gold Rush, not a single developer was looking at Miami. It was a swamp, but innovative engineering and resilient people started adjusting the level of water to the land, making the region habitable. We did such a good job that now a few million people live here and about 12 million people per year visit.

We don’t need to do a better job of maintaining the land; we need to do a different job. I always tell people that Miami-Dade County will not look
the same 100 years from now—just as 100 years ago, it was completely different too.

The challenges we’ll face will be daunting, but we know that they are coming. To broaden our perspective, we participated in 100 Resilient Cities, a Rockefeller Foundation initiative that gave us the opportunity to connect with our peers in 99 other cities across the globe. Based on our collaboration with them and hundreds of local stakeholders, we’ve built a resilience strategy that we’re already implementing in partnership with the cities of Miami Beach and Miami that positions us as a leader in innovative applications of resilience principles.

Federal support will help us to build out these plans and programs, but I feel it takes local insight to design them in the first place. The existence of my position as a Chief Resilience Officer demonstrates the County’s commitment to cultivating that insight, and to facing our region’s resilience challenges head-on.

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