These days, it’s pretty hard to ignore the growing signs of disasters due to climate imbalances and systemic inequities (even here in the US). Many people tend to react to these stressors either by going about business-as-usual (thus ignoring reality) OR by “prepping” themselves for a doomsday survival of only themselves and their immediate family. While still others have the foresight to nurture community-based responses that ensure a shared and fair approach, emphasizing that we’re all in this together.
This Spring, the NorCal Resilience Network launched the pilot phase of our Resilient Hubs Initiative. This project aims to empower and encourage folks to strengthen Neighborhood-wide resilient infrastructures in three pillar areas:
- Ecologically-Resilient Solutions (food production, water catchment, sustainable energy, etc.)
- Disaster Preparedness (collective storage of supplies, low tech solutions for cooking/heating, shelter, emergency communications, etc.)
- Community Organizing (cultivating a network of folks to cooperate and build with)
True to our mission of supporting an equitable and regenerative future, we have hand selected 9 pilot sites throughout the East Bay with a special focus on Oakland. These sites include collective homes, neighborhood centers, school gardens and community gardens/farms. Most are places that uplift people of color, indigenous, queer/trans and low income folks. We strongly believe that transitioning to a post-carbon world requires a diversity of hands, and must intentionally work to undo our current system of gross inequities.
With a generous support from EBMUD, Water Education Foundation and TRCC/Threshold, we have been able to give mini-grants to these pilot sites. This funding is being used for tangible projects like installing water catchment systems, bioswales and other water conservation measures; expanding gardens and educational signage; stocking up on collective emergency prep supplies; and most importantly organizing work parties that build camaraderie between neighbors.
The first two work parties were organized in the summertime and were great successes. At Hoover Elementary School permaculture designer Brennan Bird led an educational workshop that brought together close to 20 people to help install a rain water catchment system at the school garden. Participants both learned about rain water catchment and got to know each other while making the garden more resilient. "The system really transformed the space," said the garden coordinator Wanda Stewart. "Now the kids can wash their hands directly in the garden, while learning about catching rain through this system."
The second work party was held at the Ashby Garden, hosting close to 30 neighbors and community members to garden together and install oya pots, an innovative low-tech pot that helps to conserve water. The garden even brought in a representative from the Low Carbon Network to talk about biochar while eating a delicious lunch.
Our hope is that with the successful completion of this pilot launch, we will be able to spread the model and lessons shared from these initial sites to any neighborhood in the NorCal region looking to strengthen their community’s collective response to impending disasters. Please be on the lookout for future announcements of public work parties, a potential tour of sites in the Fall, stories highlighting each of the sites and toolkits to help organize similar efforts in your neighborhood.