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One of the things that frustrates me the most about communities and community resilience is that too few community professionals and researchers seem to recognize that communities are open systems. Even for cities whose total population remains almost unchanged from year to year, there is a roiling of the humanity hidden by the statistics. Old faces disappear, new voices are heard. For example, at this time, the number of people moving into San Francisco, California, is roughly the same as the number of people who are leaving. San Francisco’s thriving economy and vibrant cultural scene provide employment and entertainment opportunities which continue to attract many, especially young professionals. However, the high cost of living, the increase in crime and the ineffectiveness of the city in protecting people and their property have forced many to leave, especially those with families or small businesses. Both those arriving and those leaving are “voting with their feet” based on their perceived self-interest.

It should be no surprise that this phenomenon is universal. The Huns, Vandals and Goths stormed into Europe to plunder and then settle because they saw the promise of a better life – better than staying where they were. The Choctaw and Chickasaw formed cities up and down the Mississippi basin, and then abandoned them periodically to find fresher land for farming. During the ‘20s and ’30s, African-Americans left the American southland by the tens of thousands to find better jobs and lives in the North.

About the Author

John Plodinec, Distinguished Senior Fellow

Dr. John Plodinec is an independent scholar. As part of the Community and Regional Resilience Institute (CARRI), he was responsible for identifying and evaluating technologies that can enhance a community’s resilience. His most important contributions have been development of action-oriented tools that operationalize the “Whole Community” concept, including CARRI’s Community Resilience System and its Campus Resilience Enhancement System. He has also helped several communities and universities develop plans to recover from economic and natural disasters. Dr. Plodinec also coordinated development of an action plan for management of woody biomass and debris generated by disasters in support of the federal government’s Woody Biomass Working Group. This effort involved a team from seven federal agencies as well as coordination with other major stakeholders in the American forest enterprise. Dr. Plodinec also developed CARRI’s Resilient Home Program, aimed at improving the survivability of American homes to natural disasters. This built on earlier work he did while at Mississippi State University, where he led the University’s efforts to develop programs related to severe weather events. As part of a joint program with the International Code Council and other partners, he has led initial development of a Community Resilience Benchmark System.