During my freshman year at Brandeis, I took the course, Sustainable Cities and Communities. Among the various topics I had learned and discussed during the class – from environmental justice, to grassroots climate movements, to building healthy communities – one term that has stuck in my mind is resilience. Resilience refers to the capacity of a community to recover from stress, whether it be environmental damage, social upheaval, or economic decline. However, by building resilience to a variety of stressors in a community, that community can protect its residents and organizations, alleviating much of the potential damage even if disaster strikes. Resilience is an important concept in both the fields of Environmental Studies and Sociology and I have seen elements of this concept trickle into various aspects of my work with Green Map System.
Since starting my internship, I have seen how Green Map System interacts with its local community, helping it build resilience to climate change and partnering with local organizations to promote their own environmental endeavors. In the Lower East Side, where Green Map System is the based, the community has been taking major steps since the impact of Hurricane Sandy to build resilience in the face of hurricane flooding. Green Map System has stepped out of its standard role to help the community build resilience to this threat in various ways. Primarily, the founder has mapped out the effect of flooding during Hurricane Sandy and the potential impact of sea level rise with climate change on the Lower East Side, which we have been able to present to community residents when they ask about the risks of climate change.
In addition, Green Map System has worked with the Lower East Side (LES) Ready! coalition on its resilience plan and has suggested ways to incorporate both sustainability and flexibility during disasters. Specifically, Green Map System contributed to the plan by making a resilience program called Bike Ready. Bike Ready is a practice of using bicycles to bring relief aid, such as batteries, water, and first aid kits, to areas inaccessible by cars during emergencies. This program was launched following Hurricane Sandy, and Green Map System has further contributed by distributing Bike Ready supply kits to various sites around the Lower East side, ultimately enhancing the resilience of the neighborhood.
I have contributed in my own small way to community resiliency during the start of my internship by sharing and writing stories about former Green Map System maps that focus on community resiliency and health, such as the Recycle a Bicycle program and the Harlem Eco-Mappers map. The Recycle a Bicycle maps illustrate the areas one can bicycle through in Greenpoint-Williamsburg, which promotes flexibility when public transportation fails, and the Harlem Eco-Mappers promotes public health by charting eco-locations like gardens and farm stands and by addressing hazardous areas of the neighborhood plagued by pollution. Through bringing these stories to life, community residents are more likely to access and utilize the maps on Green Map System’s page and better able utilize the resources charted on each site to respond to challenges in their neighborhoods.