We have tended to take for granted the functioning of the supply-chains that feed our supermarkets and businesses, the electric grid that enables clean water, communications and transport, the financial systems that enable trade to proceed, and the societal cooperation that protects our security and capacity to respond to problems. As these life-line systems have become more complex, efficient, and interdependent, our vulnerability to the global transmission of shocks and the potential for systemic disruption and failure has grown.
This vulnerability will increasingly be tested by accumulating and intensifying stressors and sources of shock, including from climate change, bio-diversity loss, potential energy and food constraints and disruptions, the implications of escalating global indebtedness, future pandemics, cyber-attacks on critical infrastructures, and the potential reverberations from far-off wars.
The interactions between intensifying stressors and more vulnerable societal systems mean it is highly likely that we have entered a new risk environment for which we are almost wholly unprepared. Under such conditions societies may have to face chronic and deep socio-economic stress in which habituated societal expectations cannot be met, growing uncertainty, and an increasing frequency and scale of shocks, including the potential for unprecedented and prolonged disruptions to life-line systems.
Covid-19 and its cascading impacts, Brexit, the cyberattacks on the Colonial pipeline and the Irish health service, and recent large-scale flooding in Germany, the disruption to electricity in Texas, unprecedented fires in the United States and Australia, a record reversal in global food security, disrupted supply-chains causing cascading impacts across the world, and growing polarisation and conflict within and between countries are signs of this emerging risk environment.
Societies resilience, threat expectations, and institutional emergency preparedness have been shaped by past conditions, where crises and disruptions have been minor and transient, and recovery to trend expected. However, as the United Nations Office of Disaster Risk Reduction has noted: with the certainty of near-term non-linear changes, the critical assumption of the relationship between past and future risk must now be revisited. There is as yet no road map of how a complex society, habituated to past conditions, quickly rises to the challenge of how to be more resilient and better prepared for whatever this riskier world throws at us.
RASDA has been formed to initiate, support, and accelerate this process. We will do this through advocacy, conversation-holding, knowledge and tool support, and network building. In recognising and facing such profound challenges head-on, we are optimists. We are also contributing to the most urgent, under-appreciated- but most significant endeavour in generations.
Raise awareness of why preparedness for escalating systemic risk, irrespective of any particular driver or hazard, is an urgent collective task.
Support sustained collective conversations about our risk environment and preparedness, that are conducive to normalisation, collaborative initiatives, policy, and community/private sector/societal responses.
Provide access to knowledge, tools and networks that enhance awareness and collaboration.
Support a Whole-of-Society approach (as pioneered in Finland and Sweden), that is commensurate with the urgency, scale and complexity of our preparedness challenge.
Identify collaborators for special projects and grant applications that could address specific gaps in understanding/actions.
Share Irish/International best practice, initiatives, collaborations.