Seeing ourselves in the resiliency of others: VIU student reflects on lessons learned from Belizean field research

PHOTO: Downtown Vancouver looking from Kits Beach Park. Photographed by the author while reflecting on how the residents in our own communities may individually or collectively respond to an extreme event.

Since returning to Canada I have become more confident in my own limitations as well as my own ability to work internationally. I feel as though I am developing a more in-depth understanding of myself. This intangible “sense” is very difficult to describe, yet it is helping me better understand the “ideal” professional towards which I am constantly striving to become.

Considering my research, I am still reviewing the physical aspects of Hopkins Village, and how the land has transformed over time. While the physical aspects have changed dynamically, the cultural perceptions remain as a keystone with respect to the spatial phenomena that I am mapping in my research. When it comes to my recommendations for disaster management and redevelopment planning, it is the residents’ perceptions and ideals that I examine the most. Planning needs to be a democratic activity through the application of public engagement. It is these community-based activities where a group of people can collectively build a future for themselves. I’ve also observed throughout my research that the power to build a more resilient settlement resides within and amongst the people of the community.

I am also finding certain differences in the perception of “community” between Vancouver Island and Belize. While we have the means of engineering resilient structures and disaster mitigating technologies – we often do not review or involve the “bottom up” disaster preparedness and response strategies. It would seem that the more resilient functions of a community lay with in its social assembly. While structures can be overcome by disastrous events, it is the adaptation of the people that will ultimately be tested. We can develop a further understanding of our own adaptation to extreme events by studying the coastal communities of Belize, and reflect upon how we react as a society when we are faced with a potentially disastrous situation.

Darren Lucas, Community Planning, VIU