Interview with Jessica Finn Coven, Seattle’s Chief Resilience Officer

What does "resilience" mean in Seattle?
The common understanding of resilience is basically how well we can survive, adapt, and subsequently flourish in the face of chronic stresses and sudden shocks. But it's also about recognizing that these shocks and stresses are interconnected and solutions should be as well.

Specifically, in Seattle, that means that how we advance earthquake or flood preparedness will also need to support solutions that address housing affordability and other inequities. Seattleites are incredibly creative, resourceful, and passionate about advocating for positive change. Harnessing those attributes in developing a resilience strategy is something I'm looking forward to.

What are the specific areas of resilience that Seattle will focus on?
We are still in the early stages of developing our strategy - but we are centering this work around racial equity. Seattle's success as a resilient city will be measured based on whether or not people of color and people with low-incomes have the opportunity and capacity to thrive amidst chronic urban stresses and sudden shocks. If they have what they need to thrive, we all will have what we need to thrive.

Your background is in climate work and you also are the Director of the Office of Sustainability & Environment. How will Seattle's resilience strategy integrate climate action?
Climate action is the ultimate resilience strategy in my mind. Recent events-like Hurricane Harvey and the BC Wildfires-have shown that the impacts of climate change are something we have to deal with now. We need bold action to help slow the pace of our carbon pollution at the same time we need to be making investments in our communities so we are physically and socially prepared to withstand the impacts of extreme weather events. ­­­