Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Scientific American reports a disturbing new Rockefeller Foundation initiative, to green city administrations, by funding senior “Chief Resilience Officer” positions in town hall bureaucracies.
Coastal Cities Look to Resilience Chiefs to Combat Climate Change
Global warming has created a hot new job in U.S. coastal cities
More communities are seeking not just reassurance but leadership in the face of climate change. Often it’s coming in the form of a chief resilience officer, an emerging job title in cities, counties and even in states and at universities and businesses. Cities as large as Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and New York have chief resilience officers, as do smaller cities and towns like Berkeley, Calif., and Minot, N.D. In U.S. cities, the chief resilience officers, or CROs, often report directly to the city manager or mayor, depending on the form of government, and have broad authority to work across departments.
The job goes far beyond figuring out how governments or institutions should reduce greenhouse gas emissions or how to adapt to climate change—although climate change is the fundamental crisis fueling the need for the role in many cities. Chief resilience officers are being asked to help transform communities that face threats from sea-level rise or other stressors. They’re trying to find ways to create better-educated communities, to address chronic poverty and decades of inequity, to identify shoddy housing conditions, and to diversify their economic base, so that when the inevitable climate-related changes occur, people don’t get left behind.
Most chief resilience officers are funded by the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program, which coined the term several years ago and started paying for the salaries of such positions in cities worldwide, as well as for the creation of resilience strategies. Cities compete to join the program, which is set on May 25 to announce its third and final round of cities.
Mayors desperately want their cities to be part of the program; 330 cities applied last year for 35 slots. The foundation pays for the chief resilience officer the first two years, and cities must commit to certain guidelines, including participating in a close-knit network of peers all working on many of the same challenges.
So the Rockefeller Foundation is funding a few jobs in town hall. Why do I think this is a bad thing?
Imagine if say the nuclear lobby offered to fund hundreds of senior bureaucrat jobs in local city governments across America, jobs with “broad authority” to work across city departments. The response would be outrage – there would be concerns about undue influence, concerns, however unjustified, that the nuclear industry was using this insider access to influence decisions about planning approval for new nuclear power plants.
Why should we feel any differently, about greens placing their own people into senior town hall management positions?
It is one thing to openly support political candidates who advocate a favourable policy position. In my opinion it is an entirely different thing to fund the placement of senior bureaucrats, people who are relatively immune to the electoral cycle, and who potentially have less than transparent access to local government implementation of policy.