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The global spread of a novel coronavirus (COVID-19) took parts of the world by surprise. It now adds an increased level of uncertainty and complexity to the way we communicate and operationalize resilience. Compounding this is the increased frequency and magnitude of environmental disasters, such as ...

The global spread of a novel coronavirus (COVID-19) took parts of the world by surprise. It now adds an increased level of uncertainty and complexity to the way we communicate and operationalize resilience. Compounding this is the increased frequency and magnitude of environmental disasters, such as hurricanes, typhoons, tsunamis, earthquakes, droughts, and forest fires that, when combined with a pandemic, means the potential for critical events such as famine. Climate change experts and other scientists now find themselves in a position where data have become weaponized leading to vastly divergent forms of communication to the public. As great power competition quietly wages a war of words and economies, a recent landmark report published by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has asked for urgent actions to be implemented by governments and communities around the world to combat the pressing issues of climate change. None of these specify what types of actions will lead to resilience at community scales and the message is often garbled by disinformation.

As the world emerges from its pre COVID-19 state to a post COVID-19 dynamic it has never been more critical to understand the different approaches that diverse communities take to prepare for, react, and respond to environmental disasters. This includes the need for a new set of collaborations and partnerships between experts in the fields of climate and environmental change, security, defence, communication and systems science to better understand “community resilience”, which is broadly defined as the capacity of a community to retain desired functionality in the wake of a disaster or a crisis. This definition encapsulates several important notions. First, the idea of “retained functionality” reflects a return to pre-crisis baseline levels of well-being and functioning in the face of a temporary disturbance caused by a disaster. Second, the concept of resilience reflects the inception of a new “post-crisis baseline”, which is a key component of adaptability. Indeed, a disaster can alter a community’s pre-crisis “baseline reality” and subsequently forge a new one while still retaining desired functionality in key services, social and cultural identities, and a sense of well-being.

The literature has pointed out how community resilience is usually only evident after the event takes place; however, it also highlighted a key component of resilient communities which is the capacity to foresee potential vulnerabilities and then predict and plan actions ahead of a disturbance event. Moreover, further studies have shown that a community’s overall resilience rests squarely with the resilience of its organizations, families, and individuals, as well as the communication and interconnections between these community stakeholders, thus making it a collective endeavour. The embeddedness of a community in its bio-geophysical environment can limit or enhance resilience thus adding a layer of complexity to planning and preparing for disasters.

Past research has examined the concept of community resilience from the perspective of the adaptation process with a focus on the adaptive capacities that contribute to collective recovery post-disaster, such as information, communication, community competence, social capital, and economic development. Other research has studied community resilience from the perspective of awareness, support resources and the effect of these on the transformation potential of communities in disaster management. However, ultimately, the collective nature of community resilience makes “communication” a key concept in quantifying, fostering, and enhancing community resilience. The literature further emphasizes the need to study the role of perceptions formed through communication means, such as social media in either enhancing or decreasing overall resilience.

The roles of communication and perceptions have not been well-studied specifically with respect to the effects of critical incidents and community responses that result in resilience and vulnerability. As importantly, it is unclear how communities differ in taking lessons learned from past experiences to anticipate, prepare for, and respond to disasters in the future. For example, it is well-documented that communities who retain clear, factful, and consistent communication methods and content retain a better collective memory of past events and more accurate application of lessons learned to future challenges. Resilient communities incorporate these changes into planning for recovery, often leading to more functional and closer-knit networks built on trust. We know little about how such effects contribute to changes post-disaster where options are: move, adapt or deteriorate. The extent to which such complex interactions of often intangible variables such as perceptions, communications and organizational responses predict the resilience of a community are relatively unknown.

This Research Topic is inspired by the current rapidity of environmental and climate change and the effects such changes are causing in the frequency and magnitude of disease and other critical events. It is focused on a broad range of avenues of research reflecting the immense complexity of the Topic. It welcomes contributions from various disciplines like communication, information and data science, economics, sociology, psychology, urban and landscape planning, political science, computer and environmental science, and other related disciplines. We encourage contributions of all sorts, including but not limited to, original research papers, opinion pieces, and case studies.

Keywords: Resilience, Disasters, Communication, Climate Change, Community Resilience

Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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