Community resilience and critical transformations: the case of St. Gabriel, Louisiana
Introduction Community resilience, the ability of a community to respond positively to adverse situations, is an increasingly important topic in public health. Many resilience frameworks are grounded in concepts initially developed by ecologists to describe and explain the capacity of complex systems, such as a community, to persist or return to its original state following disturbances. As a result, much of the research on resilience is concerned with maintaining systems in their current form, preventing degradation, or promoting recovery. However, for a system that is stuck in a trap, or an unfavorable state, deliberate efforts to build the components that contribute to resilience, called adaptive capacities, may enable that system to reorganize after a disturbance to reach a more favorable state. Objective The purpose of this research was to apply a resilience framework to analyze how the community of St. Gabriel, Louisiana adapted in response to environmental change. Methods We used qualitative case-study methodologies to systematically collect newspaper articles, which served as primary data sources to examine how resilience and adaptive capacity evolved in the community of St. Gabriel, Louisiana. Results Key events in the recent history of St. Gabriel include industrial development, growing concern about environmental health and pollution, the environmental justice (EJ) movement, and the incorporation of the community as a self-governing municipality. Two events, the community's organized resistance to a large hazardous waste facility and the change in government structure, represent critical transformations, or fundamental changes in how the community functions. Conclusion The incorporation of St. Gabriel gave community members more input in planning and development decisions. As a result, the community has taken steps to improve public health in the form of zoning ordinances to prevent new exposure risks and building community infrastructure, such as a new sewer system and a recreation center.
Publication Source (Journal or Book title)
Reviews on environmental health
Irving, J. K., & Reams, M. (2019). Community resilience and critical transformations: the case of St. Gabriel, Louisiana. Reviews on environmental health, 34 (3), 293-301. https://doi.org/10.1515/reveh-2019-0023