COVID-19 pandemic. Wildfires. Extreme heat. Tornadoes. Floods. Atmospheric rivers. War. Derecho. Monkeypox. What’s next? Cascading, overlapping, and marathon emergencies in Canada and abroad, seemingly with no end in sight, are leading to exhaustion, burn out and feelings of hopelessness within the workforce and society at large.
When optimism can sometimes feel out of reach, this issue brings about a much needed focus on Hope. In this issue we connected with emergency managers, risk and resilience academics and practitioners, front line responders, and our broader communities to ask some fundamental questions: What inspires you? What gives you hope? What keeps you going?
We found that art can come to the rescue in the face of seemingly endless disasters and hopeless circumstances. Stories of hope have sprouted in the form of poems, paintings, photographs, and more. Throughout history, art has always been a means for social commentary. Before Twitter, a paintbrush or chisel helped people express political ideals, document monumental events, and capture the brutality of war and poverty. It was also a means for coping with disastrous events.
In 1815, on a continent still reeling from post-Napoleonic war, Mary Shelley famously drafted Frankenstein during a summer in which the sun was choked by volcanic ash from the deadliest volcanic eruption in history, leading to a long winter of frost, fog, and electrical storms. Famines, epidemics and political revolts followed, leading millions to starve and tens of millions to succumb to a global cholera pandemic. Within the isolated confines of Mary’s compound, against the backdrop of dark days and nights and never-ending dread, were borne the ill-fated conditions that helped bring her monstrous creation to life. While often considered a dark tale, writing about the possibilities and hopes of science was a form of art therapy in response to traumatic events. That’s why our feature section is a collection of artworks, where beauty has bloomed through the ashes, ranging from recognizing volunteers in search and rescue, to making time to pause, play, and restore, to finding inspiration in nature.
Our interview section explores some of these key concepts around resilience and wellbeing, including how to remain hopeful in the face of multiple and multiplying threats to our planet’s systems and societies. We approached experts to ask questions like what is hope, why should we care about it, and how do we cultivate and inspire hope in ourselves and others in these challenging times? In one fascinating piece, interviewer Shaun Koopman explores the dimensions of hope with Dr. Homer-Dixon who argues that hope, a powerful and motivating emotion, can be an energizing force for change. Dr. Sohail Inayatullah talks to interviewer Carly Benson about how sometimes in our darkest moments, hope can be a step too far. To inspire action, we need to meet people where they are and explore alternative plausible futures before we can collectively imagine desirable futures.
Coming from a practical perspective, art and community are explored as an antidote to disaster despair. In an article about the City of Vancouver’s Creative Lab on Disaster Resilience, hope is explored as integral to our ability to continue pursuing resilience, respond to devastating situations, and recover from them afterwards. In the article about firefighting families, a shared sense of passion and purpose speaks to the light of the people who are always prepared to help their community and anyone else who needs it.
In the research section, read about how social workers can play a role in disaster management as they respond in a way that enhances emergency plans for families and the community, building on the established need to promote interdisciplinary collaboration between social work and emergency management to foster resilience and support long-term disaster recovery in communities.
We hope this issue fills your cup as it has ours, and we hope it inspires you to create and be creative. As Mary Shelley aptly put it over 200 years ago: “Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos“.
Lilia Yumagulova, Editor-in-Chief
Carly Benson, Editor
Nicole Spence, Editor