LMU CURes Seizes the Challenges Presented by Covid-19

The LMU Center for Urban Resilience has a long and successful history of working with cross-disciplinary challenges where innovative solutions lead to increased community sustainability and social resilience. In this period of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the months and years that follow, the social impact and changes that are happening in our society will need to be understood and integrated into the planning and operations of NGO’s, educational groups, municipal programs at the city, state, and federal levels, and in the philanthropic community. To some degree the post-COVID environment is uncharted, and yet there are important clues right now that suggest how successful implementations of programs and re-imagination of institutions could take place.

Members of CURes conducting research in Ballona Wetlands whilst wearing masks
Recent photo of Friends of Ballona Wetlands led Freshwater Marsh Monthly Bird Survey with local volunteers.

As one example, the digitization of engagement, replacing in-person forums, such as the use of Zoom and Google Hangout, have created a nearly universal acceptance of this medium as a tool for long-distance communication in relative safety, with ease of availability and asynchronous access. This reinforces an emerging trend that the most effective use of resources by organizations may not be in the creation of large edifices or brick-and-mortar facilities that try to stay in-service to a particular mission. Instead, the future suggests an enhanced social acceptance of organizations who spend the majority of their resources on community-based action – less about the cathedral – and more about the sermon.

In addition, the long-term management of globalization and urbanization reveals the need for the integration of healthy ecosystem services into these functions. Pandemics such as Covid-19, rely on unbroken lines of vector transmission in order for humans to be at risk. Some data suggest that the placement of healthy green space in the peri-urban areas have resulted in excessive amounts of wildlife attempting to use urban habitats, and thus putting humans at risk. One form of interdiction, as suggested by the World Health Organization, is the reestablishment of healthy forests adjacent to urban areas that provide necessary wildlife habitat in some seclusion from intensive human activity. Affiliated with that idea is the critical need for hyper-local green spaces immediately adjacent to where people live. As was evidenced in the current lockdown, the beautiful parks and forests of the Los Angeles area are inaccessible to most of its residents because of the stay-at-home orders and the expectations that people remain in their immediate vicinity. If local green spaces are available, the public health benefits of immersion by humans can be achieved without significant travel distance and accelerated risk to destination communities.

Also, the need for humans to affiliate with domestic and wild animals can be severely curtailed when normal movement patterns of humans are suppressed. The recent social upheaval of the pandemic has revealed not only the deep need for humans to connect with one another, but also our need to connect with living organisms outside of our own species. The human animal bond, and the affiliated science, show just how important domestic animals and wildlife are in our daily human experience. Understanding these relationships more thoroughly, can help us improve the mental health of human stakeholders and more successfully manage the potential risks affiliated with future pandemics.

Our Center is uniquely poised to provide consulting and research services to a variety of stakeholders on these topics. We are expert at the social and physical dynamics of reforesting peri-urban areas and in the establishment of hyper-local green spaces. We are also expert in conducting integrating wildlife studies with foci on the ecological and human social aspects of wildlife interactions in human-dominated landscapes. We have received multiple National Science Foundation grants in order to develop specialized educational programming that facilitates both formal and informal learning on these topics and their successful management implementation. We have conducted social surveys and advised municipalities, philanthropies, and other local nonprofits in order for each of those entities to improve the efficacy by which they deliver their mission-oriented activities.

As an organization, our Center is keenly aware of the risks and opportunities associated with the new dynamics of the post-pandemic social and economic environment. We are ready and excited to seize these opportunities with like-minded organizations, to join them and partner, taking leadership roles together, in reimagining – both their activities – and the future success of their stakeholders.

We wish to engage and have meaningful dialogue about the possible collaborations that we might be able to achieve together at your earliest convenience. Please reach out and help us SEIZE THE CHALLENGES presented by Covid-19!