Stratiscope CEO, John Bwarie, met Dr. Lucy Jones at her Caltech office to record a three-part special on the intersection of scientific research and community activation.
- Part 1 – Dr. Lucy Jones’ transition from scientific researcher to community activator
- Part 2 – The nature of resilience and Dr. Jones and John Bwarie’s experience working with elected officials to build a more resilient California
- Part 3 – Where resilience has historically made a difference to communities struck by disaster and what you can do to build resilience in your own community
Links to subjects mentioned:
- 1978 Afghanistan Coup – Saur Revolution
- China’s Cultural Revolution
- U.S. Geological Survey
- USGS Southern California Earthquake Preparedness Project
- 1971 San Fernando earthquake
- California Seismic Safety Commission
- USGS Earthquake Hazards Program
- USGS Multi-hazards Demonstration Project
John Bwarie: Hello, this is John Bwarie and welcome to another episode of Community Intelligence where we explore how leaders engage and build community. This is part one of a three part special featuring world renowned seismologist and disaster expert, Dr. Lucy Jones, in which we discuss the intersection of scientific research and community activation. In this episode, Lucy and I met at her Caltech office to talk about her transition from research scientist to community activator and why scientific discoveries are only part of what it takes to make real change.
So Lucy, how have you come to work with communities as a research scientist?
Dr. Lucy Jones: Right, research science, PhD from MIT is not usually set up to being engaged with the local community and it’s a long path, right? I started graduate school 43 years ago studying foreshocks and actually because I spoke Chinese being set up to go to China and research what they were doing. It looked like they were predicting earthquakes. Each step along the way has showed me that science alone isn’t enough. My first summer at MIT, I went to Afghanistan and I saw people who so desperately needed modern science and had absolutely nothing.
John Bwarie: How long were you in Afghanistan?
Dr. Lucy Jones: I was there for two months.
John Bwarie: Two months. And what year are we talking? What’s the date?
Dr. Lucy Jones: 1976, so the year before the coup that brought in the most Russian-leaning government. So sort of the last normal year for Afghanistan for basically from there on out.
John Bwarie: And so you were this community of Afghanistan at that time, you’re a young white woman from the US going into another country. And what does that experience like?
Dr. Lucy Jones: Well, 1976 in Afghanistan, women were still bought and sold. The first thing that our French colleagues said when they saw me get off the plane, turned to my professor and said, what the hell did you bring her for? Oh, thank you. And they had to worry about me being stolen. So-
John Bwarie: You being stolen?
Dr. Lucy Jones: Yeah, because women were property. People tried to buy me from my professor.
John Bwarie: They literally tried to buy you?
Dr. Lucy Jones: Yeah, offer of two camels. Double the going rate. It may have just been sort of like an honorary thing, so they really knew he wasn’t going to accept. I’m not quite sure. It was pretty bizarre.
John Bwarie: Wow.
Dr. Lucy Jones: But I still saw people who suffered for not having modern technology, right. Then I come back to MIT and I end up going to China, and it was both, again, really different living standards at that point. They were just coming out of the cultural revolution, but also the realizing that that problem of earthquake prediction wasn’t just a scientific problem. They took the same information and made very different actions out of it because of the economic and political situation. They had a great benefit for making a warning and little downside for a false alarm.
John Bwarie: And just to clarify, there’s no such thing as earthquake prediction.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Right, back then we still thought we might figure it out and they had evacuated the whole city before an earthquake. They must know something, right. Well, when we got there, what we realized is they’re in the same position we are. There are things that make earthquake somewhat more likely but far from telling you they’re going to happen. And they were willing to act on that information because they had a much greater benefit to get from it, and less downside from a false alarm.
So it made me realize that the earthquake prediction problem wasn’t a scientific problem. It was a social problem. How do you take uncertain information and use it to improve resilience? So, when I came to California, which was after I graduated and we came and started working here in California.
John Bwarie: Back to California. Because you grew up here, fourth generation, Californian
Dr. Lucy Jones: Fourth generation southern California. My great, great grandparents are literally buried in the San Andreas fault in Banning, California.
John Bwarie: So you are destined to be a seismologist.
Dr. Lucy Jones: I suppose. But I had no clue until I was 21 that I would even be interested in geology. Yeah. I was a physics major because physicists are snobs and they think all the other scientists’ sciences are not really worth talking about. And it took meeting some geophysicists to get me to switch where I was going.
So I come back to California, I start working on earthquake issues. We start talking, how do we take those same insights that they can act on in China and at least get some good here. But I’m doing it in the research community. I’m in Caltech. The US Geological Survey was my employer. We had an office on camp, we’ve had an office on campus here at Caltech since the mid-70s and so I was doing it within a very dedicated research environment. But when people would come and want information, the Caltech scientists were like, that’s not our job.
And as a federal scientist it was our job. So the scientists within the USGS ended up being the ones who are more often dealing with the public inquiry and the requests. And actually my first engagement with the public was the Southern California Earthquake Preparedness Project, which I think I was put on that in like 198, ’87. It was actually a really interesting effort about if it came out of the post-’71 earthquake, how do we get businesses involved? There were mostly businesses and then there was a scientist that was put on.
John Bwarie: Is this is a state group or…
Dr. Lucy Jones: It was a local nonprofit that just formed, but then it got taken over by the state, by the Cal OES and then they decided that we should really be doing multi hazards and it just got subsumed into all disaster response and became response rather than preparedness and sort of drift… It ended up coming apart and disappearing. So I was sort of, there’s been an awareness along the way but still in an environment that says what really matters are the papers that you write.
Keep on going for another decade or two, and I’m running the office and I got put on the California Seismic Safety Commission, which was formed after the ’71 earthquake to bring in the stakeholders of the earthquake problem to advise the legislature. And what I discovered as the stakeholders weren’t what I was thinking. There was one seismologist, one geologist, one engineer, one structural engineer, one mechanical engineer, but then there was emergency services and utilities and local government and building officials. All these other stakeholders.
And what I learned in that situation is all these stakeholders didn’t know really basic facts about earthquakes that could be used to be safer. And for me, that was the turning point, recognizing how the information that we assigned is just take for granted, we’d do all this research, we get something settled, it’s now boring to us. We move on to new research and nobody’s picked up that information and used it to help society.
So basic things of like when the magnitude eight happens on the San Andreas, so it’s not going to break one aqueduct, it’s going to break them all at once, because by definition to be a magnitude eight, the fault has to be long enough that it’s now gone through all of the aqueducts.
And the state, most people making decisions in the state didn’t know this. And to me this was like a absolutely basic fact. It came out of my first class at MIT in 1976 and yet they weren’t using it. So I had the 16 other people on the commission, some of whom listened, some didn’t. What do I do? And an opportunity came up at the same time in the USGS that was trying to get more money for hazards work. And they asked me to create a pilot project of how we do a multidisciplinary hazards project .
John Bwarie: And just give us context, when is this?
Dr. Lucy Jones: Oh, okay. So this is early 2000s. So I went on the commission in 2002. The hazards initiative was coming through in 2005, so I’d had a couple of years on the commission to go, “How come you guys aren’t using this?” And they then asked me to create this project interdisciplinary. And I said, great, why are we doing it? And then they said, because we need to be interdisciplinary. That’s a process, not a goal. Can I make up a goal? Sure, sure. Whatever. Let’s just make sure it’s interdisciplinary.
John Bwarie: And these are folks in DC?
Dr. Lucy Jones: These are folks in DC that are looking at this about how do we muster the resources to be able to further the science.
John Bwarie: So let me just recap here. These are career scientists that are in the agency that have to respond to Congress, have to respond to the president, and they have to show that their work is being used by community. And is that why?
Dr. Lucy Jones: No, they didn’t have to show their work was being used by community. They had the show they did what Congress authorized them to do, which is conduct research on earthquakes.
John Bwarie: That’s all.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Or could conduct research on earth sciences. That’s all. So I said, let’s make this about getting it used in the community because that’ll look more desirable to Congress. And I said, well, whatever. And so we wrote this proposal about how to demonstrate how hazard science improves the community’s resilience to natural disasters. And that was my choice to do. I could have written it with any other goal, but I was already working with the head of the Water Science Center in California, a guy named Mike Shulters, who also really got it about how to connect with community. The water program got 90% of its funding locally from California and only 10% out of Washington.
So he’s somebody who had already made those connections. We wrote this proposal and we sent it in. It ended up being the one piece that was put forward out of the initiative because it was a multidisciplinary. It was a small amount of money that allowed us to describe a large amount of work, so that’s what went forward. Assuming it wouldn’t make it through, you never get through on the first round in the federal government budget process, except the week after we submitted it, Hurricane Katrina hit and the federal administration needed to show that they cared about people going through disasters. And wow, here’s this proposal, how to help a community use science to be more resilient. We got through into the president’s budget.
We ended up getting through Congress the first time and so in 2007 we started the Multi-Hazards Demonstration Project explicitly focused on how the science should be used, could be used by the community, and it was interesting. The scientists were really worried about it. They liked that I got in more money, but by defining the success as how the community uses the science, I took away control. The scientists said we can’t make sure that happens. We don’t have any control how people use it. So we shouldn’t, we need to have scientific goals, not this community goal. And I had to really fight to keep it in and it was really just fear that they didn’t know how to make sure that happened. That didn’t seem like something that was in their wheel house.
We were looking at floods and landslides and wildfires and earthquakes and tsunamis and coastal erosion. So it was a diverse group. We turned to the community. We actually held community workshops with business leaders and land use planners and financial interests and said, what do you want from the science that you’re not getting? And they all said, we want scenarios. We know we need to get ready for the earthquake, but we don’t know what we’re getting ready for.
John Bwarie: And what’s a scenario? Because I think outside of this space, they may not know.
Dr. Lucy Jones: That’s true. A scenario is saying not just tell me I’m going to have an earthquake, right. A seismologist, we love to say here’s the probability and here’s the fault and all of these scientific details. What the community wanted was what does that mean for us? What’s going to happen to our roads? What’s going to happen to our buildings? What are we gonna have to mobilize afterwards? And to be honest, I thought], oh that sounds boring because it wasn’t the science I was used to.
We had to bring together really diverse groups of people. It turned out to be this fascinating project and you started discovering that there’s a reason people don’t use the science, because there were little pieces missing. When you actually went to use it, you need to integrate across enough sciences that if you’re just picking up from the research results, it’s hard to get that.
John Bwarie: So you asked the target community of emergency managers, lenders, players, businesses, what they needed that this is what they said. And so you started down this path?
Dr. Lucy Jones: Right, and it’s the first time anybody in the survey had done that.
John Bwarie: So that all happens 2006. You start your project 2007 and then something monumental happens.
Dr. Lucy Jones: I met you, John.
John Bwarie: You met me, and we started working together. No, it was serendipitous, right?
Dr. Lucy Jones: Well it was and it wasn’t. So because we were creating this picture of what the earthquake is and then we said we need to do something to help people use it. If we’re going to do this for the public good, let’s get it to the public. So there was working with the cities and the governments, but there was emergency managers. But how do we get it out farther? So we were just in the middle of discussing that. And you were working for a city councilman.
John Bwarie: I was, I was working for Councilman Greg Smith in the Northwest San Fernando Valley, sort of the epicenter of earthquakes in recent memory because it was the location of the Northridge Earthquake-
Dr. Lucy Jones: And the ’71 earthquake.
John Bwarie: And the ’71 earthquake.
Dr. Lucy Jones: He remembered a conference that had been down after the ’71 earthquake.
John Bwarie: That’s right.
Dr. Lucy Jones: He was chief of staff back then. He wanted to do that. And we were looking at putting together some sort of public event for releasing the report on the earthquake model. And we thought, let’s put this together. We could have the conference be part of a week-long events. The first ShakeOut was a week of events designed to promote earthquake awareness in Southern California. And we thought it was a onetime thing.
John Bwarie: Right, and I remember coming in that first meeting and it was interesting. You had yourself, some emergency managers, some other scientists, some folks from the ArtCenter College of design. And there was a meeting and I walked in and there was no agenda and there was no sort of direction. You just knew you wanted to have this outcome of public engagement. And what shocked me was here are some of the smartest people I’ve ever met and never had a chance to work with still. And they didn’t-
Dr. Lucy Jones: We didn’t know enough to make an agenda for the meeting.
John Bwarie: Right.
Dr. Lucy Jones: But right.
John : I think that was my first contribution is like how about I facilitate the meeting and how about I set an agenda and have us create some strategy to get to where we’re trying to go.
Dr. Lucy Jones: And like, oh wow, what an idea? That sounds great.
John Bwarie: But that was the way we first started working together. And here we are probably 13 years later and we have had quite a run together of working. So here’s the part of the story of working with community that I can sort of start to-
Dr. Lucy Jones: Play a role in.
John Bwarie: Play a role in. Yeah. So we do the ShakeOut right, and the ShakeOut is this big event and we sat down, we were so dedicated. I was representing the city. You the USGS, someone from Cal OES, someone from Caltech, someone from the ArtCenter, someone from business sector, someone from the Southern California Earthquake Center. And we sat down even on a Saturday, I think we had a meeting on a Saturday because we just had so much to do. And we said right, how many people are we going to reach? We’re trying to serve Southern California. It was like 67 counties.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Yeah, we were doing all, yeah, so 20 million people basically. I think we were trying to include San Diego at that point.
John Bwarie: Yeah. Yeah.
Dr. Lucy Jones: So yeah, eight counties, and I remember the guy from the Southern California Earthquake Center saying, “I think we should try to get 200,000 people,” part of this drill and sort of joking. I said, I was thinking 5 million and we all laughed and then we sort of thought about it and went, yeah, that’s a quarter of the population, isn’t that inappropriate goal.
John Bwarie: And so we set that engagement goal that said, how do we get 25% of this region participating? And my goodness, we spent the next, what, seven months? I think it wasn’t by the time we made the goal, we had only about seven months left to engage 5 million people, and-
Dr. Lucy Jones: An important part of what we did then was if the only way to engage 5 million people with basically less than a dozen people working on it, we had to not connect with everyone. We had to let go. You had to throw it out and not be in control. Really hard problem for scientists.
John Bwarie: I think for a lot of people to let go. Right? And so we started this process and I think that’s where we started working together and I came to understand your commitment to community. The idea that you could use your profile expertise, your capital, if you will, to motivate others to take action.
Dr. Lucy Jones: It was a really big turning point for me to make the decision to do that. So I had been sort of this classic research scientists aware of the community all the way along and believing that I was doing it for the common good. I wasn’t willing to go off and do research projects that were just esoteric knowledge. I wanted to connect it to something that could help the community. But I was starting to recognize that I might think it helped the community. It wasn’t happening. And I had taken my administrative stint. One of the things scientists hate administration, but we don’t trust anybody who’s not a scientist. So what we do is we force the scientist each take a term at rotational management. I was coming off my stint and I was looking at going back to research and offered the opportunity to run this Multi-Hazards Project and I realized I was going to do more good.
What I actually said to myself is if I went back to research… I was 50 at the time. Let’s say I had 15 years left, I’d write 30 papers, and to be honest, five of them would be read in two with matter. And if I didn’t do that, I knew who’d write those two papers because I could see young people coming up, doing good work. But if I didn’t come in and lead this Multi-Hazards Project, it wasn’t going to happen because there was nobody else in the science community that has had as much social exposure as I had and was willing to do it.
So I decided to take this on, walk away from trying to become the next level of scientific stardom and say let’s just go and work on this. At the time, you may not have recognized me, a lot of people did. I would have people like walk up to me on the street and go, are you Lucy Jones?
John Bwarie: Well later I realized that when we’d be out at lunch and she would approach us and say, can I get your autograph? And I’m like, who am I with?
Dr. Lucy Jones: Right, and at wells, I say the same thing, like what the hell? But I was aware that that was there and if we were going to try and get ShakeOut publicized, I had to use that because nobody else could go call up a TV station and say, I’d like to come and do a piece on this. And yet I could do that and some of the time get it done or go out to the different, especially when we decided we wanted to get 5 million people participating, how do we do it? You remember those trips we used to take out to like Riverside and San Bernardino?
John Bwarie: I almost lost my job in the City of LA because I was spending more time outside the city supporting this initiative. Now it’s on the record.
Dr. Lucy Jones: And so-
John Bwarie: I remember we were at the San Bernardino County Supervisors’ chambers.
Dr. Lucy Jones: That’s the one I was thinking of.
John Bwarie: You and I were there with the county supervisor and they invited a bunch of nonprofit leaders and we had a 90-minute session and I think it was like webcast on the… And I think my bosses is back in City Hall said, John, we happened to see you in San Bernardino. What are you doing? The greater good. It’s the greater good.
Dr. Lucy Jones: It’s the good. And by doing that, we empowered those people to take the message out. And so we used, it was an explicit use of the fact that I was visible, that I had been on TV for the earthquakes to get the message out and it was effective. We ended up getting over 5 million. We had five and a quarter million people in that first ShakeOut, registered for it through… We set up websites so people could register because there’s no way we’re going to talk to 5 million people.
And it also… Celebrity feeds on itself. I don’t know if you remember the press conference the day before that ShakeOut at your conference. So you put on that big conference and that was like 27 TV cameras, and I don’t know how many reporters. There were a 100 thousand reports on like through Google News or there were 10,000 separate news reports on the first ShakeOut. It was like, what have we done?
John Bwarie: Right, and it actually I went to a conference many years later at the National Storm Center in Norman, Oklahoma or the whatever centers there. And they were talking about how do we get storm information? We know this information about hurricanes, about tornadoes, how do we get that to the people? And at the closing plenary, a meteorologist stood up and said, we need to look at what the earthquake people did at ShakeOut and make that something we can do for storms. And it was probably eight years later and it wasn’t, or seven years later and it wasn’t planted. It just had become in the disaster and scientific community saying there’s a different way that you can communicate and engage the public. And that was something you created, Lucy, and I think it’s a testament to your work.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Yeah, and with you. I wouldn’t have done it. As a scientist, I didn’t have that information. How communities work, how do you talk to them? I’m better than some scientists but I still live in… Every one of us lives in our own world with our own communication norms and sort of communication culture that goes with whatever work you do. And the science communication culture is very different from how you engage in a community.
And I had the desire to engage with the community because I could see the good that could be done, but I didn’t know who to call. I didn’t know to make a call. I do write, I would tend to be passive, and wait for it to come. And what you brought to this was an understanding of how you pull people in and create excitement and get people wanting to be part of this because you can’t force anything on people. They’ve got the make the desire. You’ve got to entice them in.
And that’s what I feel like you did. You have done is help. Why should people want to think about earthquakes? You helped us make it fun enough that people were willing to listen and found that place between what we were doing, what we wanted, and what goes on in the community.
John Bwarie: Thanks for listening to Community Intelligence. And for more information on this and other episodes, visit our website at Stratiscope.com. At Stratiscope, we provide community intelligence services to businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies. Let us know how we can help you.
John Bwarie: Hello. This is John Bwarie, and welcome to another episode of Community Intelligence where we explore how leaders engage and build community.
This is part two of a three part special featuring world renowned seismologist and disaster expert Dr. Lucy Jones in which we discuss the intersection of scientific research and community activation. In this part, Lucy and I continue our conversation about the nature of resilience, and how she and I have worked with elected officials and decision makers to build a more resilient California.
Let’s talk about resilience. What is resilience and how can it make a community less susceptible to a disaster?
Dr. Lucy Jones: Resilience is the ability to pull back after a disruption. There’s some basic things. One thing is if you’ve prevented damage in the disaster you have less to pull back from. That’s a really big piece. We use the word mitigation which is a pretty nerdy word, but I don’t know another one for that. Another part of it is that you’ve got connections with people. Resilience we take the word from sort of feeling of elasticity, the ability to rebound. Elasticity happens because of connections. It’s sort of like I sometimes sort of have this geek physics model of invisible strands of rubber between people. That connection between people gives us a structure that allows us to bounce back more quickly. Resilience is being able to handle the extreme events of your system and stull be sustainable.
John Bwarie: In 2014, or 2013 I guess it was-
Dr. Lucy Jones: Yes, it was 2013.
John Bwarie: … we went to meet with the newly elected mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti. You and I had spent time working with previous mayors to build resilience in their staff, and their deputy mayors, and their department heads through a number of partnerships we created. But then, something happened there in 2013 into 2014 where you were, again, willing to use yourself, and I was able to make some connections to arrange a meeting. It took six months.
Dr. Lucy Jones: No, about four months.
John Bwarie: Four months.
Dr. Lucy Jones: He was elected July 1st. I’m not sure quite when you started. We met in October. I was actually looking back at some stuff, and we were getting put off because he was busy, right?
John Bwarie: Right. Newly elected.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Newly elected.
John Bwarie: We only said, “I think the mayor should talk to Lucy.” I don’t think we said anything besides that.
Dr. Lucy Jones: We didn’t say anything besides that, but I noticed that we did say at some point, “Shake out is coming in October, and it would be really good if he’s had a chance to connect on this issue before we get all of that public attention.” Because of that then the meeting was scheduled for two days before the shake out earthquake, and we were in a government shutdown and I wasn’t supposed to go do this.
John Bwarie: It all comes out on the Community Intelligence podcast.
Dr. Lucy Jones: I went as a private citizen.
John Bwarie: You did.
Dr. Lucy Jones: I made a point of saying that this was as a private citizen. What we did is we took them a picture of what was going on in San Francisco at the time.
John Bwarie: Right, and the L.A. Times had just done their article.
Dr. Lucy Jones: But we didn’t know we were going to get that. That was serendipity.
John Bwarie: That was. That was.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Right? Two days before the meeting, the L.A. Times ran this big expose on concrete buildings that they’d been working on for two years.
John Bwarie: More than that. I remember it had been more than that. Ron Lin had started that effort I think for years prior. It was just this long process to get it right. Talk about dedication of the media.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Yeah. Yeah, that’s a place where the media has really made a difference. We had this incredible lock that our meeting that had been scheduled for a month came out two days before. Of course we scheduled the meeting because of the shake out, and I think they scheduled-
John Bwarie: The article.
Dr. Lucy Jones: The article because of the shake out which is the ongoing power of the shake out.
John Bwarie: Right.
Dr. Lucy Jones: It had the mayor and the deputy mayor prying to listen to us. We also had this example that San Francisco was trying to figure out how to come together as a community. They’d managed a couple of things. They just passed their first soft-story ordinance.
John Bwarie: I’m going to interrupt you there. I think one of the things that made it unique in this circumstance is that do you remember the first five minutes or maybe even more of the meeting had nothing to do with earthquakes? Before we actually sat down and I think somebody said, “Okay Mr. Mayor, we need to talk about this,” you and he were talking about music.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Well, he has a piano in his office. Turns out that he plays piano a lot, and I play classical music a lot, and we sat and talked about music and how much more fun it is. We both were enjoying that I think more than the earthquake discussion.
John Bwarie: Absolutely. But I think what’s really interesting about that, just sitting there and watching that, is that you guys connected. He knew who you were, you knew who he was, but had never really connected. In that few moments around music you found a commonality that allowed everything else that either of you said to be viewed through a more positive lens.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Okay. Right, and I sort of go well, whatever. But you make use of that. You help me see that stuff.
John Bwarie: Right. But I think we capitalize on that. That even in I think future conversations there was a little bit of reference to music until the relationship had evolved to more of a trusted scientific advisor to the elected official. We had the music conversation. You bring up San Francisco. We’re sitting there and actually it’s the deputy mayor, the mayor, other staff. I feel like there was six or seven people in the room.
Dr. Lucy Jones: There were. I can’t remember who they all were at this point. We were saying, “Don’t we want to be able to do as well as San Francisco?” And he’s like, “Yes. That sounds like a great idea, but I’m not willing to take 10 years. I want it in one.” I remember going, “There’s a reason it takes 10 years. This is hard work.” It was actually after we left there, and this was sort of mulling around how could we get it to work that I realized I thought it probably wouldn’t work if I didn’t really throw myself into it. I’m a federal employee.
I had managed to reach a point where I got to do a lot of what I wanted within the government. I went to my boss and proposed that I go work with L.A. to do this as a USGS employee. That we call this a scientific experiment. It’s the next step in how do we get the science used. I was able, because I had an innovative boss, to get him to get behind me. We went back to the mayor’s office and proposed this. They jumped on it because they were getting me for free.
John Bwarie: This being … what was the …
Dr. Lucy Jones: A technical assistant’s agreement that the USGS would put up my time, three quarters of my time for a year. The mayor would put up equivalent staff time to create a resilience plan for the city.
John Bwarie: Related to earthquake?
Dr. Lucy Jones: Related to earthquakes. How to address our earthquake issues.
John Bwarie: Actually, didn’t it come specifically from the shake out? The idea that it would carry, if I recall correctly, it would carry on the issues raised in the shakeout that the city had purview over.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Yes. Well, we definitely referenced the shake out, and the shake out scenario became a big piece of it. As I negotiated it with the deputy mayor, that to me was one of my political education points was we cannot say we’re going to deal with the earthquake issue because we can’t solve the earthquake issue.
John Bwarie: Who said this?
Dr. Lucy Jones: This was the deputy mayor for public safety. She said, “We have to define the agreement in a way that we know that we can look successful.” Instead of saying, “Let’s solve the earthquake problem,” let’s say we are going to address the problem around vulnerable buildings, and then we know the things that we can do for this. I said, “I ain’t willing to just do the buildings because if you just do the buildings, and you don’t have any water going into those buildings, you haven’t gotten anywhere.” Actually, they didn’t want it to be just buildings because they didn’t want it to look like they were just responding to The Times.
We came up with three areas, the vulnerable buildings, the vulnerability of the water system, and issues around telecommunications. That was a [inaudible 00:08:31]. We knew we had issues with the electric system. We weren’t sure at all that we were going to be able to accomplish really moving forward on that. By saying the telecommunication system, you have to have electricity for that. But it gave us other things that we could do, so we knew that we would be able to say, “Here’s a thing that we’ve done to succeed in this area.”
It was a big political education for me of how to take a problem, define it in a way that you know you can look successful while giving yourself the opportunity to really try to solve the problem. We didn’t go into this year-long project saying we’re going to do X, Y, Z. We had X, Y, Z in our pockets knowing that we could at least do those, but we really had the opportunity to do more. It was a real insight for me how to … Because as a scientist it feels like there’s the right answer and the wrong answer, or you get something done or you don’t get something done. In the more political realm, there’s how to look successful. You can’t be successful unless you look successful. This isn’t just PR. Right? If we didn’t look successful, it wasn’t going to move forward.
John Bwarie: You weren’t doing this for political reasons. Though you had the education, and you had this experience, and you had me there with you to help. I remember-
Dr. Lucy Jones: Oh, you helped me with so many political … going, “Oh really? That’s an issue. Oh, okay.”
John Bwarie: [inaudible 00:09:54] what you say and what you don’t. The work we did was really around bringing the community on because you can’t operate in the ivory tower, and L.A. city hall is the epitome of ivory tower.
Dr. Lucy Jones: It’s a political ivory tower, and then Caltech is your scientific ivory tower, and the community’s left out of both of them or often is. Yeah, that was the other part of it. I remember some point it was they were saying, “We need to know what we’re going to be saying before we talk with people because once we talk with them they’re going to be demanding answers. That’s the political experience.” I was like, “But how do we know what we’re going to say until we’ve talked with them? Because they’ve got to be part of the answer.” That was a tension that went along all the way through. How do we bring the community in? How do you say, “Here’s the problem. Help us find a solution”? Instead of here’s the problem, here’s the solution.
John Bwarie: We set up meetings, or rather we were requested to have meetings with a number of leading organizations. I remember spending hours with the L.A.-
Dr. Lucy Jones: Conservancy.
John Bwarie: The L.A. Conservancy. Yes, thank you.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Three or four or five meetings with those people. There was Apartment Owners of Greater Los Angeles, The Urban Land Institute, The Central City Association.
John Bwarie: And on and on. Just leaders across the region both in personal conversation and then on the phone just answering questions to buy-in and get to see that there is a solution that can be found that serves us. That there’s more at stake by not doing something than by trying to do something.
Dr. Lucy Jones: There were a bunch of things that came out of that. One of them was that when we then finally came up with a proposal, the people we’d met with could see their fingerprints on it. Maybe it was something really small. Mostly we’re doing something they really weren’t sure they wanted, but they could see that we’d listen to something from them. That fingerprint issue I think was huge in getting the buy-in for the project. Again, all just lots and lots of time. The city kept track of my meetings. There were 130 in those 10 months.
John Bwarie: Right. Working with community is not fast.
Dr. Lucy Jones: It’s not fast and it’s not smooth.
John Bwarie: Right.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Right? It’s not easy. It’s very different from the scientific process where you sit alone in front of a computer terminal for six months. This is instead out there talking with people, and going back and going back, and listening, and-
John Bwarie: It’s iterative.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Yeah, the iterative part.
John Bwarie: What ended up coming? 10 months in the office or 11 months. Whatever it is. What’s the result?
Dr. Lucy Jones: The result was a plan Resilience By Design.
John Bwarie: The plan itself was not the law.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Right. This is the mayor saying here is my recommendation for what the city should do. There were 18 recommendations across these three areas. So, we have a X, Y, and Z that had been in our pockets, and then we had A through P as well. We had a lot of different things that went on. The mayor released this it was like December 8th, and had most of these stakeholders of the city. The money and the real estate interests were there with them saying yes we need to do this. Through this process, we had helped the larger community understand that this wasn’t just about whether or not they were going to be made to spend money on their building. It was about everybody else having to spend money on their building, and we now have a more resilient city that they’re not going to then lose their business because the city can’t function after the event.
Of those 18 recommendations, five of them required city council ordinances. Over the next almost a year it took to get all of those done, every one of them passed unanimously once it finally got down to it because we had already done the work of bringing all the stakeholders together and getting them behind it. We didn’t have somebody coming out afterwards and saying no you shouldn’t do this. I think it’s a big part of what happened here was that time spent just talking to people.
John Bwarie: I’d say that listening is the other half of it. You talk but you also have to listen almost more so.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Absolutely more so.
John Bwarie: That was the year of 2014, and then in 2015 you went back to the USGS.
Dr. Lucy Jones: I went back to the USGS and went oh. Partly it’s … I mean, I’ve written. I’ve been on a couple of papers since that time, and there’s still times that those research questions can be really engaging a very specific thing, but I found that getting the science used seemed more significant. Not because it’s inherently more important, but it’s as important and nobody is doing it.
John Bwarie: That year after the mayors office you were still the federal employee.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Right.
John Bwarie: How did you feel when you weren’t fully engaged with the public the way that you had been the year before?
Dr. Lucy Jones: Partly I was more rested, but after I got over the fatigue I started going this isn’t enough. To the degree that I’m still going to make a difference with what’s left of my career. This is a place that needs the work and nobody else is doing it, and that if I can find a way to do that doesn’t completely exhaust me I’d rather be in that space and start helping other scientists to do it. I think that’s the other thing that happened, people towards the end of your careers is wanting a legacy. Wanting to see what happens.
When I started in science, the whole idea of working with the community was sort of why would you want to do that? That’s somebody else’s job. Research science is about making those discoveries, and I’ll tell you there’s nothing like that feeling of getting some place in your research where you realize that you have learned something about the nature of the universe that nobody else knows yet. You’ve made that discovery, and it’s such an exciting feeling. That’s wonderful. There’s people for whom that should be the only thing they’re doing because that’s what they’re really good at.
But for that’s fun, we can’t afford in this society to leave science in the ivory tower anymore. Look at what’s happening with the rejection of science. Between climate change denial on the right, anti-vaccing and GMO objections on the left. We have a lot of places where good, solid science is just being ignored and written off to the detriment of society. The younger generation of scientists is recognizing this. When I came through nobody was leaving. Leaving the ivory tower meant that you hadn’t been able to cut it as a researcher. You had to take a lower status job. That’s all it meant.
We’ve got a generation of scientists going through Caltech now, and I’m seeing in a lot of other places, that are like this is the future of society. This is the future of this world. What’s coming with climate change is so huge and the science is being ignored. I think it’s helping the scientists get out of their tower and recognize that community itself is imperiled by ignorance about what the science can do. It’s changing the ideas that the younger scientists have about community engagement. The main thing I want to do and that we’ve started with is how to help other scientists be there. I said at the end of the career you look at your legacy, it’s how to train others to keep it going forward.
John Bwarie: We talked for many years and you finally retired, and when you retired we implemented something we’ve talked about for a long time which is a non-profit. You had the option to go be a consultant, I know a couple people approached you, or go work for government somewhere else. But we said maybe there’s more credibility and more ability to serve community by being a non-profit.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Right. One of the challenges with scientific information right now is the feeling that people are buying it. The idea of science should be that you can’t buy it. That the data in the end trumps everything. But the reality is it can take quite a few experiments before you really figure something out, and things do get corrupted. The impression of that connected to corporate funding is large enough that it really felt like we needed to find a way of independence. What I had at the city. When I was in L.A., one of the things I often said is the price of getting me for free is that the mayor actually got me, and there was no political control on what I said.
John Bwarie: Right. If you disagreed, you would-
Dr. Lucy Jones: If I had disagreed, I would’ve been saying it. That made it a lot harder for the mayor, but it gave it a huge level of credibility. How do we continue to do that? So, we started the non-profit Center for Science and Society, and-
John Bwarie: That’s where we work with SCAG. We tried to replicate and seed what we did in L.A. with the other over 190 jurisdictions in southern California, and we got good engagement for over three dozen. Almost 40 cities have pursued and taken a path towards building greater resilience for the earthquake.
Dr. Lucy Jones: We’ve got several more that are already past their retrofitting legislation. More that are working on it now and I think’ll be passing it this year. We’re seeing it replicate out.
John Bwarie: And that’s great. That’s the community engagement piece, but there’s the community of scientists that you have special space in providing leadership that even though I want to empower that community just as much as you do, I know that I don’t have the scientific background to be able to do that.
Dr. Lucy Jones: But I don’t have the community background to really be able to teach it. So, we’ve come together. We had a workshop on science activation. It’s going to be turning into a longer course here at Caltech. We’re looking at taking it elsewhere. The idea of science activation is that science communication alone is not enough. A lot of people talk about what bad communicators scientists are. We need to be trained to do a better job at communication. Communications great and essential, and insufficient because communication is one way. It’s I have information and I’ve got to do a better job of delivering it to you.
Science activation is a bilateral process. Solution to difficult problems don’t come because I threw my information at you. Even if I threw my information in a way to make sure you could understand it, finding a solution requires a lot more nuance than that. It trades off the scientific information. What are the actual facts with what the community needs, what the community wants, what the community can afford. All of those things have to play into coming up with solutions to difficult problems. But if you don’t have the science as part of it, you can come up with solutions that are actually going to make things worse because you don’t know whether or not something actually works. That’s what the science gives you.
Science is a process of determining what’s physically true. If you want to stop X … If we want to not fall down in earthquakes you need to be understanding really what earthquakes you’re subjected to at what sort of rate. Then, all right, we need to get rid of this building. What timeframe? Well, that’s trading off information about how often the earthquakes happen. What we do or don’t know, and the reality is the timing of them is random. You might invest now and nothing’s going to happen for 30 years, or 50 years, or 100 years, or it could be tomorrow. How do you take that understanding and now make that social, political decision about what money do we invest now versus the other things we need to spend money on?
John Bwarie: I think balancing the political realities. I think that what you acknowledged earlier about working with the mayor’s office and the political lessons that you learned just in some simple conversations, it’s rare that a scientist gets the opportunity to be with access to deputy mayors or the mayor to have that learning. I think you bringing that to these courses allows the younger emerging scientist, and we’re not talking kids. These are people in their mid to late 20s.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Or into their 30s.
John Bwarie: Into their 30s who are adults who have a passion for change and a community. How do you give them the tools? I think you bring that scientific credibility, and I think we together have been able to educate them and provide that experience. I know that we bring policy makers to scientists, we bring scientists to the policy makers in a way to make sure that the understanding of how the other community works allows for the reciprocal community to be able to be better supportive of that community.
Dr. Lucy Jones: I think it’s because we already have the connections. Because we’ve been engaging with the community. The elected officials trust us to come and do this. The scientists are trusting us because I already have the connections there. We’ve demonstrated expertise which is what matters to a scientist. Putting those two things together and making use of the community have been exciting because I think the class we did we had three times as many students apply as we could take. We had all of these elected officials saying, “When you do it again, make sure you invite me,” which I thought we would be using up political capital bringing them in. It turns out that they were really excited with the chance to connect with Caltech scientists.
John Bwarie: I think elected officials are excited to connect with experts that they can count on to enhance the policies they’re trying to implement.
Dr. Lucy Jones: And that they can trust to be impartial.
John Bwarie: Right. Because often times the information they’re getting, even if it’s expert, sometimes becomes slanted based on who the source is. I think there’s more need for that repository of information that can be trusted and is impartial like at an institution like Caltech or any of these. We have tremendous academic institutions across this country that could be providing this service to local electeds and federal electives as well.
Dr. Lucy Jones: I know. I do see it starting. I was visiting out at Cornell, and they have a project on flood resilience where they’ve been working with the local flood managers. Some of the same sort of ideas that we’ve tried to pursue of long term development of relationships, becoming that trusted source that they can turn to for information. But it’s still at this point I think more the exception than the norm in academic communities. But it’s shifting. We’re recognizing that things are changing in our society.
John Bwarie: We talk about …. engagement in its truest sense. This is just the engagement of scientists with policy makers. That engagement can be outreach from the scientists. I sent you a flyer or a letter with information. Just one way once. Then there’s transactional. We look at this as sort of like that Maslow’s, like on Maslow’s hierarchy, getting up to true engagement. It’s actually getting up to true activation. It starts with outreach, and then you get to transactional, then you have this interaction that’s engagement but activation is the goal. I think there’s a movement towards that. I think there’s a desire on both sides for activation.
Dr. Lucy Jones: You need to put that in the class.
John Bwarie: Yeah.
Thanks for listening to Community Intelligence. For more information on this and other episodes, visit our website at stratascope.com. At Stratascope, we provide community intelligence services to businesses, non-profits, and government agencies. Let us know how we can help you.
John Bwarie: Hello, this is John Bwarie, and welcome to another episode of Community Intelligence, where we explore how leaders engage and build community. This is the final episode of a three-part special featuring world-renowned seismologist and disaster expert, Dr. Lucy Jones, in which we discuss the intersection of scientific research and community activation. As we conclude our conversation, Lucy and I talk about how resilience can make a difference when disaster strikes and how you can contribute to building resilience in your own community.
Let’s talk about earthquakes and communities, and where you’ve seen resilience make a difference in a community. I know you’ve … you mentioned that you’ve traveled the world in research, as a research scientist on seismology, but then I know in the later years you’ve traveled the world as you look at communities of resilience. I know that you’ve gone to Japan, you’ve gone to New Zealand and other places. What have you seen around earthquakes and community resilience that is notable and should be maybe taken up here in the US?
Dr. Lucy Jones: I think some of the most resilient places I’ve seen … probably the most concrete, explicit example of resilience is what I saw in northeastern Japan where they were hit by the magnitude nine and the huge tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant disaster.
John Bwarie: 2011.
Dr. Lucy Jones: So 2011, and really quite devastating to the community. They have responded to it by becoming more deeply connected. I was meeting women that had left the region … because it’s very traditional and was a difficult place for women that, you know, wanted to have a life on their own … going to Tokyo and then coming back after the event because they saw their community imperiled and that mattered so much to them, and they’re working together on it. I’ve been deeply touched by the level of community commitment that has been the response to that disaster.
But there’s both a positive and a negative lesson, in that one aspect of it is they have taken earthquake construction so much more seriously there, so that a magnitude nine basically didn’t damage a significant number of buildings. They have been building to a higher standard than we have here, where we accept only life safety.
The other part is I think part of what let them come together is a relative homogeneity. We have a challenge that we have sort of a lessened … we don’t have these deep roots that many of these people were, you know, have to this region where their families have been there for millennia, right? So I think the challenge in California is how do we make that California connection that is a celebration of diversity? But it means that you’re coming from different places and tapping into different implicit cultural norms, when you look at how the community comes together. So I think the most important lesson to me out of this is we need to strengthen the community itself as the fundamental piece of resilience.
You know, as a scientist, I can look at resilience and say systems fail where they’re already weak. So it’s the levee that’s got the problem, it’s where the breach is going to happen in the flood, or the old part of the water system where it’s going to break. Physically, systems fail where they’re already weak.
But that’s a statement of human reality as well. And where the human systems are weak or badly connected is where the community’s going to come apart. Strengthening the connections within a community that we can have just because we want our community, is also the goal that we need to do to get through the earthquake. Los Angeles is rather famous for not doing community really well. We have this image that we’re all these transients and pass by on the freeway and never talk to each other. That’s our weakness, and that could be where we fail, because it’s where the weakness already exists.
So can we strengthen that? There’s lots of ways to do that, which is a lot of what you’re up to. I appreciate that. We can also use the earthquake, because people are afraid of the earthquake, that helps focus them. Let’s use that to bring our communities together and fundamentally strengthen our community because that’s the real earthquake resilience.
John Bwarie: When we talk about this sort of community and earthquake resilience, it reminds me of the book that you wrote, The Big Ones, right?
Dr. Lucy Jones: Right.
John Bwarie: And you looked at the truest societal-changing disasters in global history, how it changes humanity, and you looked at a lot of examples and I think that knowing what I know about you, having read the book, that, you know, California hasn’t seen our big earthquake in modern times and people think that they’re preparing for something that is what they already experienced.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Right.
John Bwarie: And that sort of normalization bias-
Dr. Lucy Jones: Yes.
John Bwarie: … that comes from that. So I wonder, and you’ve talked about that a bit and we’ve heard you talk about community here, is there something that didn’t make it in the book about community and it’s resilience that you, you know … there’s so much research that you did, I know I saw you plowing away through all this material, what didn’t make it in that is worth noting?
Dr. Lucy Jones: There were a couple of earthquakes that I ended up not including in it because I was sort of running out of energy. I could have made it longer, but I felt like I was repeating some ideas. One of them was the 2010 Chile earthquake … one of the most interesting, they … things that really surprised me there. They have an all-volunteer fire department and they were just adamant, “How could you trust a professional fireman? I mean if they’re just being paid to do it they aren’t going to have the commitment to their community.” The volunteers, these are people who live there, “This is our homes. We’re going to be more dedicated to it.” Which I found was this really interesting twist off of what we had, but it was another place that the community … that feeling that responding to it has to be because you love it, and there, more than anywhere else, I got that feeling of you recover from the disaster because you love where you are and you’re dedicated to it and want to stay.
John Bwarie: And that’s a message that you think is strong?
Dr. Lucy Jones: I think it’s an incredibly important message. I sort of like, I debated back and forth getting it in and it just didn’t seem to quite … it just didn’t fit as I was finishing up the book.
John Bwarie: Is that why the work you do in the community is what it is you think?
Dr. Lucy Jones: Because I love it?
John Bwarie: Yeah. You really love this place.
Dr. Lucy Jones: I do, I do. I mean I feel very much a Southern Californian. We started there saying, and I’m fourth generation, and the great, great grandparents, but, you know, in the San Andreas Fault, but I got brought up here with my mother having been brought up here who just … this is the best place in the world, you know, California is something really special.
John Bwarie: I think I remember, you know, the story you’ve told about experiencing an earthquake while at a theme park in Southern California, and how sort of quintessential California that is.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Oh, yeah, well actually I didn’t … I was on Space Mountain, so I didn’t feel a thing.
John Bwarie: Which earthquake was that?
Dr. Lucy Jones: 1979 Malibu Earthquake. So it was in the Santa Monica Bay, just south from Malibu. My parents were living in Westchester. They had stuff thrown off of shelves, they had a little bit of damage at the house, and I got home and I hadn’t even had any idea that the earthquake had happened.
John Bwarie: Because you were on a roller coaster at Disneyland.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Right, right. Because I grew up … you know, Disneyland opened when I was three months old, and I went every year when I was little, and I went every year when my kids were little. I haven’t been for a while, I guess I got to get back.
John Bwarie: Just to reinforce, this is your home, and do you think that’s what it takes, or can someone learn that love to inspire action?
Dr. Lucy Jones: There’s two aspects of it and I’m going to say this as coming from the science side. I can see that I was more compelled than some of my colleagues to say I’ve got to turn this into social good. But there’s a lot of people who do that and that’s really a feeling of just being an ethical person. If I have information that can save lives, don’t I have an obligation to share it? That is … it’s not universal, but that is a feeling that I think a lot of people have. As scientists that could be what matters. I mean, that becomes a connection with the larger community, the community of humanity. I mean, there’s some types of information. If you’re really, you know, curing cancer, let’s keep on working at curing cancer please, thank you very much. And that’s a dedication to the community that’s a bit more abstract, but no less real.
The type of work that we ended up doing here, I think is driven by this, you know, the help for the community. Other communities asked me to come and talk. I may be going up and doing some work in Oregon, and it feels just much more abstract to me than here. I think the time that’s spent in LA, between you and Mayor Garcetti and me, we were all long-time, multigenerational Southern Californians to whom the region really mattered.
John Bwarie: And that made a difference in LA, for sure.
Dr. Lucy Jones: And it’s, you know, a small percentage of LA.
John Bwarie: But resilience inherently is, if it’s based on what you’ve said, is based in community, has to be localized. It can’t be abstract.
Dr. Lucy Jones: You know, the emergency managers will say all disasters are local, right? You might have a federal response and federal money, but inherently what’s going on is local.
John Bwarie: And all politics is local. I mean if you think about elected officials, it all comes down to what’s happening in your front yard, on your street, on your block.
Dr. Lucy Jones: And that means resilience has to be local, because it’s disaster and politics put together.
John Bwarie: That’s an interesting definition. Resilience is disasters plus politics equals either positive or negative resilience.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Negative resilience, yes.
John Bwarie: Right? So how does a community member listening to this say, “Okay, I love my neighborhood, I love my community.” What do they do about earthquake, if they’re in Southern California, if they’re in California, if they’re … whatever disaster they face, how do they build it? What’s your advice?
Dr. Lucy Jones: Number one, get some real science information and figure out what your real risk is. Human beings are not wired to process risk rationally. We are evolved to respond to risk in a way that helps you faced with a predator chasing you down on the Savanna. Some of that is logical and some of it’s not. So invest the time and try to be as open-minded as you can about what are your real risks? It might be debris flows. You might be at a lot more risk from debris flows than earthquakes, depending on your community. Wildfire risk is growing, there’s … figure it out.
Then there’s … resilience is going to be three parts. There’s what you do individually, and that tends to be the way we think about it. Mostly that’s where people focus. And it’s important, but it’s far from sufficient. The second level is at community organizations. Don’t do this alone. Go to your neighbor, go to your church, go to … let’s do this together, let’s plan together. How are we going to help each other afterwards? Then there’s what you do at sort of the next level up of local government, and that means letting your elected officials know that this matters to you. Yes, I want to invest some money in infrastructure, because you know, we complain about potholes in roads or we’ve got problems with the water system. They’re irritating now. They are potentially catastrophic in the disaster, and that investment of fundamental infrastructure, you know, an elected official’s going to do what his constituents want. If he doesn’t hear about this, he’s not going to be responding to it. If he does, maybe he’s not going to respond right away, but enough people start saying it, it’s going to make a difference. Let’s elevate those infrastructure, boring infrastructure issues, sort of the bones of our community, up to say they’re important.
John Bwarie: Well, it’s three parts to a complex equation. It’s no easy feat to do that, it takes time. But you’ve got to start.
Dr. Lucy Jones: We got to start. And, you know, it’s part of a lot of other things. If you help your church get more resilient, you’re also just helping the church upgrade.
John Bwarie: Right, and building a stronger community.
Dr. Lucy Jones: You know, in addition to these three things of individual, organizations, and government, there’s also the corporate side of a community. I mean, a community has businesses in it and they are part of the community and they depend on it and they’re going to be a really fundamental part of recovery, of resilience. If the business doesn’t survive the disruption, those are jobs that disappear, and then those are people that disappear because they don’t have the job.
John Bwarie: So where are you seeing examples of this, steps being taken by business?
Dr. Lucy Jones: Some of them really are saying, “Okay, we’re part of this.” There’s some businesses where it’s part of their business to do, right? You’re going to see them most likely if you .. if you’re building earthquake resisting systems, you’re going to be out there really trying to do it. But there’s other, you know, your big employers … Start recognizing that that infrastructure is necessary for you to do your job.
It’s interesting, when you really look at a startup, an entrepreneur, that’s somebody who doesn’t believe that real risk, the ordinary risks, apply to them. Right? Because if you thought, if you really have analyzed the risks of starting a business, you probably wouldn’t do it, right? You’ve got to believe that you’re better than average and you’re going to be the one that pulls out. So you’re inherently somebody who doesn’t do a lot of risk management.
But, and I think you … like in Silicon Valley, those guys are all crazy entrepreneurs that took incredible risks and pulled it out. So they are inherently … they don’t think about it in those terms, but they’re now turning into trillion-dollar companies and they’re starting to go, “Whoa, we can’t just treat this the same way.” We’re starting to see quite a bit of like, I don’t know, earthquake planning going on in the Bay Area among the Silicon Valley, the tech giants. It’s a new endeavor for them, because they … and it’s part of that transition from being a crazy little startup to a major company.
John Bwarie: I heard one of them say that they realized that even if they don’t want to be part of the community for the recovery, people are going to look to them because they’re shiny and bright and they may have the lights on because they’ve done some internal planning and so people will flock to them anyway and they need to sort of plan for how the community will be received by their campus or their stores or whatever the case may be.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Right, and they have to actually be up.
John Bwarie: Right.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Right? There’s sort of this stage, “It doesn’t apply to me, oh wait a minute, now I’m big, I really got to plan for this, so I’ve got to plan for my community. Wait a minute, I got to plan for the surrounding community because they’re going to be turning to me.” But also there’s the flip side, you aren’t going to be up and running if your local community hasn’t invested in good water pipes, right? So how do you then turn and say, “Help the community get good water pipes,” and don’t have them just say, “Well you have money, why don’t you pay for it?” It’s a place where you’ve got to start coming together and once you really look at the disaster issues, you start realizing you don’t get to do it alone. Your success is going to depend on somebody else’s success and vice versa, and that web of community starts closing in on you again, and so for … there’s a lot of people who are just more comfortable going off on their own and that works to some extent, but disasters are a time when doing it on your own is a lot less likely to be successful.
John Bwarie: This was great. So I’d like to start our lightning round. Who is a leader who has influenced you and your work?
Dr. Lucy Jones: Eric Garcetti.
John Bwarie: What was your worst media interview?
Dr. Lucy Jones: Oh, that one’s easy. The time I lost my temper and said, “You’ve got to understand, on a global scale this is a puny earthquake.”
John Bwarie: Followup, was that early in your career?
Dr. Lucy Jones: 1991, somebody was trying to argue that the magnitude five here in LA must’ve been caused by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo.
John Bwarie: If you had a magic wand, what’s one law you would pass to build stronger communities?
Dr. Lucy Jones: Better water pipes.
John Bwarie: Doorframes, good or bad?
Dr. Lucy Jones: Bad.
John Bwarie: What book has changed the way you think about your work in community?
Dr. Lucy Jones: Kathryn Schulz’s Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. Recognizing why scientists think differently and how … our inability to admit that we’re wrong influences so many things.
John Bwarie: When an earthquake strikes, what do you, Dr. Lucy Jones, do in the first 30 minutes?
Dr. Lucy Jones: First 30 minutes.
John Bwarie: Yeah that’s a lot of time.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Okay, so first I drop, cover, hold on, hopefully.
John Bwarie: Right, right.
Dr. Lucy Jones: Right, I’ve kept myself safe. I used to be that I then ran to the office to get the information. Now at least I go to my computer to get the information. There’s something within a minute, and now I tweet it because I can put it out on Twitter and eliminate the need for an awful lot of interviews.
John Bwarie: So what happens three hours after an earthquake?
Dr. Lucy Jones: All right, so a big enough earthquake, we’re really looking at what the data are. After an earthquake, other earthquakes happen. It’s the only time we know when earthquakes are going to happen, so making sure our recording systems are working properly is incredibly important, and I no longer get paid by the USGS, but I’m going to want to be making sure what that is.
By three hours out, we’re really going to have a handle on what sort of aftershock sequence we’re starting to go into, what the faults are, probably have a pretty good handle on where the damage is, whether or not we’re going to be talking about casualties. If we’re talking about a four-and-a-half that really hasn’t damaged much, just really scared a lot of people, I’m probably doing interviews. If we are talking about a significant earthquake that’s really causing problems, I’m probably talking with policy makers at that point that are going to be asking me for information. “What should I be doing?” My guess is I’ll be getting calls from city hall and from Sacramento asking for help.
John Bwarie: Other than food and water, what should someone have procured immediately after an earthquake in a densely populated urban area?
Dr. Lucy Jones: I would have cash, because without electricity, and your credit card isn’t working.
John Bwarie: What advice do you give 25-year-old you?
Dr. Lucy Jones: It’s going to be more fun than you thought.
John Bwarie: What was the best career decision you ever made?
Dr. Lucy Jones: Starting Multi-Hazards. It changed why I did my life.
John Bwarie: What so far has been your proudest professional moment?
Dr. Lucy Jones: What happened with the city of Los Angeles, the Resilience by Design program. It was science getting used in a way that I couldn’t have imagined at the beginning of my career.
John Bwarie: Thanks for listening to Community Intelligence, and for more information on this and other episodes, visit our website at stratiscope.com. At Stratiscope, we provide community intelligence services to businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies. Let us know how we can help you.