USA: Social infrastructure can help save us from the ravages of climate change

Los Angeles Times

By Eric Klinenberg


Social infrastructure is a new concept, but it is just as concrete and vital as the roads and pipes and cables that deliver power, water and transportation. Social infrastructure includes public places such as libraries, parks, playgrounds and schools that are government supported and accessible to everyone. It also includes nonprofit organizations such as churches, synagogues or the YMCA that depend on philanthropic or community support.

When social infrastructure is robust, people are more likely to encounter and interact with friends and strangers. The more that happens, the more trust, cohesion and — when things go well — community develop. When social infrastructure is well-maintained, even those who disagree respect one another’s common humanity — and during disasters that can make the difference between life and death.


People who do disaster planning have already identified religious organizations as key first responders and linchpins of community resilience — in part because they are ubiquitous. In the United States, there are more than 300,000 religious congregations. “To put that number in context,” writes one group of sociologists, “religious congregations are more common than Subways, McDonald’s, Burger Kings, Wendy’s, Starbucks, Pizza Huts, KFCs, Taco Bells, Domino’s Pizzas, Dunkin’ Donuts, Quiznos and Dairy Queens combined and multiplied by three.”


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