Grit BinIt may seem a long way from the news of 100 extra Grit Bins in Bristol, to the on-going Typhoon Haiyan relief effort in the Philippines, but there is a lot the World can learn from the humble grit bin.

It’s all about ‘resilience’. That’s helping people to help themselves recover from difficult situations. And resilient communities are what we are going to need in spades in the coming years, from Bristol to the Philippines, to help people cope with climate change.

It’s a depressing time for environmental scientists at the moment. The cost of climate change is becoming ever clearer. From the cost to taxpayers like you and me for the Council to still be cutting the grass in our parks in December, to international relief efforts, like that in the Philippines, as more and more extreme weather disasters hit us. Yet as these dangers become clearer, our politicians seem perversely less and less able to act. No wonder the Russell Brand generation has given up on politics.

So we are going to need to help ourselves more. To be more resilient. To be prepared as we used to say in the Scouts.

I used to work with a charity that helps countries like the Philippines to be better prepared for disasters. In earlier emergencies, like the Pakistan earthquake or Bangladeshi floods, more people are often at risk from disease and starvation after the disaster has struck, than from the original disaster itself. One solution is a sort of yellow emergency bin, not full of grit, but full of animal feed and veterinary supplies in secure locations above flood zones. Then people can help themselves, not just wait around for outside aid to arrive.

If Bristol was to flood again, should we sit around waiting for help, or would it be better to have community wardens with access to some basic equipment stored in their community, so that neighbours could get together and help each other?

It’s an approach that could even help our cash starved Councils do things differently with less. And Bristol is already leading in a small way on this with its plans to cope with any winter snow and ice.

The City has 100 extra grit bins being installed, and has recruited nearly 100 volunteer community snow wardens equipped with snow shovels to help clear paths.

I was amazed in the past few winters of prolonged cold spells by how few people bothered to clear their own path when the snow first fell, leaving it to turn to crushed ice making it deadly for everyone. In many American cities where snow is common it is illegal not to clear the path outside your house.

So if we have a white Christmas, get out there and help clear your pavement. That big yellow grit bin might just be a glimpse of our more resilient future.

Paul Rainger is director of Bristol’s BIG Green Week Festival in June.