Resilience Thinking: an article for the latest ‘Resurgence’
[Excerpt] Resilience; “the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganise while undergoing change, so as to retain essentially the same function, structure, identity and feedbacks”
...The term ‘resilience’ is appearing more frequently in discussions about environmental concerns, and it has a strong claim to actually being a more useful concept than that of sustainability. Sustainability and its oxymoronic offspring sustainable development are commonly held to be a sufficient response to the scale of the climate challenge we face: to reduce the inputs at one end of the globalised economic growth model (energy, resources, and so on) while reducing the outputs at the other end (pollution, carbon emissions, etc.). However, responses to climate change that do not also address the imminent, or quite possibly already passed, peak in world oil production do not adequately address the nature of the challenge we face...
...The concept of resilience emerged from within the ecological sciences as a way of looking at why some systems collapse when they encounter shock, and some don’t. The insights gleaned now offer a very useful overview for determining how systems can adapt and thrive in changing circumstances. Resilience within communities, for example, depends upon;”
Diversity: a broader base of livelihoods, land use, enterprise and energy systems than at present
Modularity: not advocating self-sufficiency, but rather an increased self-reliance; with ‘surge protectors’ for the local economy, such as local food production and decentralised energy systems
Tightness of feedbacks: bringing the results of our actions closer to home, so that we cannot ignore them
A recent report by the think tank DEMOS, Resilient Nation, raised the question, “Resilient to what?” Are we building resilience in the face of peak oil and climate change, or of terrorism and pandemics? While it is clearly not an either/or situation, I would argue strongly that peak oil and climate change are so far-reaching and destabilising that we really must give them precedence, the solutions that arise being markedly different from addressing terrorism or pandemics. But what would this kind of resilience thinking look like in practice?...
Originally published in Resurgence Magazine. The pdf of the article can be downloaded here.