Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Resilience can be effective in turbulent times

Petra Tschakert in the Centre Daily: …While we can adopt a doomsday vision of abrupt and irreversible environmental change, we would be better served to acknowledge that challenges, surprises and even chaos always lurk around the corner and to learn new ways to respond to such inevitable disturbances. Rather than learning by shock, in other words, we should learn how to prepare for and adapt to a future marked by uncertainty and instability.

This is at the heart of the concept of resilience. In essence, resilience is about developing the capacity to absorb disturbance without losing the ability to function. It’s about working with natural ecological and socioeconomic cycles. And it’s about embracing change and taking advantage of opportunities to regenerate and revive after major changes or shocks — such as Hurricane Katrina — have occurred.

Resilience assumes that solving the complex problems we face today — global climate change, global economic inequities — requires more than greater efficiencies and better controls. Such business-as-usual approaches tend to value stability and growth and miss the opportunities opened up by surprise and unpredictability. Instead, creativity, experimentation and envisioning are the tools we need to pursue sustainable resource management and build a resilient world.

A resilient world promotes the biological and landscape diversity essential to buffer against low-level disturbances. Agricultural fields planted with several crops rather than a single crop, for instance, are more resilient to disease and pest attacks than monoculture fields. Small-scale prescribed burns not only prevent the catastrophic wildfires that devastate forests, but they can improve diverse habitat and enhance rejuvenation without detrimental damage.

Resilience in social systems can best be seen in community efforts to strengthen social ties through the development of walkable neighborhoods, public transit, urban gardens and farmers markets. Such “transition towns” are creating bold yet possible visions for a future without fossil fuels….

Photo of a Swiss Army knife by Jonas Bergsten, Wikimedia Commons

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