Thursday, July 8, 2010

Resilience: Personal and Community Levels

The term resilience seems to be coming up frequently in my readings, dialogues and in literature about sustainability and preparing for climate change, etc. With roots in the scientific community, the science of resilience has a systems perspective that gives it a valuable framework. In daily life, we can think about how we make our communities, our networks and ourselves more resilient to navigate the challenges ahead.

Since change is inevitable, resilience deals with how we can adapt and regroup from changes--natural disturbances may include fires and floods. Nature responds to these changes by adapting and evolving--- examples include the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State, the fires at Yellowstone National Park, and the coastline destruction from Hurricane Katrina; other disturbances to natural resources include scarcity of water, food, or energy.

What about our social networks? How do we increase our resiliency and effectively respond to disasters and shortages in our communities? During Hurricane Katrina, for example, the Vietnamese community fared remarkably well because of their close community relations--- neighbors knowing their neighbors and helping each other. At the social level resiliency begins with education about the source of our water, food, energy and economic vitality. Then, we extend this knowledge to acting on behalf of our community-- instilling a sense of ownership-- caring about what keeps our communities thriving.

At a personal level, resilience involves what I describe in the final "S" of the SPIRALS Framework in my book, Thriving Beyond Sustainability, namely, Self-care. We "bounce back" and adapt to change by recognizing what nourishes us-- it may be exercise, hobbies, connecting with friends... There's also an element of re-examining our belief system and questioning our assumptions so that we are open and resilient to change.

For more info about resiliency, check out:
Resilience Thinking, by Brian Walker (People and Place (Vol. 1 Issue 2, 2008)