Tuesday, September 14, 2010

More on Resilience: Adapting to Change

The concept of resilience is back as a hot topic for the last several months. Yes! Magazine just completed its August issue focusing on resilience; Ode Magazine and other publications have also focused on this idea. After the recent massive floods in Pakistan and Ladakh, and other natural disasters, resilience comes to mind as a way to cope with these extreme disruptions. There's also the resilient aspect of managing the economic downturns and building economies that better withstand downward cycles.

Coming from a scientific roots resilience speaks to the notion of bouncing back. How to recover, adapt, create flexibility so that a system can change as it confronts adversity. Nature does it in how it recovers from wildfires, floods, droughts; species are resilient in how they adapt to cold temperatures, scarcity of food, water, etc. And when it comes to humans... how resilient are we?

At the personal level, our bodies are remarkably resilient in fighting disease, healing from trauma, and adapting to change. At a community level, the resiliency of our food, energy, water, infrastructure becomes more vulnerable. We become less dependent when we rely on a regional power grid, water systems that source water from long distances and food that travels thousands of miles on trucks running of fuel with price fluctuations. Perhaps resilience is closely related to localization: home grown skills from growing local food, local energy and water sources and building a strong social capital base that taps on the local labor, experience and expertise.

Resilience is also about awareness that change is a constant-- that challenge is how we adapt to change. Strength to cope with change comes from working with our neighbors and identifying the skill sets to become more flexible in, for example, insulating our homes, developing an efficient transit system or schools that are rooted in knowledge about their local communities.

All these factors balance place-making, community building and sharing social and natural capital.


For more info. about resilience, check out:
The Resilience 2011 conference takes place March 11-16, 2011 at Arizona State University.