It's the Environment, Stupid.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Resilience vs. Sustainable Development

Can resilience be the new sustainable development?

From an initial look at the term it seems to include a capacity to adapt to or ability to recover from changing conditions. This adaptive feature is something that sustainable development is lacking. Resilience, in a development context, might even be more action oriented where sustainable development isn't.

In a 2005 Science Magazine article about the tsunami of Dec 2004, the authors make reference to efforts in rehabilitating coral reefs. They say these efforts are not wide enough in scope, and that instead “ should be directed to provide ecologically sustainable, long-term employment for coastal communities, to eliminate poverty, and to improve local and regional governance systems for managing the natural resilience of coral reefs.”

This article also talks about how the concepts of ecological and social memory are crucial in resilience, rebuilding and prevention (in the context of disaster management) - meaning we can learn from the past to know how to better plan for the future.

Can resilience take over where sustainable development leaves off? I've only just begun to look into this, so by all means comment away...


  • Resilience
    1 : the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress
    2 : an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change

    Sounds like a very good definition. As Amy so aptly points out an adaptive system has distinct advantages. There will always be stress, always be unpredictable events, always be conflict. What hope is there for the future if there is no built-in ability to recover. Without resilience will all recovery need to be actively managed: re-active instead of active, re-constructive instead of constructive, prescriptive instead of adaptive.

    Amy states “From an initial look at the term it seems to include…” And that is what resilience is, a term. The only difference between resilience and sustainable development is the way the letters are arranged. Terms are semantics. We could call it flexible growth or cultivative alteration (don’t even think of stealing these terms, they’re MINE), it doesn’t matter. Changing the term used from sustainable development to resilience will change nothing.

    What is necessary is what Amy is actually realizing. That any sustainable process needs to incorporate an innate ability to recover and adapt that is not reliant on constant human managing. Effective management is predicated on predictability and the universe is inherently chaotic. Changing the terms changes nothing. Just make development better and that is what Amy is really doing. That is unless you want to get published, then arguing about terms is a good idea. I think it is obvious that Amy wants to change the world, not her resume. Watch out world.

    That is all.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 20:29  

  • Amy would love to attribute "flexible growth" and "cultivative alteration" to their rightful owner, however what Amy is realizing is the anonymous poster preferred to remain anonymous.

    By Blogger Amy Marpman, at 20:43  

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