Inspired by the insights of ecologist like CS Holling....

May 9, 2015

Inspired by the insights of ecologists like C.S. Holling, a new professional society has emerged during the last 15 years called the Resilience Alliance. Following Holling's description of natural systems and how they function, [1] the Resilience Alliance has concluded that this quantitative approach to sustainability is "based on false assumptions. In a world characterized by dynamic change in ecological and social systems, it is at least as important to manage systems to enhance their resilience as it is to manage the supply of specific products." Using the quantitative approach, the Alliance claims, "We have assumed that we could manage individual components of an ecological system independently, find an optimal balance between supply and demand for each component, and that other attributes of the system would stay largely constant through time." [2] Given how both social and ecological systems function, that is a fundamentally flawed assumption. All social and biophysical systems are constantly changing. The basic message from the resilience thinkers is that doing more of the same -- new technologies, greater efficiency, more control and command, more intensification, more single tactic strategies -- without addressing the resilience of systems will not lead to sustainability. A central problem is that the kind of efficiency that leads to optimization tends to eliminate redundancies -- the key ingredient of resilience. Additionally, the achievement of such efficiencies tends to cause rebound effects. More fuel-efficient cars inevitably lead to more driving.


Source: "Redefining Sustainability: From "Greening' to Enhancing Capacity for Self-Renewal" August 2008 Author(s): Fred Kirschenmann {This piece first appeared in the July/August 2008 issue of "The Networker," the electronic newsletter of the Science and Environmental Health Network.

Please reload