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Forget Sustainability, It's Time to Talk Resilience

by Elizabeth Ryan 

Tags: Environment, climate change, resilience, sustainability, Resurgence, Elizabeth Ryan,

resurg-coverThere's a new concept infiltrating the climate change conversation (pdf), and it has the potential to change the conversation altogether. It’s time to give sustainability a rest and start talking about resilience, Rob Hopkins writes in Resurgence.

“The term ‘resilience’ is appearing more frequently in discussions about environmental concerns, and it has a strong claim to actually being a more successful concept than that of sustainability. Sustainability and its oxymoronic offspring sustainable development are commonly held to be a sufficient response to the scale of the climate challenge we face: to reduce the inputs at one end of the globalised economic growth model (energy, resources, and so on) while reducing the outputs at the other end (pollution, carbon emissions, etc.). However, responses to climate change that do not also address the imminent, or quite possibly already passed, peak in world oil production do not adequately address the nature of the challenge we face.”

The concept takes into account how systems can survive disturbances intact, and Hopkins says the framework is crucial to communities’ chances of thriving “beyond the current economic turmoil the world is seeing.” A supermarket is a good example of how to explain this new kind of thinking, he says:

“It may be possible to increase its sustainability and to reduce its carbon emissions by using less packaging, putting photovoltaics on the roof and installing more energy-efficient fridges. However, resilience thinking would argue that the closure of local food shops and networks that resulted from the opening of the supermarket, as well as the fact that the store itself only contains two days’ worth of food at any moment – the majority of which has been transported great distances to get there – has massively reduced the resilience of community food security, as well as increasing its oil vulnerability.”

Source: Resurgence