East and West

Resilience Or Survival

As a consequence of our inaction, we are starting to see the concept of resilience replacing sustainability as a goal.

Resilience Or Survival

Many of the new ideas about sustainability and resilience are nothing more than a recognition that the old ways of living are actually good, as seen today in small villages throughout Europe, Mexico, Latin America, Asia and Africa.

In our Western culture of over-consumerism, we have actually missed the opportunity of reaching any kind of sustainability. Perhaps we never have actually understood what that concept is all about. I always thought that the original sustainable development term – which was coined 20 years ago in the 1987 UN report, Our Common Future – was a total oxymoron.

Perhaps the main reason that we never got it, is that such a level of true understanding of what is at stake requires being proactive. We need to think about the implications of our lifestyle, think about consequences. Yikes, that is too much work, so why bother? It is easier just to keep on BAUing (Business As Usual) and pretend everything is fine.

As a consequence of our inaction, we are starting to see the concept of resilience replacing sustainability as a goal.

Perhaps this is because we are finally realizing that the imminent threats of global warming, climate change, overpopulation, poverty, religious wars, peak oil, food scarcity, etc. are real. So we are now talking about the need to become resilient, to be ready to cope with all the social, economic and environmental changes and challenges that are coming.

Suddenly, a sense of urgency is in the air, and there is talk about local resilience and resilient communities. If we don’t understand these concepts, and make changes necessary for a significantly different way of life, sooner or later we will be forced into facing the next level down: becoming survival communities of sorts.

The diagram tries to graph this idea. We have already missed the sustainability plateau and we are starting the descent. Maybe we can stop the fall at the resiliency plateau. If we can’t, we will then face really difficult times.

Originally published in The Watershed Sentinel, June-July 2008

40 comments on the article “Resilience Or Survival”

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Anonymous

This magazine is a joke. I used to think it had some insightful commentary on modern culture, but its starting to sound more like the rants of an ill educated sophomore studying philosophy. This essay provides no evidence to support its argument. We are just expected to accept that our society is no longer sustainable, because the author says so. And we are expected to take accept as evidence a back-of-the-envelope diagram of what will happen next.

I can tell that a lot of work and thought went into that diagram, let examine what it tells us. The Y-axis is labeled growth (not level of development), and from this we infer that growth increases as time (the x-axis) goes on. The author describes a nation as developed or developing based on its growth; that is, a developing nation is growing slower. This is completely false, as evidenced by the double-digit growth of China and India in recent years, while the developed would has been happy with 3%. And when this crash occurs, notice that growth is still positive; we are to illogically infer that since we reached earth's capacity, we will have to grow slower. It's too bad the author didn't spend more time thinking about what he was drawing, rather than just focusing on how he could draw a drop off.

The author would also have us believe that we have exceeded earth's carrying capacity, but gives us no evidence of what earth's carrying capacity is; we can infer from the diagram that it was sometime in the 1980s. But these Malthusian arguments have never held, because they fail to consider that people adapt. Yes, if we were all hunter-gatherers 6 billion people would not fit. But we have made tremendous strides in the ability to feed the world, and will continue to.

I've got an open mind, but I have little tolerance for those who make wide sweeping criticisms without backing up (or thinking through) their arguments.

Anonymous

This magazine is a joke. I used to think it had some insightful commentary on modern culture, but its starting to sound more like the rants of an ill educated sophomore studying philosophy. This essay provides no evidence to support its argument. We are just expected to accept that our society is no longer sustainable, because the author says so. And we are expected to take accept as evidence a back-of-the-envelope diagram of what will happen next.

I can tell that a lot of work and thought went into that diagram, let examine what it tells us. The Y-axis is labeled growth (not level of development), and from this we infer that growth increases as time (the x-axis) goes on. The author describes a nation as developed or developing based on its growth; that is, a developing nation is growing slower. This is completely false, as evidenced by the double-digit growth of China and India in recent years, while the developed would has been happy with 3%. And when this crash occurs, notice that growth is still positive; we are to illogically infer that since we reached earth's capacity, we will have to grow slower. It's too bad the author didn't spend more time thinking about what he was drawing, rather than just focusing on how he could draw a drop off.

The author would also have us believe that we have exceeded earth's carrying capacity, but gives us no evidence of what earth's carrying capacity is; we can infer from the diagram that it was sometime in the 1980s. But these Malthusian arguments have never held, because they fail to consider that people adapt. Yes, if we were all hunter-gatherers 6 billion people would not fit. But we have made tremendous strides in the ability to feed the world, and will continue to.

I've got an open mind, but I have little tolerance for those who make wide sweeping criticisms without backing up (or thinking through) their arguments.

Anonymous

this is why left wing idea's are not taken seriously in the mainstream, and it angers me that there isnt more quality control on some of the writters in this mag... the cockiness and ignorence is sickening... what, u make up a graph with no reserch to back it up then have the nerve to refere to that graph as the background for your debate... the writter sounds like a born again christian who keeps refering to the bible for evidance of christ...

Anonymous

this is why left wing idea's are not taken seriously in the mainstream, and it angers me that there isnt more quality control on some of the writters in this mag... the cockiness and ignorence is sickening... what, u make up a graph with no reserch to back it up then have the nerve to refere to that graph as the background for your debate... the writter sounds like a born again christian who keeps refering to the bible for evidance of christ...

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