Resilience is a way of living, preparing, and creating abundance.

Resilient communities are capable of bouncing back from hard times and shocks. They do this by influencing and preparing for economic, social and environmental change. They do this both actively and also passively through the inherent design of the system.

When times are bad they can call upon the many resouces that make them a healthy community. Their social capital means that they have good information and communication networks, and a community that shares and helps as needed.

Resilience uses ancient wisdom and modern science. It relies on design, technology, and action, that enables people and communities to absorb change and bounce back from shocks and hard times. Resilience means being able to call upon resources we prepared beforehand. Our social capital gives us good information and communication, and our community shares and helps. Our design and preparedness strengthen us, and the diversity and creativity of our solutions respond to local circumstances.

Resilience has important economic and social implications.

Fragility[edit | edit source]

Without resilience, highly ordered social structures are reduced to chaos and crisis in the face of adversity. With resilience, we create abundance in good times and security in bad.

Optimization for efficiency in a routine context with little change leads to fragility in the face of the unexpected. There is usually a trade-off between efficiency and resilience.

However it may be that too much emphasis on putting aside reserves, at the cost of efficiency, would not be ideal for resilience either. Less productivity compounded over a few years will lead to significantly less reserve, in terms of production capacity and reserve stocks (emergency supplies).

In contrast to efficiency, focusing on abundance enhances everyday life and effective productivity as well as creating resilience. An abundance focus - avoiding waste, improving productivity through the nurturing of soils, reuse of resources.

Even with technological advances and even if we choose simple living (which seems unlikely) however, the closer we approach the limits of the earth's carrying capacity, the less buffering capacity and the less resilience we have. Maintaining a spreaded (little-urbanized) and low population number is hence also part of creating resilience. (see Human population management)

Shocks[edit | edit source]

Shocks are by nature unexpected - in spite of the confidence of forecasts by government and other experts, we don't know what we face in future.

Complexity[edit | edit source]

Humans and nature make up social-ecological systems - an ecosystem of interdependent elements. Our systems are complex, unpredictable, in constant flux. There is no blueprint for being resilient, but a toolkit of solutions and a sourcebook and laboratory of ideas.

What is resilience?[edit | edit source]

The benefits of resilience to a community include:

  • Diversity of character and creative solutions responding to local circumstances
  • Meeting local needs even in the substantial absence of travel and transport

Resilience is a serious topic with important economic and social implications - it is not a fringe environmentalist idea. For example, see the writings of John Robb and Jeff Vail, whose websites portray them as military intelligence and geopolitical experts, with specialties in counter-terrorism and the like, acting as consultants and lecturers to government alphabet agencies. Each talks at length about resilient communities. Vail also uses the phrase, which he may have coined, the hamlet economy,[1] and describes it as "as a non-hierarchal network of self-sufficient but interacting nodes."

How is resilience created?[edit | edit source]

Resilience is created through diversity, preparedness, wisdom and abundance.

Social cohesion[edit | edit source]

Willingness to cooperate and share resources.

Solutions designed and implemented by members of the community, working together.

Local services and joint efforts focus on the ecosystem: community gardens, urban gardens, green roofs, parks and forests.

Diversity and redundancy[edit | edit source]

Each element in the system performs multiple functions, and each function is served by multiple elements. Diversity of action and design gives us choices and backups - multiple local sources for food, water and energy. In our gardens it gives us a variety of flavors, a longer harvest, and resistance to disease. In our living environment it gives us richness of experience.

This applies to skills also. For example medical specialists are very valuable having medical skills (first aid and more) throughout the community enables a better response than having only medical specialists. This is especially true in more isolated communities, or those with less availability of medical care; in all cases the need is greater in cases of disaster or shock that affect the availability of medical services. (See Where There Is No Doctor).

Preparedness[edit | edit source]

Thinking ahead, conserving, studying and planning for our future. Preparing for hard times that may or may not come, in a form that we cannot predict.

Although it involves planning for the worst, resilience allows us to live with the best when things go well, by giving us abundance and security.

Wisdom[edit | edit source]

Globally shared solutions to local challenges, a commons of tools and ideas, an understanding of context.

Abundance[edit | edit source]

Creating more than we need, a buffer against harsh times. Resilience is joyful, abundant living, creating more than we need - preparing for hard times whenever they come, and creating a thrivable future whatever may come.

Resilience is distinct from sustainability[edit | edit source]

Resilience is distinct from sustainability, but with much overlap.

The concept of resilience is distinct from the more-often-mentioned concept of sustainability. For example, plastics recycling is almost certainly better for the environment as a whole, but adds nearly no resilience to the community. However, developing other uses for waste plastics requiring minimal processing, which can be processed and used locally, adds resilience - for example compressed building blocks or insulating products.

See Industrial ecology and No such thing as waste.

Looking back[edit | edit source]

There was much in the past that we would never wish to return to: life was often miserable, debilitating and short, and in many ways there was a terrible lack of freedom, that today we would find strange, if not intolerable. Lives were shorter, and less "soft" as George Monbiot writes. We would not want to return to this - and yet, there is much that we can learn in the inventive and careful ways that society responded to its challenges.

The Australian Aboriginal and Papua New Guinean idea of sacred sites provided a reservoir of protected animals that would always be able to breed, giving resilience to their population. No-fishing zones work on the same principles today.[verification needed] (No-fishing zones work well when enforced on a local or national scale, but they are difficult to apply in international zones, leading to a "tragedy of the Commons" dilemma.)

Why local is important[edit | edit source]

The set of solutions that will work in one place may not work in other places, because of unique demographics and physical attributes.

When travel and transport become difficult or expensive, the resilient community experiences less impact.

Why wider networks are important[edit | edit source]

A large interconnected system offers advantages in resilience also - the whole can absorb shocks in a part.

Amartya Sen research on famines found that they have never occured in a democracy with a free press. A government concerned about what voters think will always fix the problem. This shows that there is enough resilience and response within the national system to respond to a calamity affecting part of the country. They can do that by mobilizing resources from the larger system and economy.

It is unwise to rely entirely on this, however, as a calamity on an unprecedented scale (national or larger) will be much more difficult to solve. Also, it is clearly better to not have the calamity in the first place,

Design and technology[edit | edit source]

Earthquakes and other natural disasters occur around the world - however it is usually only in poorer countries that experience major disasters, with tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of deaths, and larger numbers of people displaced.

This is due to a lack of:

  • Design - the awareness, financial resources and regulations to ensure that houses are safe and shelters are available.
  • Technology - advance warning systems and public alert systems are typically not prepared. Note that this is firstly a matter of prioritization and effective governance, as there are generally a range of possible solutions, including affordable systems using existing technologies and communication systems.

The resilient community within society[edit | edit source]

Resilient communities influence their environments and prepare for change, whether economic, social or environmental. They are active in influencing their environments and passively prepared through resilient design.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Re-Post: Hamlet Economy, Jeff Vail, July 28, 2008,

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

This page contains public domain content from Of Resilient Communities & Ecovillages,, Sep 25, 2008.

FA info icon.svg Angle down icon.svg Page data
Authors Chris Watkins
License CC-BY-SA-3.0
Language English (en)
Related 0 subpages, 30 pages link here
Aliases Resilient, Define resilience
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Created December 11, 2008 by Chris Watkins
Modified April 29, 2024 by Kathy Nativi
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