Tuesday, 8 September 2009


One definition of resilience is "the ability to recover or adjust easily to misfortune or change."

Climate change is here... and here.

We can expect large changes in our way of life. There are communities that are attempting to adapt to new ways of living. The strategy with which I am most familiar is the Transition Town movement.

I have been to a meeting, in Kapunda, with people who are worried about climate change and its implications for our town. That is how I came to be thinking about resilience and the ability of communities to adapt to the coming changes. The people at the meeting were mostly fairly well informed about the issues and consequences and wanted to know what to do next. Some people are angry, some are worried or frightened, but the main concern is what exactly to do about those members of the community who seem blissfully unaware of the issues involved. What is possible? ...for a relatively small group of people who need to encourage the community to make the necessary adjustments to the way that we are living which is so dependent on profligate use of oil, gas and coal. There were discussions about meetings, newsletters, documenting our own situation and how to measure achievement.

Time is running out and changes need to be made. It is too risky to wait until we have more information. If the risks were small, we could afford to wait until more information, all of the facts, is in. As someone at the Kapunda meeting commented, the answer to those who think that we have plenty of time... are you willing to wager the planet on that assumption! One way or another, change is coming.

No one can predict precisely how our lives will be different, though some things are obvious. The need to reduce carbon emissions leads to the conclusion that we (in the industrialised world) will need to live with considerably less energy input in the future. We should have an energy descent action plan so that we can manage these changes, rather than have chaotic change happen to us. Those who advocate managing this change are not suggesting a "stone-age" existence nor an uncomfortable one... there might even be some advantages in having a localised economy, and a more resilient community.

So, if change is inevitable, the choice is to sit back and let it happen, or to manage that change and end up with healthy happy communities rather than the "Mad Max" scenario that some are predicting. In order to manage change, it is necessary to have a positive vision for the future. Despair and anger over loss takes energy that is needed for the work to be done. It is more productive to do some "visioning", make plans for the future and implement those plans. This kind of strategic thinking is no more than the common sense that most people have used throughout history, and there is no reason to think that this generation is any less well prepared than any other for even revolutionary change. Resilient communities are (by definition) better able to adjust to change.

Reduction in carbon emissions is clearly a part of the preparation for a "lower energy" future. However there are other indicators of resilience in a community. These might include local food production and consumption, locally owned businesses and essential goods production, local employment, less traffic and a slower pace of life. Change yes, but not all for the worse.

I am lucky to be more resilient (able to adapt to change) than most people, but it is something that I have learned. There are people who are lucky enough to have had lives that are less chaotic than mine, and haven't needed to be adaptable, but everyone can learn this kind of strategic thinking. This is an exciting time to be alive and share in the creation of local sustainable communities beyond oil dependency.

Local resilience is worth considering! and it might even be fun!

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