‘Resilience is the new sustainability’ as spoken at the recent Local Government NZ Annual Conference. My ears pricked up. I hear the word sustainability a lot. I use the word regularly. It is a key word in our district vision. It is often quoted and often misunderstood. And now it’s being teamed with resilience. Hmmm - interesting. So, I did a bit of googling…
One article states that sustainability simply means to endure – makes sense to me, although this does not define whether it’s appropriate or not. Take plastic for example – hate to use plastic and sustainable in the same sentence.
I like this definition – ‘Sustainability is the ability to continue a defined behaviour indefinitely’.
Now resilience is the capacity of a system to survive, adapt, and grow in the face of unforeseen changes, even catastrophic incidents. (http://resilience.osu.edu/CFR-site/concepts.htm). In simple terms, I guess the cockroach is the perfect example here.
Michael Kramer states ‘resiliency offers a guiding principle that can shape our thinking, our planning and our actions in ways that keep us flexible and responsive to whatever changes may come. Resilience includes: anticipating and preparing for disturbance, improving our capacity to withstand shocks, rebuilding as necessary and adapting and evolving when possible.’
Now, bringing the terms ‘defined behaviour indefinitely’ and ‘flexible and responsive…anticipating and preparing for’ together, you start to get a sense of something rather exciting. Not only are we talking about sustainable behaviour or activity that has long term positive outcomes for our planet (and all that live upon it), we are also talking about preparing in a way that is proactively responsive to whatever the future may hold. It’s about risk management, whether it be a building design, community development, the learning environment for an unknown future, growth management, etc.
It’s noted that both words relate to human activity. It’s fair to say that the earth would be quite fine without us. History suggests that we have never been very good at forward planning, particularly inter-generationally, although there are certainly some cultures that are very mindful of this. One of our ongoing challenges will be to raise the discussion to a level high enough for people to appreciate that if we truly want a better tomorrow then we need to change the way we deal with today.
So, fair to say I might be a convert. Bringing resilience and sustainability together seems to offer the opportunity to develop robust planning and activity that might actually make a real difference for now and future generations, particularly if planning, development and investment are aligned to be more mindful of the big picture and the world before us.
It’s certainly food for thought eh?