Resilience is a better buzz word than
• Resilience implies action -- “building resilience.”
• To be resilient suggests an inner toughness: the strength,
as its etymology tells us, to “jump back” to a previous
• Sustainability - suggests a defensive posture: a desire to
stay the same, to resist (normatively negative) change,
without the attractive ability to push back against change
and win out.
• Resilience = measure of risk, while sustainability suggests
that systems are set
* See Andrew McMurry for more on this topic
• The importance of defining technical terms is widely
accepted in science. A failure to define technical terms
unambiguously leads to two main problems (Hempel,
1952, Hempel, 1966, Murphy and Noon, 1991 and Hull et
• First, theories that rely on a specific term without defining
it cannot be readily tested.
• Second, communication is difficult; agreements based on
certain terms are illusory if different stakeholders have a
different comprehension of the term's meaning.
• Thus Murphy and Noon (1991) call for providing clear
definitions for crucial terminology in legislation, standards,
What will we ultimately mean by
resilience in SRI@JB
• Resilience of WHAT?
• What system, systems, or system of systems?
• At what scale(s)?
• Resilience of “X” to WHAT perturbation?
• Resilience of what, to what, for WHOM?
• As experienced by individuals?
• As experienced by dominant social groups?
• As experienced by other life-forms?
• Choices? Normative definitions?
What is resilience to you?
• Take 4 “sticky notes”
• In the context of SRI@JB,
– Resilience of what?
– To what?
– For whom?
– 1-2 sentence “in a nutshell” answer what does
resilience in Jamaica Bay look like?
… considers systems to exist close to a stable steady-state.
Engineering resilience is the ability to return to the steady
state following a perturbation (Pimm,1984; O’Neill et al.,
1986; Tilman and Downing, 1994; Tilman, 1996). This idea
of disturbance away from and return to a stable state is at
the center of economic theory as well (Varian, 1992;
Kamien and Schwartz, 1991).
….ecological resilience (Walker et al., 1969; Holling, 1996), emphasizes conditions
far from any stable steady-state, where instabilities can flip a system into another
regime of behavior, i.e., to another stability domain (Holling, 1973). In this case,
resilience is measured by the magnitude of disturbance that can be absorbed
before the system redefines its structure by changing the variables and processes
that control behavior.
• Social system resilience is related in some (still undefined) way to the resilience of
the ecological systems on which social systems depend. This is most clearly exhibited
within social systems that are dependent on a single ecosystem or single resource
• Community resilience is a measure of the sustained ability of a community to utilize
available resources to respond to, withstand, and recover from adverse situations.
Organizations like RAND have implemented and evaluated community resilience-
building activities worldwide in sectors such as public health and emergency
preparedness, infrastructure protection, and the development of economic recovery
• Individual resilience refers to the processes of, capacity for, or patterns of positive
adaptation during or following exposure to adverse experiences that have the
potential to disrupt or destroy the successful functioning or development of the
person (Masten et al. 1990, Masten and Obradović 2006).
Social-Ecological System Resilience
Social-Ecological domain – a comprehensive construct
Social -Ecological Systems
There are neither natural or pristine systems without people nor social systems without
nature. Social and ecological systems are not just linked, or “coupled,” but are truly
interconnected and co-evolving across spatial and temporal scales.
The concept social-ecological emphasizes the humans-in-the-environment perspective;
that earth´s ecosystems, from local areas to the biosphere as a whole, provide the
biophysical foundation and ecosystems services for social and economic survival and
The ecosystems we observe have been shaped by human decision making throughout
history and human actions directly and indirectly alter their capacity to sustain societal
Social-Ecological System Resilience
Resilience is the capacity of a system to experience shocks while retaining
essentially the same function, structure, feedbacks, and therefore identity
(Walker et al. 2006). In a resilient social–ecological system, disturbance has the
potential to create opportunity for doing new things, for innovation and for
development (Folke 2006).
Brian Walker, Senior Research Fellow of the Stockholm Resilience Center
Carl Folke, Science Director of the Stockholm Resilience Center
Keith G. Tidball, Ph.D.
Senior Extension Associate
Dept. of Natural Resources, Cornell University
Visiting Scholar, USDA NIFA
Associate Director, Cornell Civic Ecology Lab (CEL)
Theme Leader, Environmental Dimensions of Human Security
New York State Extension Disaster Education Network Coordinator
Faculty Fellow, David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future
118 Fernow Hall
607 254 5479