Australian Radio on Resilience

Australia’s ABC Radio show Future Tense recently had a show on Resilience Science that interviewed our colleagues Brian Walker, Guy Barnett, and Paul Ryan.

The show can be downloaded (download audio) or its transcript read online.  From the transcript:

Antony Funnell: But in a very practical sense, how does it make the situation better for the catchment authorities? Why is it preferable that they use resilience theory in their thinking, than the sort of traditional approaches that they’ve taken to solving these sorts of problems?

Paul Ryan: That’s a good question. Why should we try to bring in a new concept? Well in the past, we’ve used different approaches like sustainability as our sort of broad approach. Now sustainability as a concept is as a useful sort of catch-all, but when you really get down to it, what is sustainability? We’re not really sure what will be sustainable in the long-term. So trying to set a course or a pathway towards some sustainable point in the future, is a real challenge. What resilience thinking does is, it just brings a different perspective that says, What are the limits, for a start? Let’s understand the limits to this system so we know that all systems of people and nature that are interacting, people and their environment that are interacting. It has limits, and resilience thinking helps to identify those limits, and it says, ‘When you reach those limits, if you go beyond that, if you go over some tipping point, a threshold, if you go past that point, things will change, and they could change quite rapidly and quite unexpectedly, in ways that we don’t predict.

So resilience thinking for a start says ‘Let’s identify those limits to the system and how it operates’, and it helps us to think about how do we stay and manage within those limits? And so it’s sort of for a start, it sets the boundaries for a safe operating place, if you like.

The next question we ask is, Well what do we want to be resilient to? What are the possible things that could come along and impact on the system? And some of them are things we know a lot about – drought, bushfires, those types of things. But there’s a lot of challenges that we don’t know about, or there’s combinations of challenges. So if you think about the sorts of things that have happened in the last few years, just in Victoria alone, where I’m from. We’ve had the devastating bushfires, the drought, the global financial crisis which obviously affected the whole of Australia, we’ve had the threat of swine flu, we’ve had this combination of things that came along all at once, and we’re just not, traditionally we’re not prepared for those types of combinations of things. Resilience thinking helps us to think about those things in a structured way.

So the Catchment authorities have been dealing with lots of complexity, in all of these different issues, and our traditional approaches have been fairly one-dimensional. They assume that things will change in a fairly predictable way. Resilience thinking says things aren’t predictable, and we need to just accept that change is a really dominant part of our world, and so how do we work with that change and stay within some safe operating limits?

via Victor Galaz

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