Tag Archives: Resilience 2008

Resilience Interviews

inteviews: Fikret Berkes (left), Ann Kinzing and Will SteffenKaitlyn Rathwell and others from the Stockholm Resilience Centre interviewed twenty international resilience researcher, including Fikret Berkes, Ann Kinzing and Will Steffen, at Resilience 2008 about key social and ecological aspects of resilience. The interviews are now available online at the Resilience Centre’s website – Welcome to the Resilience school.

Susan Owens
Our knowledge of the global environment increases and governing institutions that works with the environment also changes, but do they match?

What is the most important factor for knowledge transfer between science and policy?

Neil Adger
How can we apply social sciences to the resilience concept?

Arild Underdal
What are multilevel governance systems?
Why use multilevel governance systems?

[links updated Feb 17, 2009]

Radio Feature: Resilience, Adaptation and Transformation in Turbulent Times

Mark Sommer, host and executive producer of A World of Possibilities, interviewed scientists and researchers from around the world at the Resilience 2008 conference last month in Stockholm, Sweden.

The 55 minute long radio show can be heard online and includes interviews with Buzz Holling, Brian Walker, Carl Folke, Charles Redman, Will Steffan and Frances Westley.

Their combined wisdom provides insight into how societies can become resilient in the face of traumatic change and unprecedented transition.

World of Possibilities is an award-winning, nationally and internationally syndicated radio program, that is part of the Mainstream Media Project. The show’s website includes links to other guest interviews that were recorded at the conference.

Brian Walker’s Research Areas for Resilience Science

Brian Walker, the former director of the Resilience Alliance reflected on the future of resilience science in his introductory talk at Resilience 2008. In his talk Probing the boundaries of resilience science and practice, he identified seven important research areas for resilience science:

  1. Test, criticize and revise the propositions about resilience made in Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems and Ecology and Society special issue – Exploring Resilience In Social-Ecological Systems.
  2. Develop models of social-ecological systems that can produce the key aspects of the rich behaviour of the world. In particular these models should be able to produce:
    i) dynamics in which systems cross multiple thresholds,
    ii) produce “backloop” dynamics, and
    iii) incorporate models of adaptive governance that incorporate leadership, trust, ‘shadow’ networks, sleeper links, and poly-centric governance arrangements.
  3. Extend resilience theory from local or regional scales to the global to address questions such as:
    i) Do we need new propositions for global resilience issues?
    ii) Over what ranges of scale can we apply existing theory?, and
    iii) How important are scale-dependent processes?
  4. Resilience theory needs to better understand the consquences of multiple simultaneous shocks, because transformative change seems to be often triggered by two (or more) simultaneous shocks. For example an environmental shock and an economic (or political) shock occurring at the same time.
    Resilience theory needs to understand what coupled or sequential shocks are likely, and how could we go about assessing resilience to them. An example of this is the current food crisis that developed from the coupling of agriculture, energy, and climate issues.
  5. What are the differences between transformational change, adaptability and resilience? Transformability is the capacity to create a fundamentally new system when conditions make the existing system untenable. In much of the world the need is to transform, not to make the existing system regime more resilient. What are the design principles of transformations?
  6. How can we assess the costs and values of resilience? What is the difference between general (broad spectrum resilience to many things) vs. specified resilience (to a few specific things)? How can we conceptualize the danger in ‘optimizing’ for specified resilience? How much should we spend (or forego) to increase resilience?
  7. How can the value of different regimes be assessed? The desirablity of a regime usually depends upon the perspective it is viewed from, and different people have different perspectives. Coping with these perspectives is a challenge. But more fundamentally, this requires not just assessing the value of different ecosystem services, but also understanding the identity of a system, and its ability to maintain itself.
  8. Non-mathematical approaches to resilience. While mathematics is beautiful to some, it is difficult to communicate and in some situations is insufficient. We need to increase our ability to represent resilience in a variety of forms. This presents a challenge to the humanities and arts community. At Resilience 2008 we saw contributions towards this understanding, but there is much more to develop. Can science and the humanities work together to provide the impetus towards a richer, more resilient world?

Scenarios and Resilience

People or organizations can focus their effort on a narrow goal, or they can diversify the uses of resources to explore and innovate. It is hard to do both at the same time. This pattern arises in politics as well as in corporations, agencies or academic institutions. When politics of democracies begin to lock into a stationary state, party positions are caricatures, messages are simplistic, campaigns are tightly scripted, media events are rigidly coordinated, and big donors demand loyal candidates. These conditions do not encourage broad, creative, inventive discussions of the most important problems of the day. Such a political environment seems hopelessly incapable of addressing the multiple shocks of the present – the credit crisis, sharply rising prices of energy and food, shortage of arable land, declining capacity of ecosystems to produce the goods that people need, and the complex challenges of climate change, among others. These shocks are unprecedented, so the solutions are novel – the kinds of solutions that cannot emerge from gridlock politics.

Nonetheless, people need answers to complex questions. In a recent global survey, respondents were asked to identify the questions that were most important to them. Questions were then ranked in order of the number of respondents who identified them as important. All of the top-ranking questions were deeply complex. What does sustainability look like? How must humans adapt to survive the changes of this century? What economic structures best support a shift to sustainability? How can we re-invent politics so people feel that they have a voice? What kind of leadership does the world need now?

Complex questions can be addressed by scenarios – sets of stories about the future, derived from collaborative processes and models, designed to integrate diverse perspectives. The scenarios of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment are a recent example.

Scenarios are a way of building resilience – the capacity to maintain useful features of nature and society, while inventing and implementing transformations to new ways of living. In a recent talk at Resilience 2008 I discussed some of the connections between scenarios and resilience. To break out of traps, people need positive stories of what the future could be, and blunt warnings of dangerous paths. Scenarios provide such motivating visions. Moreover, the process of scenario-building itself may create connections that enable transformation. Scenario projects form networks of people in settings that promote playful, inventive thinking at the margin of formal politics. The scenarios, the insights, the people, or the networks themselves are capable of infiltrating wider thinking, and thereby contributing to change when the conditions are right.

What could expand the use of scenarios to build resilience? We need more people trained in relevant skills such as collaboration, rapid prototyping, flexible fast modeling, synthesis, and use of art, music, science and stories together. Courses exist and a sizeable literature is available. Yet the best way to learn scenarios is by doing. Why not try scenario thinking the next time you face a complex problem with long-term consequences?

Wiki launch of the practitioner’s guide to resilience assessment

resilience assessment logo
Last week at Resilience 2008 in Stockholm, I gave a presentation on the Practitioner’s workbook Assessing and Managing Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems. The workbook incorporates key principles underlying resilience thinking and provides a framework for assessing the resilience of social-ecological systems and considering options to set the system on a sustainable trajectory. The workbook builds on research by RA members and others and while it offers neither a recipe for effective management nor a panacea for resource problems, it does provide a foundation for integrated resource management that takes into account cross-scale interactions, alternate regimes, change, and uncertainty.

In the spirit of knowledge sharing, and collaboration, a wiki version of the workbook was launched last week. The workbook wiki is aimed at those who have experience applying resilience concepts to social-ecological systems and who want to contribute to the on-going development of the resilience assessment guide.

Feedback from those who have used the resilience assessment workbook (first made available last July), identified some of the strengths and weaknesses of the original version as well as a few gaps. The wiki editorial team will begin organizing the development of new content and a bunch of new material that will be linked to the workbook including: thematic versions of the workbook (e.g. urban resilience, coral reef resilience); modules on participatory research, adaptive co-management, assessing ecosystem service tradeoffs, etc.; research methods; translations (Spanish, Russian, Swedish); new examples and case studies.

Discussions among those who have used the workbook highlight the need for many more examples and case studies of completed assessments. People want to know how others are applying the assessment process in different settings, how they are adapting it, what problems have arisen, and how they were dealt with. A large network of people who have completed resilience assessments will be encouraged to contribute their examples and case studies to the wiki. These entries will include authorship and be reviewed by editors.

Novelty Needed for Sustainable Development – Resilience 2008

conclusions panel resilience 2008

The Stockholm Resilience Centre has released two press releases on the conclusion of Resilience 2008.

The first Novelty thinking key to sustainable development reports on the concluding panel of the conference in which Elinor Ostrom, Sverker Sörlin, Carole Crumley, Line Gordon and Buzz Holling reflected on the conference, lessons from the past and the answers for the future.

Buzz Holling, considered the father of resilience thinking, called for freedom and flexibility in order to generate multilevel change and novelty thinking. This is needed in a time when several crises are emerging, he said.

- This year a cluster of predicted crises have become aware to the public, such as the rise of food prices due to energy market changes and the collapse of the financial market. We see that small instabilities and risks spread to practically all developed countries in the world. However, globalisation also adds a great positive value because the individual or small groups can have an increasingly global effect, Holling said.

Resilience as an continuance of sustainability thinking
Sverker Sörlin and Carole Crumley both argued that we have moved beyond traditional discussions around sustainability and that resilience thinking is increasingly being embraced as an integrated part of sustainable development thinking.

- Resilience thinking will not replace the sustainability discourse, but we can use resilience to develop sustainability further, Sörlin said. He was followed up by Line Gordon who noted that the key approach with resilience thinking is that although we might have solutions for sustainable development, we will face challenges and we must be prepared for surprises.

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Melissa Leach reports from Resilience 2008

Melissa Leach, co-author of the well known book Misreading the African Landscape and director of the STEPS centre, provides her perspective on the Resilience 2008 conference, on STEP’s Centre’s Crossings blog.  She writes:

Despite the avowed interdisciplinarity of resilience studies, one such tension is still beteween those who come primarily from an ecological science or a social science perspective. Brian Walker’s introductory talk, and Steve Carpenter’s plenary today, both argued that the tendency for ecologists to ‘black-box’ social processes and social scientists to black-box ecological ones, badly needs to be overcome.But many talks here expose how far this is not happening – yet. Meanwhile, panels that Adrian has been contributing to indicate that technology-focused perspectives and work on socio-technical transitions provide a further view, and integrating this with studies of socio-ecological systems is not straightforward. …

Yesterday afternoon, a panel on development and adaptation involving Emily Boyd and Polly Eriksen from Oxford, along with Emma Tompkins, Henny Osbahr and Hallie Eakin, debated vulnerability-resilience ‘trade-offs’ head-on. The ways in which ‘resilience’ (like ‘development’) can be co-opted as a disempowering discourse were raised. But these more politicised discussions are fairly rare in a conference that for the most part sees systems as ‘out there’ and the problems facing society as shared, even if often difficult to deal with.

In addition to the chance to reflect on these dilemmas and meet up with those sharing them in the coffee breaks around the Aula Magna’s gallery (and last night, over drinks in the designer boutique hotel owened by Abba’s Benny Anderson) high points of these days for me have included a brilliant talk on urban system challenges and social movements; and an excellent panel on globalisation, tipping points and the new social contracts that may be required for governance in this context.

In a packed plenary, Steve Carpenter has just given us a system’s ecologist’s perspective on scenarios and imaginations for global futures. And Eric Lambin is about to fill another hall, I suspect, in a session on land use transitions. Rich stuff indeed. And lots of fuel for our thinking in the STEPS centre, both in our projects and in our own ‘Reframing Resilience’ symposium planned for September this year which will follow up on a number of the debates aired here.

Student-led resilience workshop after Resilience 2008

Realise, Reorganise, Adapt – Reorganising knowledge for sustainability is a student led resilience workshop that follows the Resilience conference on Friday April 18, 10.00-14.00 at Stockholm Resilience Centre.

It will address the questions:

  • How should we organise knowledge for sustainability?
  • Is the adaptive cycle a useful tool for organising interdisciplinary research and building knowledge for sustainability?
  • What lessons can we learn from different programs, their organisation and their various phases – conservation, collapses, and reorganisations?
  • Building on experience from students and their programs, we hope to identify what lessons emerge from these cases.

They hope to build an international student network of resilience researchers.

Resilience 2008 conference schedule and web broadcast information

Hosted by Stockholm Resilience Centre, Resilience 2008 will take place in Stockholm between April 14-17 2008 and will involve some of the world´s most distinguished scientists and politicians who will discuss ecology, economy and society from a Resilience perspective.

Live web TV
Using advanced web television interface, more than 40 events over a four-day period will be covered live via the Stockholm Resilience Centre website. An additional 20 events will be filmed and later made available via the same website. Below is a complete list of all events that will be filmed and broadcast live.

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