THE BLOG

From Floods of Hope to Rebuilding With Resilience

04/15/2009 10:30 am 10:30:39 | Updated May 25, 2011

All of us in the green movement who woke up Wednesday to the flood of hopeful feeling cascading through the country (and the world) in the wake of Barack Obama's historic win, are waking up Thursday to another kind of feeling. A feeling between, "Where do we go from here?" and "Let the Work Begin!"

All kinds of hope was unleashed by the Democrats' rousing victory, not least of which is the hope that a New Green Deal can simultaneously fix economic woes and build a clean energy economy with positive benefits for humans in the form of green jobs.

No easy task. As Earth Policy Institute's Lester Brown and others repeatedly warn us, so many of our world's ecosystems, after decades if not centuries of being used as if there is no tomorrow, are in shabby disrepair.

As we contemplate how to repair, it might be helpful to look at the concept of resilience. Sort of like repairing a damaged immune system, designing for resilience is a multi-faceted and long term process - but you see it in the hurricane-resistant houses Brad Pitt is helping build in New Orleans' Ninth Ward.

Here's what the Resilience Alliance has to say about it:

"[it is] the capacity of an ecosystem to tolerate disturbance without collapsing into a qualitatively different state that is controlled by a different set of processes. A resilient ecosystem can withstand shocks and rebuild itself when necessary."

Resilience is attractive - like those talented celebrities that find ways to come back again and again. And it's in the air in Stockholm today, as Buzz Holling, a professor in ecological sciences at the University of Florida, collects his Volvo Environmental Prize 2008 for his work on resilience of ecosystems.

Moving from theory to practice of course, is the crux. Homogenous landscapes, Hollings says, are brittle and prone to failure. We need instead diversity to create resiliency. Which translates to lots of ideas, lots of different implementations. As scary as it may seem, now is the moment for us all to experiment with the new, novel and different.

"The key is not equilibrium, but fluctuation. That's why the phrase creative destruction is so powerful. To turn crisis into opportunity," Buzz Holling says.

Seems like we've had lots of crisis lately. Yes Obama's win was partly about his resilience during a long campaign. Now his determination to send representatives to the upcoming climate change talks in Poland and to soon announce carbon cutting goals seems the first taste of opening up to new opportunities.