[Ok-sus] Learning to Bounce Back
sstruby at cox.net
Mon Nov 5 10:56:01 CST 2012
Op-ed from Andrew Zolli in NY Times on resilience and sustainability.
November 2, 2012
Learning to Bounce Back
By ANDREW ZOLLI
Andrew Zolli, the executive director of PopTech, is the author, with Ann
Marie Healy, of "Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back."
FOR decades, people who concern themselves with the world's "wicked
problems" - interconnected issues like environmental degradation, poverty,
food security and climate change - have marched together under the banner of
"sustainability": the idea that with the right mix of incentives, technology
substitutions and social change, humanity might finally achieve a lasting
equilibrium with our planet, and with one another.
It's an alluring and moral vision, and in a year that has brought us the
single hottest month in recorded American history (July), a Midwestern
drought that plunged more than half the country into a state of emergency, a
heat wave across the eastern part of the country powerful enough to melt the
tarmac below jetliners in Washington and the ravages of Hurricane Sandy, it
would seem a pressing one, too.
Yet today, precisely because the world is so increasingly out of balance,
the sustainability regime is being quietly challenged, not from without, but
from within. Among a growing number of scientists, social innovators,
community leaders, nongovernmental organizations, philanthropies,
governments and corporations, a new dialogue is emerging around a new idea,
resilience: how to help vulnerable people, organizations and systems
persist, perhaps even thrive, amid unforeseeable disruptions. Where
sustainability aims to put the world back into balance, resilience looks for
ways to manage in an imbalanced world.
* As wise as this all may sound, a shift from sustainability to
resilience leaves many old-school environmentalists and social activists
feeling uneasy, as it smacks of adaptation, a word that is still taboo in
many quarters. If we adapt to unwanted change, the reasoning goes, we give a
pass to those responsible for putting us in this mess in the first place,
and we lose the moral authority to pressure them to stop. Better, they
argue, to mitigate the risk at the source.
* In a reversal of our stereotypes about the flow of innovation, many
of the most important resilience tools will come to us from developing
countries, which have long had to contend with large disruptions and limited
* "Resilience" takes this as a given and is commensurately humble. It
doesn't propose a single, fixed future. It assumes we don't know exactly how
things will unfold, that we'll be surprised, that we'll make mistakes along
the way. It's also open to learning from the extraordinary and widespread
resilience of the natural world, including its human inhabitants, something
that, counterintuitively, many proponents of sustainability have ignored.
* That doesn't mean there aren't genuine bad guys and bad ideas at
work, or that there aren't things we should do to mitigate our risks. But we
also have to acknowledge that the holy war against boogeymen hasn't worked
and isn't likely to anytime soon. In its place, we need approaches that are
both more pragmatic and more politically inclusive - rolling with the waves,
instead of trying to stop the ocean
Full article here
Shauna Lawyer Struby
wordsmith . project herder . inspiration conspirator
p.o. box 54665 | okc . ok 73154
o 405 525 3464 | c 405 210 6027
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