Chapter 2 - Standards of Sustainability

Part 4 - Resilience Thinking in the 21st Century

Resilience is the ability of a system to respond to change without altering the structure and function of the system. We live in coupled social-ecological systems, where human environment interactions are dialectical, reciprocal and nonlinear, with feedbacks and unintended consequences. The environmental and social problems we are facing are incomparable in magnitude and complexity to those we have seen throughout human history. Resilience thinking arises at an important time. Our historical and current models of science and management are limited and reductionist in the context of the large and wicked, social and ecological problems we are experiencing. Resilience thinking helps to conceptualize human and ecological systems as coupled systems, and to reframe management objectives to reprioritize systems over component parts, and to embrace scientific uncertainty.

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  1. Understanding the Complexity of Economic, Ecological, and Social Systems. (2001) C. S. Holling. Ecosystems 4: 390–405 DOI: 10.1007/s10021-001-0101-5
  2. The Resilience Alliance
  3. Sustainability and Global Seafood. (2010) Smith, M.D., Roheim, C.A., Crowder, L.B., Halpern, B.S., Turnipseed, M., Anderson, J.L., Asche, F., Bourillon, L., Guttormsen, A.G., Khan, A., Liguori, L.A., McNevin, A., O'Connor, M.I., Squires, D., Tyedmers, P., Brownstein, C., Carden, K., Klinger, D.H., Sagarin, R., and Selkoe, K.A. Science 327:5967 pp. 784-786.