Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World
Increasingly, cracks are appearing in the capacity of communities, ecosystems, and landscapes to provide the goods and services that sustain our planet's well-being. The response from most quarters has been for "more of the same" that created the situation in the first place: more control, more intensification, and greater efficiency.
"Resilience thinking" offers a different way of understanding the world and a new approach to managing resources. It embraces human and natural systems as complex entities continually adapting through cycles of change, and seeks to understand the qualities of a system that must be maintained or enhanced in order to achieve sustainability. It explains why greater efficiency by itself cannot solve resource problems and offers a constructive alternative that opens up options rather than closing them down.
In Resilience Thinking, scientist Brian Walker and science writer David Salt present an accessible introduction to the emerging paradigm of resilience. The book arose out of appeals from colleagues in science and industry for a plainly written account of what resilience is all about and how a resilience approach differs from current practices. Rather than complicated theory, the book offers a conceptual overview along with five case studies of resilience thinking in the real world. It is an engaging and important work for anyone interested in managing risk in a complex world.
Well written explanation of complexity in ecosystems
By A. S. Johnson "seeking change" - July 2, 2007
This is a great book. I've read several books on this topic, and so far, they have all had a similar issue: They are written by people who are scientists first, writers second. This book has two authors. One is a scientist and the other is a science writer. This made for a well put-together, understandable explanation of complex adaptive systems, which are what ecosystems are currently understood to be.
The authors have done a few things to make the book great. First, they have broken the topic down into a set of subtopics, with one chapter explaining each subtopic. At the end of each chapter is a summary of important points so it's clear what the authors are hoping you get out of the chapter. Each chapter is then followed by a case study that is used to illustrate the ideas just covered.
If you are looking for an introductory book on ecosystems and how humans affect their ability to maintain themselves, this is the book to read. The authors also provide several... read more
Gem of Useful Education
By Robert David STEELE Vivas - February 24, 2008
This is a gem of an educational book. Mixing case studies with elaborating chapters on key concepts, it's as a good a volume as I have found for teaching undergraduates, graduates, and practitioners (farmers, factory managers, investors) the core ideas needed to restore a sustainable social-ecological system.
Highlights for me:
+ Optemization is a false premise, simplifies complex systems we do not understand, with the result that we end up causing long-term damage.
+ Resilience thinking is systems thinking. I cannot help but think back to all of the excellent work in the 1970's and 1980's--the authors were simply a quarter century ahead of their time.
+ In a nut-shell, resilient system can absorb severe disturbance.
+ System resilience is affected by context, connections across scales of time and space, and current system state in relations to threshholds.
+ Fresh water, fisheries, and topsoil depletion are major... read more
Good Case Studies, poor writing
By Benjamin Jared Langer - December 11, 2007
This book is Latour's actor network theory in another guise, with the physicalization of Kuhn's paradigm shift thrown in for good measure. It is a very interesting book on an emerging way to look at environmental crises (note, not the environmental crisis. We seriously need local knowledge and local experience to manage each individual ecosystem).
My major issues with this book are twofold. One is that it is not well written, though not altogether poorly written, you can simply tell when the science writer came in to jazz things up. Secondly, the authors spend a little too much time trying to convince the reader that resilience thinking is NEW, DIFFERENT, SUBVERSIVE, and the like. We get, on page 29, something that I just cannot stand: a little briefer than brief history of challenge to dogma. Galileo spoke out about the Copernican model (which was still perfect circles, Kepler had it right but Galileo ignored him) and the church shot him down. Darwin dared to say... read more
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