Got Resiliency?

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Community, Resiliency, Shauna Lawyer Struby, Transition Movement, Transition Town | Posted on 29-04-2009


by Shauna Lawyer Struby 

A resilient system is adaptable and diverse. It has some redundancy built in. A resilient perspective acknowledges that change is constant and prediction difficult in a world that is complex and dynamic. It understands that when you manipulate the individual pieces of a system, you change that system in unintended ways. Resilience thinking is a new lens for looking at the natural world we are embedded in and the man-made world we have imposed upon it.

 –Chip Ward,

Diesel-Driven Bee Slums and Impotent Turkeys: The Case for Resilience” 

Oklahoma’s storm season is upon us. We watch clouds boil and roil, hope and pray for rain versus hail and tornadoes, and while we may joke about Gary England’s drama, as anyone living in these here parts knows, the season is no joking matter.

When the tornado sirens blow, most of us know our take-cover routine like we know our own phone number. We head to hidey holes, closets, basements and storm shelters with family, friends, pets, memorabilia, emergency radios, flashlights, water and food in tow. We watch and listen to some of the best meteorologists in the nation track threatening weather in stunningly detailed Doppler radar. We know the meaning of wall clouds, hook clouds, vortexes, the difference between a tornado watch and a warning, and of course Oklahoma children learn the Fujita scale long before they have any idea about do-re-mi.

Yes siree. When it comes to tornado season, Oklahomans have the warning/planning thing down.

This friends, gives me hope for the future.


Fruit trees build resilience in a community.

If we can plan and prepare this thoroughly for Mother Nature’s annual spring tantrums, I’m hoping we can apply the same can-do, innovative spirit to the broad and deep energy challenges we face. That means first thinking more deeply about what a community really needs and how those needs are met.

Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Movement and author of The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependence to Local Resiliency, notes one of the key characteristics of healthy communities is resiliency. According to Hopkins resiliency is …

“ … the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change, so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity and feedbacks.”

The primary point here: a change or interruption in one part of a system doesn’t take down the whole. Resilient communities have food, transportation, shelter, water, health, cultural, and education systems that are self-sufficient enough to provide for essential needs regardless of boiling chaos. When you pair resiliency with sustainability, you have a community that’s ready to face the future. 

So what does resilience look like in real life? In communities and homes it refers to our ability to not collapse at the first sight of oil or food shortages, or in the case of the threat of a pandemic, like the current swine flu, to be able to respond with adaptability.

To help illustrate the concept, Hopkins does a little contrasting and comparing below. Note: Just because an activity doesn’t add resilience, doesn’t mean it should never happen; what Hopkins is suggesting is that we think beyond the norm, think beyond even sustainability, and add resilience to the planning equation.

Resilience chart  

So have you got resilience? What are your ideas for making your home and community more resilient and less vulnerable to abrupt change in an increasingly complex and volatile world?

Comments (3)

I think it’s always a good idea to have a back-up plan – some food storage, some non-electric lighting, a way to cook during an ice storm blackout. We strive for financial resilience by having several months of emergency savings in the bank, by trying to keep our fixed expenses low (car payment, mortgage payment, electric bill), and by trying to pay off our house early so we will no longer have that expense.

Great post on a very important topic!
Resilience is a key attribute for systems from individuals to humanity — and it can be learned, practiced, and developed. If we, as individuals and as a society are to not only survive, but thrive, as things change around us (Peak Oil, powerdown, climate change, econ chaos, pandemics…) we’ll need to consciously work on our resilience.
I’m just about to launch a new ebook Staying Up In Down Times: Creating Resilience, Results, and Real Rewards – With Whatever Life Throws At You!
You can get a preview here:
Or get a pre-launch Word version at

very well said Shauna….as usual.
building resilience is a lot of work.
garding building is a prime example. thanks for the story…..