The Transition Model is about resilience. The “father” of resilience theory is C.S. (Buzz) Holling, an ecologist and Officer of the Order of Canada, who defines it as,
“the ability of an ecosystem to absorb and learn from disturbances, to be changed and then re-organise and still retain basic structure and ways of functioning.”
It means changing without the system collapsing. (Sources: stockholmresilience.org and resalliance.org)
For humans, as part of the natural ecosystem, this definition has three important aspects:
- The amount of change the system can undergo, and still retain the same controls on function and structure;
- The degree to which the system is capable of self-organization;
- The ability to build and increase the capacity for learning and adaptation.
There are five key concepts of Resilience:
- We are all part of the system. Resilience tries to integrate social, ecological, economic and political conditions.
- The systems are complex and adaptive. It is not – indeed cannot be – a linear process. Adaptation requires flexibility and creativity.
- Complex adaptive systems are dynamic. We must learn to adapt to constant change.
- Resilience is a key to sustainability. Change needs to occur without shifting to a new “regime” and a point of no return, i.e. a “new normal”; as happened with the collapse of the Atlantic Cod.
- Dynamic systems have overlapping cycles, e.g. like the different plant growing cycles.
Following these main concepts, here are some ways to manage for Resilience:
- Promote and sustain diversity in all its forms, e.g. biological, social, economic.
- Accept ecological variability.
- Use modular components as linked but self-reliant subsystems, instead of one large system that can collapse more easily.
- Focus policies on slow variables of systems that respond slowly but can bring extreme change, e.g. gradual changes in atmospheric chemistry that effect the climate.
- Foster tight feedback and enable timely adjustments, e.g. through frequent monitoring.
- Take advantage of social capital like social networks and leadership.
- Seek and embrace innovation.
- Recognise all ecosystem services in assessments and development proposals.
(Source: Excerpts from “Resilience 101” in Alternatives Journal, 36:2, 2010)
For further reading, go to:
Stockholm Resilience Centre, www.stockholmresilience.org
The Resilience Alliance, www.resalliance.org
The Resilience Research Centre, Halifax, Nova Scotia, http://resilience.socialwork.dal.ca/