Resilience: Exploring the edge of new possibilities in the Anthropocene


Photo: Resilient, by sierraromeo See

One definition of resilience is “the ability to cope with shocks and keep functioning in a satisfying way”. Resilience is about the self organizing capacity of systems. This means the ability to bounce back after disaster, or the ability to transform if a bad stage has happened. Both of these forms of resilience seem relevant to explore in our times, especially in relation to climate change. Global carbon dioxide levels have recently passed the 400ppm milestone. This symbolic threshold could function as a wake-up call, people argue. It could be a wake-up call for leadership on all levels to collaborate and make the transition towards a prosperous and sustainable Antropocene for nine billion people. Even in the face of climate change! Shell as a company is aware of this challenge and organized the annual Powering progress together conference around this theme.

Social-ecological systems

The Stockholm Resilience Centre is leading in its study of resilience in relation to the governance of social-ecological systems. The way they see it, our economies and societies fundamentally depend on ecosystems to provide us with a hospitable climate, clean water, food, fibres and many other goods and services. For poverty alleviation and future human development it is essential to understand nature’s contribution to human livelihoods, health, security and culture. Resilience thinking is part of the solution, as it thrives at building flexibility and adaptive capacity. People and nature are interdependent. That means, we have to look for collaboration with the biosphere to find resilient solutions.

Resources and the cities

One of the many challenges for the future is how to feed the cities. Throughout histories we have brought resources into the city, and then were troubled with the waste. In Singapore and the Centre for Liveable Cities they attempt a more resilient solution. Instead of bringing the food into the city, Sky gardens produce leafy vegetables right in the city. More plants can squeeze into tight city spaces. Fresh produce can grow right next to grocery stores, reducing transportation costs, carbon dioxide emissions and risk of spoilage. Urban farming is one true expression of the interdependence between people and nature.

Exploring the missing links in our imagination

Solutions to find resilience in the Antropocene require creativity. It helps us to generate more stories. Creativity is the answer to missing links in our imagination, at least according to Studio Roosegaarde. They have found a unique way to explore the relationship between space, people and technology. Their smart highway uses glowing paint strips that absorb sunlight during daytimes instead of street lights. This energy and materials efficient solution was inspired by how jellyfish radiate in deep seas.

A safe operating space for humanity

In the face of climate change, we need to work together to find a safe operating space for humanity. The key is in creative solutions that connect nature with people. Playful solutions, flexible and adaptive strategies will bring us further. By stretching our imagination, we will start to explore the unknown. And by making new combinations of nature, technology, and social behaviour, we will find new solutions for the Antropocene.

About Freija Van Duijne

Twitter: @FreijavanDuijne Futuring is my passion. I am fascinated about what the future might bring. Always looking around for leads about the future and open for new insights. I am futurist, trendwatchter and strategist at the The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, a thinktank in the Netherlands. My background is in Human factors psychology. I did my Masters at Leiden University and I did a PhD in Delft University at the faculty of Industrial design engineering. I have been involved in foresight studies since 2006. I am frequently asked as an expert for future studies in area of food, natural resources, health and governance. I am also a speaker and workshop facilitator on futures studies, trend presentations and the many topics that I blog about. My contributions to Futuristablog represent my own personal opinion and is never a statement of the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
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