Home > Articles + Blog > Webinar: Community Resilience in an Era of Upheaval

Webinar: Community Resilience in an Era of Upheaval

March 1, 2018

On February 27, 2018, Island Press hosted a well-attended webinar on our 2017 book, The Community Resilience Reader: Essential Resources for an Era of Upheaval. Editor Daniel Lerch and contributors Richard Heinberg (Post Carbon Institute) and Rebecca Wodder presented (River Network) on the challenges, tools, and actions covered in the book.

To download the PowerPoint presentation that accompanied this webinar, click here.

Watch the video here, and see Richard’s and Daniel’s responses to some of the questions posed below.

Question: All very good! I appreciate the Six Foundations for Building Community Resilience. Is anyone working with you on the fundamental building blocks of human resilience, e.g., the family, the neighborhood, the sub-sets of the larger community? Families are the fundamental building block here. Everyone mentions psychology, but are psychologists working with you across disciplines and sectors? or public health, medical pros?

Richard: All of these areas are important, Ernest. We are just putting the ideas out and hoping that people who work in these domains will pick up on them.

Daniel: While Post Carbon is not working directly with any other organizations on topics like families, psychology, or public health, we do have allies who work in those topics (including some of our Fellows, like Brian Schwartz and Cindy Parker) and are always looking for opportunities (and resources) to collaborate. Psychology, in particular, is an area that we want to incorporate into our Six Foundations thinking in the coming years. Bob Doppelt is one of the people we’ve been thinking about in this regard.


Question: Are there some ‘PCI like’ relevant initiative in Europe ?

Daniel: We’re not aware of any think tanks doing quite what we’re doing — in Europe or anywhere else — though there are certainly plenty of organizations who themselves are working on various aspects of what we do. Our closest ally in Europe is probably Transition Network, and we have occasionally participated in Schumacher Institute events.


Question: In Honolulu, we are both an urban and island ecosystem, how would you prioritize our resilience challenges? And, don’t indigenous peoples have a tremendous amount of knowledge about water? resilience?

Richard: Yes—the problem is that indigenous knowledge is being lost and ignored. It needs to be valued, preserved, and adapted to changing condition.

Daniel: Stockholm Resilience Centre is probably the leading research institute in the world on these issues. In the research section of their website I don’t immediately see any work related to Hawaii other islands in the Pacific, but it may be worth browsing what they have there in case you find anything that may be of relevance to Hawaii. Also, last year at the Sustainability Curriculum Consortium conference I met Krista Hiser, who is the Sustainability Curriculum Coordinator for the University of Hawaii system. She is certainly also thinking about these questions, so you may find it useful to connect with her.


Question: Regarding Richard’s statement with respect to ag now using more “energy” than it produces (which evidently was not always the case): Is that true for all forms of agriculture, or primary “animal agriculture”? What about “permaculture”?

Richard: This is for U.S. agriculture on the broad scale. Please see our report The Food and Farming Transition. I know that there are some Permaculture practitioners who are interested in EROI and who have done some preliminary studies, but so far I’m not aware of any such studies that have made it through peer review. In general, the more that human labor and animal muscle are used to substitute for fossil fuel inputs, and the more localized the food system, the better the overall energy return—which is likely to max out at less than 5:1.


Question: Is there a role for ecological economic in the transitiion to a sustainable future and developing community resilience in the present?

Richard: Yes! Ecological economics is the only economics that’s likely to help.

Daniel: We included a chapter on Ecological Economics in our 2010 book The Post Carbon Reader, and the Chapter 4: The Economic Crisis in the book that was the topic of the webinar, The Community Resilience Reader, goes further into thinking about how ecological economics is relevant to today’s challenges.


Question: James Hansen and other scientists tell us that we must reduce emissions and at the same time remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. We must do this immediately. Resilience is fine but unless we address the cause won’t we lose in the long run?

Richard: Yes, and carbon farming could help both to make our food system more sustainable and healthy, AND remove some carbon from the atmosphere. Reforestation is also helpful in this regard. In contrast, carbon removal by technological means (including BECCS) is probably a blind alley—as “clean coal” certainly is. Since (as we argue in our book Our Renewable Future) it is extremely unlikely that society will build enough renewable energy infrastructure fast enough to compensate for fossil energy curtailed by depletion and climate mitigation, we will almost certainly need to adjust to using less energy overall.

Daniel: I’ll simply add that the strategies Richard is highlighting here — carbon farming, reforestation, energy-use reduction– would be considered part of a resilience-minded approach (in part because they work with whole systems), as opposed to more narrowly focused technological solutions like “clean coal” or even pushing for 100% renewable *everything* at business-as-usual levels of consumption.


Question: I am in France and I am Italian. I want to thank you for the crystal clear and comprehensive presentation. Is the role of education crucial in all of this? Community shared education?

Richard: Yes, education is critical. We need education centered on two things: systems thinking, and skills (sustainable agriculture, and the design and repair of low-energy technologies).

Daniel: I invite you to check out Chapter 14: Learning Our Way to Resilience in The Community Resilience Reader, as that chapter discusses some philosophy of education and how it is important to building community resilience.


Question: US population adds a Chicago each year. Do we accommodate this eternal growth or halt it?

Richard: We need to prioritize family planning and population reduction. Raising the education and social status of women, especially in poor countries helps a lot.

Daniel: Our chapter on population issues (you can read it here) in our 2010 book The Post Carbon Reader digs into why those priorities are important even with regard to issues around immigration to the US; very much worth reading.


Question: What advice do you have for a young professional looking to learn and work to make community resilience their career? what are the graduate programs, internships, or other places to gain experience in this field?

Daniel: Part of the challenge is that “community resilience” as we talk about at Post Carbon (and in the book) is not really an established field. The terms “urban resilience” and “community resilience” are used widely these days, but we’ve found that they almost always refer to disaster management and climate adaptation — and not the broader issues that we see. Of the university programs in this area that I’m aware of, Stockholm Resilience Centre is probably the one that is most aligned with our worldview. Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability also has a lot of faculty who are very active in resilience science. I’d suggest looking through the faculty and PhD-student lists at both institutions for people you might follow up with further. (One in particular is My Sellberg at Stockholm, who recently did an interesting project connecting resilience science with the work of the Transition Network, one of our allies.)


Question: Do you think there’s a difference between resilience and resiliency? I’ve heard there is.

Richard: I prefer not to split hairs on that question.

Daniel: I love to split hairs on this particular question! In my experience, I’ve found that “resiliency” has seemed to be more associated with the engineering and psychology, and “resilience” more with systems and ecology — and since urban applications of resilience combine all of those, the terms tend to get mixed and thrown around a bit in in urban planning, architecture, and public administration. If someone is using the term “resiliency”, that suggests to me that they’re not probably familiar with the social-ecological systems resilience approach (which is what we use) and are probably thinking of resilience merely in terms of “bouncing back” as quickly as possible.

I’ll also point to one of the reports I showed an image of in the presentation, as that dealt specifically with how people in local government were thinking about “resilience”: http://www.postcarbon.org/resilient-against-what/