Resilience Favors Simplicity. But That Doesn't Have to Mean Crunchiness.

Sarah Raisel/CC BY 2.0

The other day I made the case that resilience has not been lost, it's been willfully ignored.

My argument was simple. While many of us environmentalists fret about how our culture can "relearn" the skills we need to survive—from growing our food to repairing what's broken—we often ignore that there are many economically and culturally marginalized communities among us who have been doing this all along.

We Can't Go Back
But there's a danger in this train of thought too. Because too many people assume that "resilience" has got to mean a voluntary embrace of poverty, or a return to pre-industrial culture and technology. But that's not the case.

Sure, people living in low impact dwellings in communal woodland have a lot to teach us about meeting our basic needs. Absolutely, someone living without money knows more than most of us about the value of the informal economy and social capital. And yes, someone who is used to living in a 12ft squared electricity-free home is more likely to survive an economic downturn or a zombie apocalypse than your average resident of surburbia or a McMansion.

Resilience Ain't Resilient Unless We're All On Board
But resilience, like sustainability, has to be a mainstream concept if it is going to deliver on its promise. And that means meeting people where they are at. As the passivhaus movement has shown, here is no reason we can't build modern, comfortable homes that appeal to the mass market that also happen to keep resilience in mind. The wildfire-like spread of collaborative consumption has proven that a sharing-based, less-resource intensive (read: more resilient) economy can appeal way beyond the usual hippy crowd if marketed right. And with the economic downturn forcing us all to focus on quality of life over economic growth at all costs, there is a cultural acceptance that alternative ways of organizing our economy may not just be possible and/or necessary—but profoundly desirable too.

Resilience does imply a fundamental rethink of how we design, how we organize and how we live. But it doesn't mean going backwards. It means going forwards and building the future we want to live in—just doing so with our eyes open to the threats and challenges that this future may face.

Tags: Activism | Economics | Global Climate Change | Peak Oil | United States

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