Enhancing the resilience of Puget Sound recovery: A path through the maze of resilience thinking

A 2019 report from the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute examines the application of 'resilience thinking' to Puget Sound protection and restoration.

Summary

In systems management (including ecosystem recovery) it makes sense to maximize the chances that desired outcomes will endure future challenges and changes, anticipated or not. In other words, it makes sense to maximize the ‘resilience’ of desired outcomes. ‘Resilience thinking’ has exploded in recent decades to become a sprawling discipline, complete with debates and inconsistencies, and literature to match. To illustrate, the following are selected quotes about systems resilience (in italics; sources are given in the narrative). All are true.

•    Resilience is an idea that is necessary for inter-generational survival.
•    Resilience is the capacity of an ecosystem to resist, absorb, or rebound from disturbance or stress, and continue to operate in the face of change ... also … the capacity of a social-ecological system to sustain human well-being in the face of change … There are many definitions of resilience, and their implications can conflict with each other.
•    Resilience has become a central theme of research, policy and programs, across disciplines and sectors, all over the world, from community to global scales.
•    Resilience has become loosely structured in common use, open to interpretation, and only obtaining meaning in a particular context … a vague and malleable…communication tool across…scientific disciplines.
•    ‘Resilience thinking’ is not attractive to nor easily integrated with social science thinking, nor founded on consistent and substantiated theory.
•    The core tenet of ‘resilience thinking’ remains deceptively simple: for desired states of any system, the more resilient the better.

Prompted in part by the perception that resilience enhancement may be under-attended in Puget Sound recovery, this article is intended to help recovery practitioners become active resilience enhancers (beyond what they already achieve incidentally), without having to wade through (all) the literature. It is intended to help answer the question How would YOU make the Puget Sound ecosystem more resilient? It does this by:

•    sketching salient parts of the history and conceptual theory of resilience;
•    offering perspectives on the prevalence and limitations of ‘resilience thinking’;
•    summarizing some of the approaches and practices used to enhance and measure system resilience;
•    providing examples of how resilience of Puget Sound has been enhanced, and may further be;
•    availing some of the primary and most useful literature for further reading.

This article will succeed if resilience thinkers, and resilience enhancement, become more prevalent among efforts to recover Puget Sound. It will succeed, of course, if recovery outcomes endure future challenges and changes, anticipated or not.

Citation

Geogiadis, N. (2019). Enhancing the resilience of Puget Sound recovery: A path through the maze of resilience thinking. University of Washington Puget Sound Institute. 20 pgs.

Download the full report

About the Author: 
Nicholas Georgias is a senior scientist at the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute.