Over the last few months some of us have considered the connection or not between a system’s resilience — ability to “bounce back” to something close to its original condition — and a system’s ability to effectively bounce-forward into something very different. From time to time we have politely disagreed, but I’m not sure much authentically new understanding has emerged.
A piece that has generated some new understanding by yours-truly is Resilience, Adaptability, and Transformability in the Goulburn-Broken Catchment, Australia by Brian H Walker, Nick Abel, John M Anderies, and Paul Ryan (no, not that Paul Ryan). This was published waaay back in 2009, but I just read it.
Here’s a brief excerpt that may entice or the opposite.
Resilience, therefore, emphasizes the possibility of alternate system regimes and the thresholds between them.The ability to manage resilience—to avoid regime shifts and to become more (or less) resilient—is referred to as adaptability, or adaptive capacity (Walker et al. 2004). A related concept is transformability—what to do when it appears that a shift into an undesired regime is either inevitable,or has already occurred and is irreversible (Walker et al. 2004). We explore these concepts in the context of the Goulburn-Broken Social Ecological System, drawing on information from farmers, citizens, researchers, public servants,and publications from both within and outside the region.
In any case, the distinction between adaptability and tranformability is, I suggest, important and helpful to our future consideration.