Resilience 2011 --  Resilience, Innovation and Sustainability:  Navigating the Complexities of Global Change -- Second International Science and Policy Conference -- March 11-16, 2011

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker's presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, by David Ing.

Introduction by Chuck

[Brian Walker]

Propositions, before theory

  • How do you create propositions?
  • Emerging propositions

Propositions about propositions:

  • 1.  You need to involve really serious scientists
  • 2. You need to do a lot of serious sampling
  • 3. Sometimes it helps to jus pray for divine intervention

"Resilence" has become common parlance, with common interpretations

  • Rising unease

11 emerging propositions, from working with propositions

  • With Paul Ryan, working on catchment management

1. You cannot understand or manage a system by focussing on one scale

  • The most common problem
  • Need at least 3:  focal scale, one above and one below (a dictum from Buzz Holling)

2. Increasing resilience (or pursuing efficiency) at one scale can reduce resilience at other scales

3. SESs are essentially self-organizing sysems with thresholds

  • Bottom-up (evolutionary, adaptive, novelty) and top-down (constructs and directional)
  • See R. Ulanowicz, "The third window"

Kinds of thresholds and tipping points

  • a. No threshold effect (which economists think)
  • b. Step change (e.g. 30% natural)
  • c. Threshold, alternate stable states (or interest to ecologists, lakes and rangelands)
  • d. Irreversible threshold change (in catchment, 30% have icon species)

Hysteresis effects on threshold position fo reversing a phase shift

  • T.F. Hughes, need to change nutrient levels
  • Effective of climate change pushes threshold positions down further (i.e. temperature change)

How to identify thresholds?

  • Start off simply
  • Identify 9 thresholds in Macquarie marsh
  • Thresholds of Potential Concerns (TPCs) are suspected, or in related systems
  • State-and-threshold models, in the Resilience Handbook
  • Bayesian updating models, probability of going from state 1 to state 2 (from T. Lefroy group), but wrong question (i.e. what policy you should be working on)
  • Analytical model:  rising variance, rising autocorrelation (time and space) Carpenter and Brock, Scheffer, Dakos
  • Rising variance needs enough time to get data, but by then have crossed threshold
  • Need work, because practitioners only for a few days

Want to develop policies for crossing thresholds, approaching thresholds, managing thresholds

Goulburn-Broken catchment

  • 3 scales, three domains
  • Subject to shocks, which causes different thresholds

With 10 or more identified TPCs, 2 issues:

  • 1. "requisite simplicty: and "the rule of hand"
  • so (5) there is a hierarchy of thresholds, some embedded withinothers
  • Strategic Adaptive Management framework, Kingsfor R.T., Biol. Conserv. 2010

6.  Trying to make the sysem variane reilience on one way, makes it less resilient in other ways

  • Leads to "general resilience"

7.  General resilience theory lacks rigour, needs research

8. Specified and general resilience are both important and interacdt

  • Endogenous and exogenous
  • Exogenous-driven changes:  (i) external drivers/trends as slow controlling variables with thresholds, and (ii) external shocks as faster variables of convern
  • Slow and fast results in regime shifts (threshold crossing)
  • Endogenously-drive changes, e.g. ecological succession, demographic change (aging), social inequity
  • Endogenously-drive changes through time are the phases in the adaptive cycle:  growth, conservation, release, reorganization -- can be identified with a slow, fairly predictable foreloop (where there is management), and a fast chaotic backloop (where there is little research, and we don't have Plan B)
  • If don't have a Plan B, will then end up in a worse place

Panarchy leads to adaptive governance across scales

9. Proposition that panarchy is popular in concpet, but lacks rigour in application.  It needs research

Resilience is neither good nor bad

Warren Buffett:  When you're in a hole, stop digging

  • However, adaptation deepens holes

The only option is transformation

10.  Resilience and transformation are not opposites:  they are compatible aspectis of a complex adaptive scale

Determinants of tranformability

  • Preparedness for change
  • Options for change
  • Capacity for change, i.e. capital

Work with a shire, at a focal scale

  • Irrigation community with no rain for 5 years
  • Beyond state of denial, had suicides
  • Create experiments at fine scale with entrepreneurs
  • Many will fail, but the successful experiments will trickle up to the focal scale

Interactions between scales, some positive and some negative ... and some are missing

  • Help financially
  • Enhancing capacity for change (e.g. funding)

Question:  In which parts (at what scale) do you need to build resilience, and at which do you transform

11. Navigating the combined influences of exognesou shocks and endogensou changes calls for adaptive governance

  • May have to hand control down to a lower level
  • Requires more rigourous, as polycentric governance or distributed governance

Resilience approach has strengths

  • Practitioners like it, it cuts through the dross and gets to what really matters
  • People get wrong, and don't understand (i) scales; (ii) confusion about adaptive cycles
  • If the scale above you is in K phase, you won't be able to change
  • Weaknesses:  (i) social domain is ok in general resilience, but little rigour in regard to social system thresholds (and tipping points); (ii) identify thresholds is practically a problem, as time and expertise is needed to analyze (and model).


Contingencies?  General resilience as only notional

  • Jim Balsillie, identified 9 moments of contingencies with RIM could have disappeared, needed to hold nerve, could have easily collapsed
  • If have strong social capital, trust, then ability to get through social contingencies is higher

Digging holes.  How to tell apart from adaptation?

  • There's the rub.
  • Take a systems view.
  • If you have a resilience view, identify the systems states, identify some thresholds
  • Am I at a threshold, or am I getting worse to sliding towards a stable state that is even worse
  • Knowing where you are leads to deciding whether you're in a hole, or whether you should transform
  • Need to know that you're at the edge of a threshold, or if there are other factors so that you'll have to through them
  • e.g. salinity, at level 2 about to go to level 3 when it's game over; need to know whether can stay away from the threshold

Thresholds and vulnerability?  More or less generally distributed? About to crash?

  • Have to answer in a particular event.
  • A drought event is a shock, not a long term trend
  • Part of the variability of the system, rather than a trend
  • If you have a trend of dryness, then the shock of a drought takes little to push you over

Reflexivity.  Ways of thinking from ecological systems, applied to the social world.  Volition and intentionality.  How does one start to thing about multiple ontologies to studying human behaviours?  Historical stages.  Navigating ontologies and epistemologies.  Role of analysts and scientists.

  • Should have had a 12th proposition
  • Just had a board meeting of the Resilience Alliance, looking for next collaborative thrust
  • This is the next
  • Foresight and reflexivity in social system differentiates them from biophysical systems
  • Not insoluable area, it's a weak area

Power could play in future research.  Examples of how to get over social thresholds of denial?

  • No.
  • When we see it, it's a painful event, so people have gotten over denial.
  • One good rain event, and people get over the drought:  it's so easy to slip out of comfortable events

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2011/03/13 09:55 Brian Walker, "Resilience Propositions on Trial: Briefing for the Mock Court", Resilience 2011, Arizona State University