Sustainability or Resilience?

A couple weeks ago, an article by professors Melinda Harm Benson and Robin K. Craig, The End of Sustainability, published in Ensia magazine (‘Ideas, information and inspiration to change the world’) sparked off a debate in sustainability circles.

It calls for us to ‘collectively reexamine — and ultimately move past — the concept of sustainability,’ even as we deal with the ‘extreme complexity, radical uncertainty and unprecedented change’ marked by the Anthropocene. They urge us instead to adopt resilience thinking because it acknowledges disequilibrium and nonlinear, continual change and helps assess the dynamic relationships between systems, vs. the concept of sustainability.

Declaring sustainability to be dead certainly got our attention. On the other hand: ‘What’s in a name? that which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet’ (Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet, Act 2, Scene1).

The results are what will matter. If resilience will get us to where we need to be as a species and a planet, so be it.



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