The Science of Resiliency in Cities

Resilience science has typically been applied to ecosystems. But now, scientists are starting to look at how it relates to cities.
February 18, 2010, 10am PST | Nate Berg
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The theory goes that ecosystems (or places) don't respond to changes in a linear fashion, but rather they are in a constant state of flux.

"The concept of resilience upends old ideas about 'sustainability': Instead of embracing stasis, resilience emphasizes volatility, flexibility, and de-centralization. Change, from a resilience perspective, has the potential to create opportunity for development, novelty, and innovation. As Holling himself once put it, there is 'no sacred balance' in nature. 'That is a very dangerous idea.'

Over the past decade, resilience science has expanded beyond the founding group of ecologists to include economists, political scientists, mathematicians, social scientists, and archaeologists. And they have made remarkable progress in studying how habitats-including coral reefs, lakes, wetlands, forests, and irrigation systems, among others-absorb disturbance while continuing to function.

New Orleans, however, presents an interesting example to resilience scientists. If a lake can shift from clear to murky, could a city shift to a dramatically different stable state too?"

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Published on Tuesday, February 16, 2010 in Seed
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