Resilience and sustainability to the average observer are two completely separate concepts; one refers to being tough when faced with difficult situations, while the other refers to achieving a balance between production and consumption of renewable resources. But did you know, these terms actually complement each other when it comes to being eco friendly? So how does resilience complement sustainability?
Resilience vs sustainability
Before we move on to how resilience complements sustainability, we need to understand what each of these terms mean
By definition, resilience means the physical or mental strength that allows a being to overcome a difficult situation and return to a state that existed before the difficulty arose. Resilience, therefore, refers to how well you get back up when you fall down. In environmental sciences, the definition slightly changes from a single being to nature and how well it can recover from the disturbance caused by either natural or unnatural means. Resilience often also refers to the robustness of a system (which in our case, is nature) and its ability to continue functioning despite the damage being caused to it.
Sustainability is the ability for an object, a being, or a system to exist constantly regardless of how fast it may be consumed. Sustainable resources are those renewable resources that do not deplete even when consumed at an unimaginable rate (There is a fine line between renewable and sustainable resources, even though many people perceive them as the same). Sustainability is when you responsibly use the resources you have, both renewable and non-renewable, in order to ensure the preservation of the environment for today as well as the future.
Once you’ve gone through these definitions, you can begin to see a connection between the two; one of them focuses more on mitigation (sustainability), whereas the other (resilience) focuses more on adapting to the situation. In a way, you start to realize how resilience complementing sustainability may not be as far fetched of a claim as it may seem to be.
How does resilience complement sustainability?
Over the past few years, people have been in a constant argument over how to overcome the damage brought to our environment. Many argue that utilizing resources in efforts to improve the situation is costly and inefficient, therefore we must adapt to what the environment is like today and live our lives based on the new normal. In contrast, the other group believes that sustainability is the only way forward for a better future, and leaving the environment in its current state will result in further depletion of scarce resources, faster climate change, and ultimately destruction of the entire ecosystem.
However, the best solution is arguably one which adapts both the utilization of resources to mitigate the effects of environmental damage (i.e sustainability) as well as focus on adapting to the change in the environment and continuing to focus on development (i.e resilience). Although both terms are coined separately, it won’t be considered wrong if we said resilience complements sustainability (and vice versa). In a way, you can say that resilience is already a constituent of sustainability, as the introduction of solutions that mitigate the effects of environmental hazards might not exist without the will to adapt to the current situation and move forward towards building those solutions.
Examples of resilience and sustainability working together
If you’re still confused about how resilience and sustainability complement each other, consider this example from the construction industry; imagine you need to build a state of the art building that is potentially going to be one of the most technologically advanced buildings in the country. However, you notice that the area where you are creating this building is susceptible to earthquakes and other natural disasters; therefore before creating a world-class building, you would be looking to create a tough structure that would be able to adapt to the shakes caused by the earthquakes in the area. Only after you have designed and set up the structure you would be able to create the highly anticipated building.
Similar is the case with the eco friendly niche. If you live in a developing country, chances are the electricity in your house is powered using fossil fuels, and is often subject to power shortages from overloading due to high demand in the summer. You then decide to switch to solar-powered electricity, so you have solar panels installed in your home. The electricity is now sustainable since it is no longer using depleting resources, but one that does not deplete. At the same time, the electricity supply at your home is also resilient, as it will continue to provide electricity and adapt to the demand in your house.
Is resilience always good?
Resilience is essential for adapting to building sustainable alternatives. However, by itself, resilience may also play a negative role. Resilience by itself may prove to be very costly, since we are constantly forced to adapt to an ever-changing environment without making any effort to reduce the harm being brought on the environment itself, and if taken to the extreme, it can prove to be a force that opposes achieving sustainability. However, when coupled with the effort to bring a positive change, resilience is a powerful tool that can help achieve sustainability.