Natural Hazards

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 283–295

Understanding uncertainty and reducing vulnerability: lessons from resilience thinking

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11069-006-9036-7

Cite this article as:
Berkes, F. Nat Hazards (2007) 41: 283. doi:10.1007/s11069-006-9036-7


Vulnerability is registered not by exposure to hazards alone; it also resides in the resilience of the system experiencing the hazard. Resilience (the capacity of a system to absorb recurrent disturbances, such as natural disasters, so as to retain essential structures, processes and feedbacks) is important for the discussion of vulnerability for three reasons: (1) it helps evaluate hazards holistically in coupled human–environment systems, (2) it puts the emphasis on the ability of a system to deal with a hazard, absorbing the disturbance or adapting to it, and (3) it is forward-looking and helps explore policy options for dealing with uncertainty and future change. Building resilience into human–environment systems is an effective way to cope with change characterized by surprises and unknowable risks. There seem to be four clusters of factors relevant to building resilience: (1) learning to live with change and uncertainty, (2) nurturing various types of ecological, social and political diversity for increasing options and reducing risks, (3) increasing the range of knowledge for learning and problem-solving, and (4) creating opportunities for␣self-organization, including strengthening of local institutions and building cross-scale linkages and problem-solving networks.


Resilience Vulnerability Ecosystems Complex adaptive systems Communities Adaptation Learning Institutions Cross-scale linkages 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Natural Resources InstituteUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada

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