Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 378–391 | Cite as

Connecting resilience, food security and climate change: lessons from flooding in Queensland, Australia

  • Amy MacMahon
  • Kiah Smith
  • Geoffrey Lawrence


The Australian food system is often assumed to be largely secure in the face of global environmental challenges such as climate change. In 2010/2011, serious flooding in Queensland left towns isolated, major roads and highways cut and incurred significant loss of life and property. In terms of food security, large areas of agricultural land were inundated, and food supply chains, including both long and short chains, were affected in significant ways. The impacts included increases in food prices; deterioration in food quality; reduced consumer access to food; and disruption to the sourcing, transportation and distribution of food, grocery and other items. Examining the discourses and policies surrounding food supply during and after the floods, this paper asks, what lessons for building a more resilient food system have emerged from the 2011 floods? To explore this question, we consider policy documents, media reports, interviews and fieldwork with key stakeholders. We find evidence of strong collaboration of state government and long supply chain operators, but to the general exclusion of civil society-based food chains. Long chains provide the vast bulk of food to Queensland consumers but are vulnerable when roads are cut; civic agriculture showed resilience but remained marginal to the food needs of most Queensland consumers. Both resilience and vulnerability were present within both long and short food supply chains. Yet, there is limited evidence that food security issues, beyond productivity enhancement, are being considered in discussions and policies for climate change and natural disasters. We suggest that a broader view of climate change, beyond disasters and food production, has yet to be fully integrated into food security policy—and supply chain governance and practice—in Australia.


Resilience Disasters Governance Food supply chains Alternative food networks Supermarkets 



This study was funded by the Australian Research Council (Project No. DP120101949). Emeritus Professor Lawrence was also part-funded by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2010-330-00159) and the Norwegian Research Council (Project No. 220691). The authors would like to thank the editors of this special edition, as well as two anonymous reviewers, for their feedback.


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Copyright information

© AESS 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social ScienceThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Global Change InstituteThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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