Challenges in Creating Resilient and Sustainable Societies
The global community is faced with a set of continuing, as well as emerging, problems which include but are not limited to climate change, global inequality, population growth, increased energy needs, and destruction of the biosphere on which human lives depend. We draw on the concept of resilience from the field of ecology to broaden our understanding of the conditions that can cause human and natural systems to tip out of balance, sometimes in disastrous and irreversible ways. A resilient system is one that learns constantly, is open to connectivity and new ideas, and, thereby, anticipates and is stabilized by change. The unique but previously unexplored role that inequality plays in reducing system resilience is explored, along with how energy needs relate to states of inequality. Trust, defined as social capital, is seen as a critical variable affecting people's ability to work together toward solutions for common ecological, political and economic problems. Trust is dependent on the kind of political institutions that govern how scarce resources are allocated, and dependent on whether or not people feel they live under a rule of law. Culture is another variable that influences a society's resilience. Culture is both an independent and dependent variable. Culture is the landscape or space into which other variables fit or are mapped. Culture creates the boundaries and pathways that determine what is possible; it creates the interaction between all of the dimensions of culture, which in turn create feedback loops that change, as economic, political, and environmental circumstances change. We focus on policy questions related to how to identify and support nations and social institutions to allow for the development of resilient, robust, and inclusive economies that can reduce the economic and social inequalities we find today. Resilient societies must meet the infinite needs of human systems, while at the same time operating within the finite constraints of natural resource systems. Given this framing, creating sustainable and resilient soeieties is a problem of planning.
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