Life is full of surprises. Sometimes we take them in stride; some times they trip us up. Resilience thinking offers a fresh way of understanding the world around us and of managing our natural resources.
We have previously described four key characteristics of resilient structures in natural systems: diversity; web-network structure; distribution across a range of scales; and the capacity to self-adapt and “self-organize.” We showed how these features allow a structure to adapt to shocks and changes that might otherwise prove catastrophic.
We also argued that a more resilient future for humankind demands new technologies incorporating precisely these characteristics. As a result, environmental design, especially, is set to change dramatically.
But such desirable characteristics do not exist as abstract entities. Rather, they are embodied in the physical geometries of our world — the relationship between elements in space. As we will discuss here, these geometries typically arise from the processes that produce resilience, but in turn they go on to create — or to destroy — the capacity for resilience in their own right. So if we want a more resilient future, we first need to understand these geometries, and the technological and economic processes that produce them.
The Buckminster Fuller Challenge Idea Index serves as a tool to educate, network, and help solve problems. As an educational tool, the Index is full of hopeful, exciting ideas and solutions to pressing global problems. As a networking tool, the Index allows site visitors to contact the project leaders, leave a constructive and/or encouraging comment and connect with one another. It presents a fully searchable database of socially-responsible initiatives, in all stages of development, in need of further funding and support.
March 22-23 / San Francisco - Explore design’s role in creating a more resilient world, with some of the world’s leading designers, entrepreneurs, scientists, architects and more. Fast-moving, reasonably priced, and loaded with actionable, inspiring insights, Compostmodern is a can’t-miss event for anyone interested in the cutting-edge of sustainability and design.
Earlier this month I had the privilege of co-presenting at SOCAP’s “Designing the Future” conference in Malmö, Sweden.
SOCAP, or Social Capital Markets, brings together social entrepreneurs, philanthropic funders, and impact investors dedicated to increasing the “flow of capital toward social good.” Back in September 2011, I led the Design for Social Innovation track at the SOCAP11 conference in San Francisco, and several others from Hot Studio set up drop-in consulting.
This time around I was joined by David McConville, President of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, and Mauricio Apablaza, from Oxford University’s Poverty and Human Development Initiative. Our talk focused on the idea of designing for resilience.
- Sarah Brooks, Director of Social Innovation at Hot Studio
"The Living Building Challenge is especially important at this make-it-or-break-it moment when humanity must rapidly address climate change in disruptive, systematic ways. At a cusp when world populations continue to place increasingly radical strains on the biosphere, innovating on how we redesign the built environment is imperative." – Kenny Ausubel, 2012 Challenge Juror
David McConville, President of the Buckminster Fuller Institute (www.bfi.org), explores how the comprehensive strategies emerging from the Buckminster Fuller Challenge are addressing wicked problems around the world.
Featured talk for RE-VIEWING BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE 4: Looking Forward at Buckminster Fuller's Legacy September 28, 2012 Asheville, NC
In times of upheaval, why do some people, communities, companies and systems thrive, while others fall apart? That’s the question at the heart of an exciting new field, and an urgent new agenda for the 21st century. In Resilience, Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy bring you important scientific discoveries, pioneering social innovations, and vital new approaches to constructing a more resilient future. You may never look at your world, your organization, or yourself the same way again.
Sustainability is a seemingly laudable goal -- it tells us we need to live within our means, whether economic, ecological, or political -- but it's insufficient for uncertain times. How can we live within our means when those very means can change, swiftly and unexpectedly, beneath us? We need a new paradigm. As we look ahead, we need to strive for an environment, and a civilization, able to handle unexpected changes without threatening to collapse. Such a world would be more than simply sustainable; it would be regenerative and diverse, relying on the capacity not only to absorb shocks like the popped housing bubble or rising sea levels, but to evolve with them. In a word, it would be resilient.
The ability to bounce back, to absorb shocks, to persevere, to retain functionality over time, to endure, to adapt, to succeed, to survive, to sustain... so many verbs are conjured up by the term "resilience." Whether we're talking about our bodies, our minds, our communities, our institutions or our natural environment, the R-word provides a conceptual framework for designing a better tomorrow. Please join us for a wide-ranging inquiry on what it means to be resilient and what a resilient future could look like.
We live in a time of flux. The operating systems that guided human development in the 20th century are failing.
Too many people still struggle for access to food or education. Few societies have been able to organize for broadly shared benefits. Moreover, in our growing demand for nature’s services, we weaken our ability to provide for human needs in years to come.
It’s time to examine how our current operating systems — the institutions of social, political, and economic relations — leave us vulnerable. Then we can begin to draw a new map for navigating the territory ahead.
Cities face an important challenge: they must rethink themselves in the context of planetary change. What role do cities play in the evolution of Earth? From a planetary perspective, the emergence and rapid expansion of cities across the globe may represent another turning point in the life of our planet. Earth’s atmosphere, on which we all depend, emerged from the metabolic process of vast numbers of single-celled algae and bacteria living in the seas 2.3 billion years ago. These organisms transformed the environment into a place where human life could develop. Adam Frank, an Astrophysicist at the University of Rochesters, reminds us that the evolution of life has completely changed big important characteristics of the planet. Can humans now change the course of Earth’s evolution? Can the way we build cities determine the probability of crossing thresholds that will trigger non-linear, abrupt change on a planetary scale?
1. Resilience transcends scales. Strategies to address resilience are relevant at scales of individual buildings, communities, and larger regional and ecosystem scales.
2. Diverse systems are inherently more resilient. More diverse communities, ecosystems, economies, and social systems are better able to respond to interruptions or change, making them inherently more resilient.
3. Redundancy enhances resilience. While sometimes in conflict with efficiency and green building priorities, redundant systems for such needs as electricity, water, and transportation, improve resilience.
4. Simple, elegant, passive systems are more resilient. Features like passive heating and cooling strategies for buildings and natural swales for stormwater management are more resilient than complex systems that can break down and require ongoing maintenance.
5. Durability strengthens resilience. Features that increase durability, such as rainscreen details on buildings, windows designed to withstand hurricane winds, biological erosion-control measures that grow stronger over time, and beautiful buildings that will be maintained for generations, enhance resilience.
6. Locally available, renewable resources are more resilient. Reliance on abundant local resources, such as solar energy and annually replenished groundwater, provides greater resilience than nonrenewable resources from far away.
7. Resilience anticipates interruptions and a dynamic future. Adaptation to a changing climate with higher temperatures, more intense storms, flooding, drought, and wildfire is a growing necessity, while non-climate-related natural disasters, such as earthquakes and solar flares, and anthropogenic actions like terrorism and cyberterrorism, call for resilient design.
8. Find resilience in nature. Natural systems have evolved to achieve resilience; we can enhance our resilience by relying on or applying lessons from nature.
9. Resilience is not absolute. Recognize that incremental steps can be taken and that “total resilience” in the face of all situations is not possible. Implement what is feasible and work to achieve greater resilience in stages.
The Buckminster Fuller Challenge, has announced the Call for Proposals for the 2013 prize cycle. Deadline is April 12th, 5pm EST. Named "Socially-Responsible Design’s Highest Award" by Metropolis Magazine, the Buckminster Fuller Challenge is an annual global competition recognizing bold, creative and visionary initiatives that take a comprehensive, anticipatory, design science approach to radically advance human well being and the health of our planet's ecosystems. As part of a rigorous review process, a distinguished jury selects a winner and awards a $100,000 prize to be conferred at an award ceremony in New York City in November. Now in it's sixth year, BFI will again award a grand prize of $100,000 to a winning entrant. New this year, BFI has created an infrastructure of support for a larger pool of entrants to gain support and grow a community in design science. Committed to accelerating the implementation of as many outstanding projects as possible, the Buckminster Fuller Institute is proud to be partnering with a number of organizations and companies to help further support a select number of entries with mentoring, incubation, educational resources, etc. Read more about their extended opportunities in the 2013 cycle, the full Call for Proposals, and apply - or nominate a project - today.
The purpose of the research insights is to stimulate social-ecological research and resilience theory. They synthesize research achievements for teaching and training and for broader communication and present lessons learned in an accessible fashion.
Topics include Transformations, Regime Shifts, Adaptive Governance, Social-Ecological Innovations, Social-Ecological Traps, and Knowledge Systems and Learning.
Understanding the interconnected problems facing humanity often requires seeing the world in a new way. David McConville, President of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, explores how questioning the outdated assumptions underlying "business as usual" approaches is the first step in designing for a resilient future.
This was the opening keynote from SOCAP: Designing the Future, held in Malmö, Sweden from May 8-10, 2012.
A 3-minute journey through the last 250 years of our history, from the start of the Industrial Revolution to the Rio+20 Summit. The film charts the growth of humanity into a global force on an equivalent scale to major geological processes.
In this brief overview, by design resilience we mean a deliberate tactic employed in strategic design that applies Pareto’s Principle to choice architectures, generating ‘quick win’ measurable actions for better decision making; with the intent of increasing adaptive capacity within a strategic design framework. When leveraged by high-level design thinkers such as architects, these small re-configurations builds trust and empathy between multi-disciplinary expertise, by drawing on a common language and value systems, forming the basis of highly contextualised strategic intent.
“How do you understand resilience conceptually at present?” First, discourse matters. The term resilience is important because it focuses not on us, the development and disaster response community, but rather on local at-risk communities. While “vulnerability” and “fragility” were used in past discourse, these terms focus on the negative and seem to invoke the need for external protection, overlooking the fact that many local coping mechanisms do exist. From the perspective of this top-down approach, international organizations are the rescuers and aid does not arrive until these institutions mobilize...
It is commonly assumed that our national security depends only on our capacity to project military power beyond our borders and has little to do with how we organize the internal business of the country. The nation’s armed strength and its “soft power” are necessary components of security, but they are not—and cannot be—the whole of it. A larger vision of security includes the internal resilience, health, and sustainability of the nation, that is to say its capacity for self-renewal. Real security, in other words, is inseparable from issues of energy policy; education; public health; preservation of soils, forests, and waters; and broadly based, sustainable prosperity.
What will it take to build the future we want? In September 2011, over 50 leaders from around the world convened at Ecotrust in Portland to share stories of challenges and hope for building a resilient future.