The cultural shift from sustainability to resilience

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jacob
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The cultural shift from sustainability to resilience

Post by jacob »

http://www.theautomaticearth.com/2015/0 ... new-black/
This is not to say we cannot and should not be proactive. It is more about where we direct our ‘proactions.’ Being proactive about resilience means protecting one’s self, one’s family, and one’s community from the trends that make us vulnerable economically, socially and environmentally, as well as to sudden shocks to the system.
This is something I started noticing about 5 years ago.---That the "informed" started giving up in frustration on the "uninformed" and the "misinformed" having realized that a top-down solution was politically unpossible as well as realizing that a lack of education was not the issue as much as not accepting the misalignment between human values and nature.
In most cases, the same strategies that contribute to resilience also contribute to a more ‘sustainable’ lifestyle. But where for most people sustainability is largely abstract and cerebral, resilience is more tangible. Perhaps that’s why more and more people are gravitating toward it.
Hence a solution should be designed as an emergent behavior of the system rather than a solution designed top-down as a matter of policy. The latter has essentially failed and turned into preaching to the choir due to the value problem above. This bifurcation is something that seems to happen whenever an issue gets mainstream attention. While it does start out scientific/rational and all, as soon as politics, money, and votes get involved, science gets pushed to the backseat.

Another issue is that the majority of temperaments are constitutionally unable (meaning they strongly prefer not to) to translate from things that are abstract and cerebral to practical action. The connection does not exist.

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Ego
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Re: The cultural shift from sustainability to resilience

Post by Ego »

IMO this is a necessary shift. People typically create complex, resource heavy systems when they attempt to become sustainable. On the other hand, resilience and anti-fragility focus on smaller, simpler, more flexible solutions.

Except for the author...
A resilient home is one that protects its occupants’ health and wealth. From this perspective, the home would have adequate insulation, proper curtaining, Energy Star appliances, energy-efficient light bulbs, and an efficient heater. By investing in these things we are protecting our family’s health as well as future-proofing our power bills. Come what may, we are likely to weather the storm.

Beyond the above steps, a resilient household also collects rainwater, grows some of its own food, and has back-up systems for cooking and heating. When we did up an abandoned villa in Castlecliff, Whanganui, we included a 1,000 litre rain water tank, three independent heat sources, seven different ways to cook (ok, I got a little carried away), and a property brimming with fresh fruit and vege. These came on top of a warm, dry, home and a power bill of $27 per month.


That sounds to me like trying to buy antifragility rather than becoming antifragile.

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Re: The cultural shift from sustainability to resilience

Post by GandK »

jacob wrote:This is something I started noticing about 5 years ago.---That the "informed" started giving up in frustration on the "uninformed" and the "misinformed" having realized that a top-down solution was politically unpossible as well as realizing that a lack of education was not the issue as much as not accepting the misalignment between human values and nature. ... This bifurcation is something that seems to happen whenever an issue gets mainstream attention. While it does start out scientific/rational and all, as soon as politics, money, and votes get involved, science gets pushed to the backseat.
I feel pretty strongly that most scientists could do a much better job tailoring their message to the needs/abilities of a mainstream audience, but choose not to.

And for them to give up because "it's too hard" seems... well, defeatist. And silly, frankly. "Here, let me spend 50% of my life researching the hell out of this important problem. People don't understand my work and the oil companies hate it? Fine, I'll quit." :?

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Re: The cultural shift from sustainability to resilience

Post by jacob »

Uhhh... so what you're saying is essentially that "we could do better to educate the public"?

But we already tried that for decades ... we even have universities dedicated to that effort ... but it largely hasn't worked.

The problem is due to the unfortunate realization that the needs and abilities of the mainstream (basically anyone who isn't an expert in a given particular field) fits the techniques of propaganda far better than informed reasoning. What holds for a fact when it comes to buying a new car or discarding perfectly serviceable goods in favour of the latest fad also holds when the mainstream/average person tries to decide "which theory to choose". It's not done based on rationality. It's done according to whatever the person feels is right in their gut.

It comes down to truthiness.

Yes, scientists could do a really good job "marketing" their data in a way to present a specific point. And some have done so and gotten very well paid for it too. However, deliberately manipulating data such as to present a "truthy" conclusion crosses the line between science which is supposed to be objective and marketing for lack of a better word. Of course some "scientists" are willing to cross this unethical line but most aren't.

When this line is crossed, trust in science is eroded. There needs to be a separation between science and marketing. just like we have a separation of powers. Were it to become common practice that scientists used their skills to deceive the public to serve particular interests (even if it was "for the public's own good") could you trust scientists anymore?

That was rhetorical.

It's been repeatedly demonstrated (see other threads) that very few people have the necessary skills to distinguish between a real argument and a faked argument because the amount of background knowledge required goes beyond undergraduate level. Basically, people do not understand the science at the required level of detail. This is patently obvious. (See Mt Stupid). Therefore TRUST IS NECESSARY.

It would appear that we have a conundrum ...

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Re: The cultural shift from sustainability to resilience

Post by GandK »

LOL. I agree with what you're saying theoretically (Mt Stupid... hehe). The problem as I see it is that if people with ethics don't produce the sound bytes, people without ethics begin to fill that void. And to me, as a member of the public, the only man who's qualified to condense any given subject is one who has made himself master of the subject.

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Re: The cultural shift from sustainability to resilience

Post by Tyler9000 »

Ego wrote:People typically create complex, resource heavy systems when they attempt to become sustainable. On the other hand, resilience and anti-fragility focus on smaller, simpler, more flexible solutions.
Very good point.

I personally support the transition from sustainability to resilience. It acknowledges that our actions have consequences and we need to be smart about them, but marks a shift towards recognizing that the world is dynamic and cannot (in some cases, perhaps even should not) be bridled to a controllable steady state no matter how hard we try. A system that focuses on "smaller, simpler, more flexible solutions" is likely far more sustainable in the long run than top-heavy policies driven by fickle politicians anyway.

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Re: The cultural shift from sustainability to resilience

Post by jacob »

@GandK - If it comes down to sound bytes(*), average people are just going to pick the ones they agree with to reinforce their own preexisting beliefs. This has been demonstrated to make things worse because it's polarizing.

(*) One-liners as shouted from the top of Mt Stupid ;-)

Distinguishing sound bytes and sorting them into information and disinformation requires an underlying framework, that is, a relevant and sufficient education. The average person (Dreyfus levels 1-2) lacks this framework. The problem is that this framework can not be condensed. Regardless of how smart experts are, there hasn't been an expert yet who has been able to condense their knowledge so that when communicated to a nonexpert, the nonexpert will possess equivalent knowledge to the expert. It's similar to how you can't reduce a piece of complex software to a few lines of code and expect it to evaluate identically.

This might also be the reason why the strategy has shifted from communicating competing sound bytes to providing a framework that focuses on spotting signs of manipulation. This framework---educating people in basic rhetorical fallacies including how to spot manipulated graphs and data---is universal and simpler than teaching the science itself.

If it was a chess match, the strategy has shifted from teaching the audience enough chess [in order] to understand that the grandmaster plays much better than the challenger despite the game looking even to simply teaching the audience the rules of chess to show how the challenger is constantly cheating.

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Re: The cultural shift from sustainability to resilience

Post by black_son_of_gray »

A speculation: The cultural shift from sustainability to resilience will be divisive and unequal. That is, the cultural gulf will widen before it ever gets more cohesive. When some fraction of the population 'gets it', and starts focusing on resilience, it will concomitantly allow those with 'fragile' lifestyles to continue down that path (at least for some time), only making things worse for them (or everyone if the costs are externalized).

For example, if a quarter of the population dramatically reduced their fossil fuel consumption, then demand goes down and prices decrease... allowing people to afford to drive monstrously overpowered vehicles. If most of the developed world dramatically reduced meat consumption to lower greenhouse gasses, free up farmland, and improve health... meat will become cheaper and many third world countries that have developed Western tastes will immediately step in and increase meat consumption.

The cultural meme of overspecialization and high-tech/non renewable resource dependency runs very deep, and there are many forces (many of the current powers) to keep going down that path. Any slack that a transition to resilience creates will be taken up immediately. Which isn't to say 'don't become more resilient', certain do - but I'm not sure that the grassroots efforts will just slowly and cohesively gain momentum.

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Re: The cultural shift from sustainability to resilience

Post by JamesR »

But we already tried that for decades ... we even have universities dedicated to that effort ... but it largely hasn't worked.
You are arguing that people have been educated and that the education failed. I disagree they've been educated at all. It's taken me years of educating myself above and beyond school, following many dead end rabbit holes, and just plain time to gain perspective (not to mention frontal lobes don't reach maturity until 25+ years old). Also what do I still think I "know" that is completely wrong?
amount of background knowledge required goes beyond undergraduate level.
I agree. However, I think the existing education system is enormously wasteful of the student's time. 50 minutes of every hour of every lecture in high school, and most of university, were largely wasted. Also, that's even assuming the course matter was well designed - fat chance! IMO, grad-level education should be achievable by the age of 16, without any increase in the typical schooling hours (5-6h).

I think we have failed to develop an adequate education system at all.

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Re: The cultural shift from sustainability to resilience

Post by BPA »

As a high school teacher, I can attest that education has not been the problem where I am, particularly when it comes to climate change. Denial seems to be the most popular response to any discomfort about how our lifestyle choices are impacting the planet. "The earth will just shrug it off," one student told me. No amount of reason or data could persuade him otherwise. Truthiness is the problem. Everyone thinking his or her opinion is as valid as scientific fact.

I often say that our willful stupidity, not ignorance, will be humanity's downfall.

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Re: The cultural shift from sustainability to resilience

Post by jacob »

By education I mean a sufficient framework that allows one to evaluate knowledge and put it in perspective. In general, this level is not reached at the undergraduate or technician level. I believe this is because our institutions are mostly intended to crank out technicians who can quickly fulfil a role (as cogs inside a productive system of industry) rather than "philosophers" who will seek question and critically analyze the basis of knowledge.

In that context, our educational system does not provide education until you hit grad school (or upper management). It provides training. Big difference!

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Re: The cultural shift from sustainability to resilience

Post by walker »

For those commenting on the school system, do you think it's possible to teach resilience (or basic critical thinking/scientific method) integrated into life skills? Not everyone has the ability or interest to be a philosopher who questions everything in a very abstract sense. To the points about popularizing science, some students might get the message better if they could build something -- or take apart things (systems, arguments) someone else has built.

Also, it will be really interesting to see how resilience plays out in the context of broad information access and the sharing economy. Knowledge about how to be resilient is readily available, but how many people will look for it and then use it in ways that have a real impact? We have the tools to dramatically reduce consumption and still get many needs met through virtual or web-enabled communities -- could this become mainstream within our lifetimes?

Being resilient instead of sustainable does seem to make sense in terms of human nature. Most people refuse to change until it becomes more painful not to. Planning to survive a disaster just "feels" more engaging than patiently building and running a sustainable system.

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Re: The cultural shift from sustainability to resilience

Post by jacob »

Here's a good example of how education has failed to promote useful and critical thinking skills. Whereas people have been taught calculus, most apparently are not able to apply this "skill" towards making any useful conclusions about even simple matters [when the problem leaves the text book].

http://jsterman.scripts.mit.edu/docs/Cr ... ucated.pdf

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Re: The cultural shift from sustainability to resilience

Post by enigmaT120 »

I don't know very many other people who were taught calculus.

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Re: The cultural shift from sustainability to resilience

Post by jacob »

walker wrote:For those commenting on the school system, do you think it's possible to teach resilience (or basic critical thinking/scientific method) integrated into life skills?
Yes, no problem. Even within the present system it's easy to tell how various national educational philosophies result in different abilities depending on whether the teaching focus is on standardized tests, collaborative projects, presentations (written or oral), solving a variety of fundamental problems (breadth), seeing examples of complicated problems (depth), etc.

A system that teaches resilience, critical thinking, while developing the habit of applying the scientific method instead of the ask-the-teacher or the just-google-it or the everything-you-need-to-know-can-be-found-in-what-you-already-read-and-it-should-not-take-more-than-four-hours-of-thinking method would look very different. It would be very hard to teach them in a class room setting. As it is, those qualities are for the most part or even completely self-taught outside the official educational system.

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Re: The cultural shift from sustainability to resilience

Post by GandK »

@jacob Sir Ken Robinson agrees with you.

RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms

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Re: The cultural shift from sustainability to resilience

Post by jacob »

Einstein said something to the effect of that education is what you remember after you forgot everything you learned in school. This means that the education of [most] successful college graduates is that
1) There's always an answer to every problem.
2) If you can't figure it out "they" will know.
3) All problems have a solution that will appear by following a plan or some progressive method of discovery.

Such an education only allows one to deal with a very limited set of problems inside a well-defined framework under the guidance of an expert or some other responsible authority. A factory so to speak.

Lest anyone think I'm harping on the bachelor degreed, here's what I learned in grad school(*)
1) How can you know what the answer is if you don't even know what the question is? Asking the right question is usually more important than getting the right answer!
2) "They" don't know. If you want an answer, it's all on you. You are to become "them".
3) Solutions never arrive through some straight progression of steps. You can't plan for what you don't know.

(*) Substitute any creative endeavor; for me, writing, research, investing.

That's not to say that those two are the only two kind of educations... an education for team sports, precision machining, nursing, etc. would be different again. For example, I learned that the mindset between working with handtools and powertools is almost diametrically opposed.

It's just that our "schooling" (K12+College) is the education required/intended for people to sit/stand still, follow instructions and do dull repetitive work within a top-down framework. It doesn't seem like the smartest idea to keep putting 100% of the people through that.

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Re: The cultural shift from sustainability to resilience

Post by jacob »

To make the distinction between sustainability and resilience, sustainability is best captured by the oxymoron "sustainable growth" which was meant to follow the traditions of industrial and exponential finance and simply substitute out consumer products with "sustainable" products. This is where things like electric cars, electric walls, organic food, etc. come from.

The "sustainable" framework is essentially that we can reach a climax stage by substituting in a "greener" oak tree.

In contrast, resilience, is the realization (by those who possess the sufficient framework) that "sustainable growth" is impossible because the constraints were overshoot at least 20 years ago. Resilience is not the oak tree strategy but a weed strategy to be pursued after the wildfire.

Rather than trying to fit into an existing system that must be incrementally improved (<- the kind of thinking that underlies practically ALL academic research these days), resilience thinking focuses on diversified opportunism that can be bootstrapped from practically no means.

In ecological terms, resilience is what survives after the "sustainable" forest burns down.

It's all cyclical.

Sustainability was/is just a short-sighted pursuit of the belief that a steady-state can be achieved in a cyclical system if growth can't be had. That is, if looking at a sinus function, growth is the upswing. Sustainability is the belief that if the upswing can't be continued, then at least we can stay at the top. Resilience is the realization that the top ultimately turns down in order to repeat the cycle.

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Re: The cultural shift from sustainability to resilience

Post by jacob »

http://energyskeptic.com/2014/dennis-me ... 2015-2020/
Evolution of the criticisms

1970s: There are no effective limits.
1980s: There are limits, but they are far away.
1990s: The limits are near, but technology and markets can evade them easily.
2000s: Technology and markets do not always evade the limits, but the best policy is still to pursue GNP growth, so we will have more resources to solve problems.
2010s: If we had been able to sustain economic growth, we would not have had trouble with the limits.

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Re: The cultural shift from sustainability to resilience

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

...Classic succession theory holds that any given geographical region will succeed toward a particular, predetermined climax...Unfortunately, this not how it actually happens. Ecologists have learned that succession is cyclical. It does not have a beginning, middle and end. There is no point you can call the climax, and it doesn't happen uniformly across a large piece of land. Nor can its outcome be precisely predicted.-Eric Toensmeier
This quote was from a chapter on the topic of guided succession in perma-culture. I currently spend my weekdays in the largely "weed strategy" environment of what is left of the oak forest of Detroit . I spend my weekends in the largely "sustainable growth strategy" affluent academic community of Ann Arbor. What strikes me most is how very finely chopped the mosaic of succession can be.

Recent observations; the Detroit Institute of Arts which houses and protects approximately $8 billion worth of cultural capital is a short bike ride away from the elementary school where the librarian left me a note saying "Please do not allow the children to sit near the shelves. Unfortunately, they can't all be trusted not to steal the books." My choice to attempt to use a rotary lawn mower and manual grass whip to clear the weeds from my vacant lots near this elementary school gained me a flurry of commentary, questions,friendly advice and offers of assistance from nearby residents and passing pedestrians. The most amusing being a young girl who kept riding by on her bike and finally asked "Are you going to have any parties here?" which is a possibility I hadn't previously contemplated. The most pressing offers being from a couple relatively younger and fitter than me men in possession of power mowers. One offered to do all the work for the price of a pack of cigarettes and the other just went ahead and mowed what I hadn't finished in my absence because neighborly. Meanwhile, back in the land of the affluent, my SO suffered a bad blade attachment on his riding mower which caused him to take the grass down to a 1/2 inch stubble and this behavior caused his next-door neighbor to leave him a terribly angry voice mail message accusing him of "raping" the strip of lawn shared between their properties.

Anyways, I can't connect the dots very well but my point here being that it seems to me that the world of the future will be different in some not totally predictable way but this sort of mosaic model of succession will still hold true so if you are able to pick up your own little backpack of resources, skills etc. and just walk a few blocks over then you will have different opportunities and different results from the same behavior because you will be in a different phase of succession in a different environment.

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