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Community Resilience and Oil Spills in Coastal Louisiana

Craig E Colten, Department of Geography and Anthropology, Louisiana State University
Jenny Hay, Department of Geography and Anthropology, Louisiana State University
Alexandra Giancarlo, Independent Scholar


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The persistence of communities along Louisiana’s coast, despite centuries of natural and technological hazard events, suggests an enduring resilience. This paper employs a comparative historical analysis to examine “inherent resilience,” i.e., practices that natural resource-dependent residents deploy to cope with disruptions and that are retained in their collective memory. The analysis classifies activities taken in advance of and following a series of oil spills within Wilbanks’ four elements of community resilience: anticipation, reduced vulnerability, response, and recovery. Comparing local inherent resilience to formal government and corporate resilience enables the identification of strengths and weaknesses of these different categories of resilience. It also helps answer the questions: What forms of inherent resilience capacity existed prior to the formulation of formal contingency plans? How have communities drawn upon their own capabilities to survive without the infusion of massive external assistance? Have externally managed contingency planning procedures integrated or bypassed inherent resilience?

Key words

Gulf Coast; oil spills; resilience

Copyright © 2012 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087