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Separating Adaptive Maintenance (Resilience) and Transformative Capacity of Social-Ecological Systems

Samuel Wilson, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, The University of Melbourne, Australia; Present address: School of Psychology and Psychiatry, Monash University, Australia
Leonie J Pearson, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, The University of Melbourne, Australia; Land and Environment, The University of Melbourne, Australia
Yoshihisa Kashima, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, The University of Melbourne, Australia; Psychological Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Australia
Dean Lusher, Swinburne Institute of Social Research, Swinburne University of Technology, 3122 Australia
Craig Pearson, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, The University of Melbourne, Australia

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-05100-180122

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Abstract

Many rural communities are vulnerable social-ecological systems (SES) that must do more than become resilient to future environmental and social shocks: they must transform to achieve sustainability. We aimed first to conceptually explore the proposition that SES characteristics (identity, feedbacks, structure, and functions) necessary for transformation may be distinct from those necessary for adaptive maintenance or resilience, and second, to propose metrics that may be used to assess these two types of system changes. We did this by interrogating literature and by investigating two rural towns in Australia using a combination of quantitative methods and focus groups to interrogate community social networks, capitals (human, natural, built, and social) and future scenarios. Results indicated that (1) it is practicable to carry out a holistic assessment of SES characteristics (identity, feedbacks, structure, and functions), and (2) purposeful, positive transformation is supported by vision, identification with place, unhappiness (with the status quo), high personal contribution to social capital, open social networks, and latent capital(s). We conclude that rural communities possess capacities for adaptive maintenance (resilience) and for system-wide transformation, and that the metrics used to assess each are sometimes discrete, sometimes common.

Key words

Australia; feedbacks; functions; identity; structure

Copyright © 2013 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087