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Enhancing the Resilience of Human–Environment Systems: a Social Ecological Perspective

Daniel Stokols, School of Social Ecology, University of California, Irvine
Raul Perez Lejano, School of Social Ecology, University of California, Irvine
John Hipp, School of Social Ecology, University of California, Irvine


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Resilience studies build on the notion that phenomena in the real world should be understood as dynamic social–ecological systems. However, the scholarly community may not be fully aware that social ecology, as a conceptual framework, has a long intellectual history, nor fully cognizant of its foundational theory. In this article, we trace the intellectual roots and core principles of social ecology and demonstrate how these principles enable a broader conceptualization of resilience than may be found in much of the literature. We then illustrate how the resulting notion of resilience as transactional process and multi-capital formation affords new perspectives on diverse phenomena such as global financial crises and adaptation to environmental stresses to communities and ecosystems. A social–ecological analysis of resilience enables the study of people–environment transactions across varying dimensions, time periods, and scales. Furthermore, in its openness to experiential knowledge and action research, the social ecology framework coheres well with participative–collaborative modes of inquiry, which traverse institutional, epistemological, and scale-related boundaries.

Key words

environment–behavior transactions; resilience; social capital; social ecology

Copyright © 2013 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