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Sunday, June 28, 2015

"Resilience Thinking" by Brian Walker and David Salt

      "Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World" was a very interesting read, because the concepts apply very much to congregations and how they can be resilient, as well as ecosystems.
       The authors write about all of life having a cycle of new life where there is fast growth and lots of innovation, followed by a time of sustaining growth in which a system grows more efficient, then when the system can't be sustained anymore it ends or dies, and finally it reorganizes.  These parts of the cycle don't always happen in order.  The authors also write about "regime shifts" which happen when a system crosses into a new way of operating.  For example, one regime shift from the book has occurred in one area of Australia where the water table has risen, bringing salt up to the topsoil and making it very hard to grow food.  Once a system has crossed into a new regime, it can be very difficult or impossible to get back to the way things were.
      Resilience is the amount of change a system can undergo and still stay in the same regime--still retain the same function, structure, and effects.  Resilience is often lost when a system is getting more efficient.  Many of the safety nets can be lost as a system specializes in just one way of doing things.  Resilience can increase when there is redundancy--lots of similar work being done in different ways.  Resilience can increase when creativity is nurtured and many options are left open.
       The book encourages us to see each system as a whole, rather than just the part that benefits us.  Understanding the interactions of all the different parts can help us understand how one part of a system will react when we try to enhance the part that benefits us.  In ecological systems this can help us make better decisions before a system crosses over into a regime that is undesirable.  In churches, too, we can find opportune moments to be creative so that our system is sustainable in a changing world and meets many needs rather than just a few.  When we use resilience thinking, we prepare ourselves for future changes and make sure we can continue to share God's love in a way our neighbors need us to most.

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