6 x 9
10 tables, 12 illustrations
6 x 9
10 tables, 12 illustrations
In 2006, Resilience Thinking addressed an essential question: As the natural systems that sustain us are subjected to shock after shock, how much can they take and still deliver the services we need from them? This idea caught the attention of both the scientific community and the general public.
In Resilience Practice, authors Brian Walker and David Salt take the notion of resilience one step further, applying resilience thinking to real-world situations and exploring how systems can be managed to promote and sustain resilience.
The book begins with an overview and introduction to resilience thinking and then takes the reader through the process of describing systems, assessing their resilience, and intervening as appropriate. Following each chapter is a case study of a different type of social-ecological system and how resilience makes a difference to that system in practice. The final chapters explore resilience in other arenas, including on a global scale.
Resilience Practice will help people with an interest in the “coping capacity” of systems—from farms and catchments to regions and nations—to better understand how resilience thinking can be put into practice. It offers an easy-to-read but scientifically robust guide through the real-world application of the concept of resilience and is a must read for anyone concerned with the management of systems at any scale.
"Brian Walker and David Salt have written a thoughtful and powerful book to help resource users and managers put resilience thinking into practice and aim toward increasing the sustainability of our world. I urge public officials, scholars, and students in public policy programs to place this volume on their list of must-read books. It is a powerful antidote to the overly simplified proposals too often offered as solutions to contemporary problems at multiple scales."
Elinor Ostrom, Senior Research Director, Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis
"Since publication of the neat little classic Resilience Thinking in 2006, the core ideas of resilience have escaped most deliciously to seed thinking everywhere about moving beyond the linear paradigms that so often drive system breakdowns and crises. With Resilience Practice, Walker and Salt passionately extend their practical wisdom while ensuring that the rigorous tools people need to deploy resilience theory are not lost to colloquial useage."
Ken Wilson, Executive Director, The Christensen Fund
"Resilience is an important concept for managing Earth's life support systems. Yet practitioners complain that 'everyone talks about resilience, but no one knows how to manage it.' Walker and Salt provide a practical guide written in clear, simple language, with a rich endowment of examples. This is the most important book of the year for environmental managers and scientists."
Stephen R. Carpenter, Director and Professor, Center for Limnology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
"This was the answer I was looking for... This book is heavy on procedure and questions, both of which can be helpful to planners and managers for whom resilience planning is new territory."
Natural Areas Journal
"Resilience Practice emerges as a readable, friendly guide to planetary preservation, intended to foster hope and corrective action in order to improve future prospects for a human-friendly Earth."
"...a classical handbook in resilience practice. You need considerable time to reflect on many of the issues addressed, but in this sense the book will have a long and active life on the bookshelf—the best sign of a useful handbook."
Chapter 1. Preparing for Practice: The Essence of Resilience Thinking
-Case Study 1: Thresholds on a Range: A Safe Operating Space for Grazing Enterprises
Chapter 2. Describing the System
-Case Study 2: From Taos to Bali and Sri Lanka: Traditional Irrigation at the Crossroads
Chapter 3. Assessing Resilience
-Case Study 3: Assessing Resilience for "the Plan": The Namoi and Central West Catchment Management Authorities
Chapter 4. Managing Resilience
-Case Study 4: People and Pen Shells, Marine Parks and Rules: Why Governance Is Central to the Resilience of Coastal Fisheries
Chapter 5. Practicing Resilience in Different Ways
-Case Study 5: Out of the Swamp: Lessons from Big Wetlands
Chapter 6. A Resilient World
Postscript: A View from the Northwest Passage
About the Authors
A few weeks ago the world learnt of the disappearance of the Bramble Cay melomys, a small Australian rodent only known to occur on a tiny coral cay off the northern tip of Australia. The finding is noted in a government report that documents how a comprehensive search for the species in 2014 had failed to detect a single animal.
The report’s authors state that the population had “almost certainly” disappeared because its habitat had been destroyed by the ocean stripping vegetation from the low-lying cay. Indeed, so close to sea level is the tiny island that it probably provided little refuge to the melomys from big weather events. The authors even suggested ocean inundation could have directly killed or carried away individual animals! It’s a tragic situation to contemplate, the final specimen of a species being washed away by a rising sea.
Thousands of species around the world are on the lip of extinction but the loss of the Bramble Cay melomys is particularly poignant in that human-induced climate change has been identified as the root cause of its demise. Sea-level rise and increased frequency and intensity of weather events have been noted as the cause of the loss of its island home.
The loss of a species of island rat does not overly concern everyone, something that is clear if you peruse the discussion threads following some of the articles on this event (for example, see Nature and The Washington Post) and many simply deny the existence of climate change (read those same discussion threads). And yet the loss of the Bramble Cay melomys should be ringing alarm bells everywhere. It’s a symbol of clear and present danger, an example of irreversible consequence and a portent of things to come.
The Bramble Cay melomys has crossed an irreversible threshold. It’s gone with no possibility of return. And with its passing, the system it was a part of has lost a natural component making it less able to cope with change and disturbance; such is the consequence of biodiversity loss.
Scientists across multiple disciplines have identified what they believe is a ‘safe’ level of greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere. It is 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide. This year we crossed 400 ppm. The consequences of transgressing this ‘planetary boundary’ is climate change, rising sea levels and more extreme weather events. This increase in disturbance threatens to overwhelm the resilience of many species, especially those living in low areas, and the loss of the Bramble Cay melomys is but the start of this process.
Given the already devastating change to Bramble Cay it’s unlikely that the loss of melomys will have any effects on what’s left of its ecosystem. However, in more-or-less intact ecosystems the loss of species serves to erode the system’s resilience to climate change. It’s a synergistic set of secondary feedback effects making things progressively worse. Biodiversity loss makes us more vulnerable to climate change, less able to absorb the disruption it brings.
Resilience thinking helps us engage with the complexity of the world, guiding our management of ecosystems. Part of that complexity is the strength of policy feedbacks to change. Some have suggested we should have moved the last Bramble Cay melomys to some safe harbor before they were swallowed by the hungry sea. And, indeed, we should have; we’ve known they were at risk for many years. That we didn’t suggests our feedback to the challenge of climate change are inappropriate. They need to be tighter. In this case it’s resulted in the irreversible loss of a mammal species. And maybe we should seeing this rodent as a canary in the coalmine.
This Valentine’s Day, we thought it would be fun for Island Press authors to share the love. We asked a few authors to choose their favorite Island Press book—other than their own, of course—and explain what makes it so special. Check out their responses below, and use code 4MAGICAL for 25% off and free shipping all of the books below, as well as books from participating authors.
What’s your favorite Island Press book? Share your answer in the comments.
My favorite IP book—not that I’ve read them all—is Mike Lydon’s Tactical Urbanism. This book shows how ad hoc interventions can improve the public realm, especially if they’re later made permanent. I discussed the concept on the latest Spokesmen podcast with architect Jason Fertig and illustrator Bekka “Bikeyface” Wright, both of Boston.
Last year I wrote a cover story for SIERRA magazine about how Donald Trump's proposed wall along the US-Mexico border would all but eliminate any chance for recovering jaguar species in the Southwest. In the course of my research I came across Alan Rabinowitz's An Indomitable Beast. It's a great read, blending Rabinowitz's own experiences as a big cat biologist with cutting-edge findings on this amazing species. As a writer, this book and its amazing details helped me bring the jaguar to life for readers.
This day is a time for reaching beyond data and logic to think about deeper ways of knowing. Love, specifically, but I would add to that faith, tradition and ethics. That's why I love Aaron Wolf's new book, The Spirit of Dialogue: Lessons from Faith Traditions in Transforming Conflict. Going beyond the mechanical "rationality" of the typical public meeting is necessary if we are to address the big issues of global sustainability and the smaller issues of how we sustain our local communities. Aaron Wolf provides the experience, tools and promise of a better, deeper approach.
Like many others, I am indebted to to Island Press for not one but three books that profoundly influenced my thinking. Panarchy (2001, edited by Lance Gunderson and C.S. Holling) introduced me to the concept of socio-ecological systems resilience. Resilience Thinking (2006, by Brian Walker and David Salt) taught me what systems resilience really means. And the follow-up book Resilience Practice (2012) helped me start to understand how systems resilience actually works. The latter remains the most-consulted book on my shelf—by Island Press or any other publisher—and I was thrilled and frankly humbled when Brian and David agreed to write a chapter for our own contribution to the field, The Community Resilience Reader (2017).
"A large percentage of my urbanism bookshelf is comprised of Island Press books, so it's very difficult to share my love for just one! So, I won't because the books we pull of the shelf most often these days are the NACTO Design Guides. Finally, a near complete set of highly usable and mutually supportive design standards that help us advocate for and build better streets, better places."
Nicols Fox's Against the Machine is a book that’s becomes more relevant each year as technology impinges ever further on our daily lives. It’s a fascinating, deeply researched look at how and why people have resisted being treated as extensions of machines.
Lake Effect by Nancy Nichols. I read this book several years ago. It is so important to hear the voices of those whose lives are impacted by industrial age pollutants, lest we slide into complacency. In this case, the story of the chemicals of Lake Michigan. It is a short, beautifully written, disturbing read.
—Emily Monosson, Natural Defense and Unnatural Selection
Peter Gleick’s series, The World’s Water, is one of the most useful surveys of the cutting edge of global waters there is. Each edition brings in-depth coverage of the issues of the day, always eminently readable and backed up by the crack research team that he puts together for each topic. I use it in my classes, always confident that students (and I) will be kept abreast of the best of The World’s Water.
—Aaron Wolf, The Spirit of Dialogue
Mark Jerome Walters' important book, Seven Modern Plagues, places great emphasis on linking emerging diseases with habitat destruction and other forms of modification natural processes. This book is a call for us to recognize that each new disease reflects an environmental warning.
—Andy Dyer, Chasing the Red Queen
My favorite Island Press book is The New Agrarianism: Land, Culture, and the Community of Life, edited by Eric T. Freyfogle. Perhaps it remains my favorite IP text because it is the first IP text I remember reading front to back, twice! I first encountered the book as a graduate student and was struck my its scope and tone. The book is thought provoking. But it's also a joy to read, which isn't surprising in hindsight given the award-winning contributors.
—Michael Carolan, No One Eats Alone
Don't see your Island Press fave? Share it in the comments below!
Katharine is the Publicity & Marketing Associate at Island Press.
In the gloomy pall of the advancing Anthropocene, it’s nice to hear good news now and again on the environmental front. And such is the case with the release of beaver families back in the wild in the UK.
This is more than simply reintroducing a long lost animal – hunted to extinction in England some four centuries ago – it’s also the acknowledgement of the beaver’s capacity to build dams that officials hope will help with flood control. The beavers’ dam-building stores huge quantities of water and slows peak flows during big floods. In this manner these furry creatures act as ecosystem engineers providing a valued ecosystem service. In doing so, their activity increases the resilience of the social-ecological systems in which they operate, enabling it to better absorb disturbances in the form of floods.
On the other side of the planet, on the outskirts of Australia’s capital city Canberra, a similar experiment is being trialed with the re-introductions of bettongs (also known as rat kangaroos). Bettongs are natural-born diggers, busily burrowing into the earth in pursuit of food. They can dig over 200 holes in a single night, moving some 3 tonnes of soil each year. In the process they improve water infiltration, distribute nutrients and inoculate gum trees with fungi the trees depend upon to grow. They make a significant contribution to the health and resilience of box gum grassy woodlands they inhabit.
The bettongs were wiped out by the exotic feral fox, and they haven’t been seen digging in the woodlands for a hundred years. Those woodlands have long been in steep decline and are now listed as a critically endangered ecosystem. The reintroduction of the bettong can’t happen soon enough. (Fortunately foxes never made it to Tasmania and bettongs can still be found down on the Apple Isle, and it’s from here the bettongs have come.)
Beavers and bettongs are keystone species. Removing or re-introducing them has ramifying effects in the ecosystem, significantly changing both structure and function, akin to the cascading effects of removing top predators.
But don’t count your chickens until they’ve hatched. It’s great seeing these once widespread native animals being brought back into the system to again provide some important ecosystem services. But landscapes aren’t mechanical constructs in which the beaver cog or the bettong cog can simply be put back in when we’ve realized these cogs do important things. Landscapes are complex adaptive systems, and when these ecosystem engineers dropped out (being hunted or preyed upon until they disappeared), the system left behind reorganizes around their absence. A century later (four in the case of the beaver) and the system is now quite different to the one they formerly occupied.
In complex systems (like landscapes) the recovery path of a disturbed ecosystem often isn’t just the reverse of the decline. It usually comes back via a different path and the system may not be the exact same system. Beavers and the dams they produce are unlikely to produce the same landscape as the landscape of four centuries ago. And bettongs are unlikely to restore the full function of woodlands from a hundred years ago.
Both the beaver and the bettong are being reintroduced in fenced off areas so they can be protected and contained, and beyond the fence lies a hostile world. In the case of the bettongs, the threat that removed them from the landscape – the fox – is still present. Until these exotic predators are somehow managed, a bettong-led recovery is highly unlikely.
Yes, we hope for the re-establishment of these ecosystem engineers across the broader landscape. But our optimism about these developments needs to be tempered by the realities of working with complex systems.