Walker, B., & Salt, D. (2012). Resilience Practices: Building Capacity to Absorb Disturbance and Maintain Function. Island Press.

A foundational, and easily accessible piece! This should have been ground zero for my first foray with resilience.

Walker and Salt provide a concise and accessible overview of resilience theory, supported by numerous case studies from around the world. They show the linkages between the various concepts and terms found within the literature, such as transformability and adaptability; general and specific resilience, as well as outline the basic building blocks of resilience (self-organizing systems, thresholds, linked domains, linked adaptive cycles across scales).

Two important things I will use from this piece (apart from a general reference guide).

1) At the end the book, Walker and Salt discuss the importance of looking at resilience in an urbanizing world. They argue that “the big problems, now emerging all over the developed world, will be in resilience of urbanizing regions – peri-urban regions going through rapid and massive (and often largely unplanned) expansion” (p. 197). Considering the rate of urbanization, and the importance of looking at the urban environment, notions of resilience (including scale), and limitations on water resources from a changing climate, population increase, and economic development (as well as increasing pollution of water resources, land-use changes, etc), I believe the direction I will be taking is important, and that there are connections to be made between these different issues and topics. How does scale and linked adaptive cycles relate to transboundary waters?

The Mekong and Okavango rivers were both used as examples in the text to illustrate the difficulty of addressing shared resource concerns across multiple scales. In the Okavango, development pressure on the largely intact basin along with expected changes resulting from climate change, it is critical to look at the various scales and determine where ecological thresholds may lay, which could help determine where development could or should not occur, in order to avoid crossing a critical threshold, which if passed, could lead to significant and/or irreversible changes in the ecosystem. At the social level, tourism is a major contributor to the economy of the delta/basin. Are there certain numbers of tourism licenses and conservancy rates that could support a viable tourism operation? What is the threshold for the social aspects of the basin? The inclusion of local communities in the tourism industry, the authors ague, is critical to enhance the general resilience of the system.

Walker and Salt argue (still in relation to the Okavango) that “without a multiscale, multinational resilience assessment of its linked biophysical and social dynamics, including the relative costs and benefits of the unavoidable trade-offs that are involved, it is likely that the problems will be dealt with in a partial manner” (174).Scale and multi-national approaches are critical issues to consider when considering resilience approaches to transboundary resources. Conca 2006 would agree with the multiscale dimension, recognizing that states are no longer the unitary actors in the international arena, as a diversity of transnational actors are increasingly playing a role in the governance of environmental resources that traverse borders.

2. Walker and Salt state that one of the reasons the world is currently pushed right up against planetary boundaries (and already crossed some) is due to tensions between sovereign imperatives of nation, which drives competition between them (p. 189). This relates to what Conca (2006) said about a regime approach to territory, authority, and knowledge. The regime approach views territory as bounded within the nation, authority as vested in governments, and knowledge generated by an authoritative understanding of both the problem and the solution (officially sanctioned knowledge). As we saw in Walker and Salt, many of the environmental challenges we face today can be seen at the local level. The regime approach does not allow for global regimes to address localized problems bounded within a sovereign territory, the domain of the state authoritative governance structure. Sovereign states are left to address the domestic environmental challenges through their national laws, policies, and institutional frameworks, as opposed to a global environmental institution. Conca argues that the causes and consequences of environmental issues are not aligned. To address resilience across scales, as Walker and Salt and many others contend is necessary, it is critical to look at the causes of environmental problems and the consequences together, as opposed to leaving the causes (the transnational character of economic, social, and political institutions) and the consequences (global environmental degradation) as separate and unlinked. Critical to both Conca (2006) and Walker and Salt (2012) arguments is the notion of localized knowledge contributing to governance processes. This inclusion of local knowledge can enhance resilience, as well as challenge the dominant approach to knowledge formation (officially sanctioned knowledge).

This entry was posted in Reading Reflections, Theme 1: Multilevel governance and resilience theory. Bookmark the permalink.

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