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Making Sense of Resilience

Department of Values, Technology & Innovation, Delft University of Technology, 2628 BX Delft, The Netherlands
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Alan Randall
Sustainability 2021, 13(15), 8538;
Received: 19 June 2021 / Revised: 26 July 2021 / Accepted: 27 July 2021 / Published: 30 July 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ethics of Climate Adaptation)
While resilience is a major concept in development, climate adaptation, and related domains, many doubts remain about how to interpret this term, its relationship with closely overlapping terms, or its normativity. One major view is that, while resilience originally was a descriptive concept denoting some adaptive property of ecosystems, subsequent applications to social contexts distorted its meaning and purpose by framing it as a transformative and normative quality. This article advances an alternative philosophical account based on the scrutiny of C.S. Holling’s original work on resilience. We show that resilience had a central role among Holling’s proposals for reforming environmental science and management, and that Holling framed resilience as an ecosystem’s capacity of absorbing change and exploiting it for adapting or evolving, but also as the social ability of maintaining and opportunistically exploiting that natural capacity. Resilience therefore appears as a transformative social-ecological property that is normative in three ways: as an intrinsic ecological value, as a virtue of organizations or management styles, and as a virtuous understanding of human–nature relations. This interpretation accounts for the practical relevance of resilience, clarifies the relations between resilience and related terms, and is a firm ground for further normative work on resilience. View Full-Text
Keywords: resilience; robustness; antifragility; lock-ins; efficiency; sustainability; ecosystem science; environmental management; normativity resilience; robustness; antifragility; lock-ins; efficiency; sustainability; ecosystem science; environmental management; normativity
MDPI and ACS Style

Cañizares, J.C.; Copeland, S.M.; Doorn, N. Making Sense of Resilience. Sustainability 2021, 13, 8538.

AMA Style

Cañizares JC, Copeland SM, Doorn N. Making Sense of Resilience. Sustainability. 2021; 13(15):8538.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Cañizares, Jose C., Samantha M. Copeland, and Neelke Doorn. 2021. "Making Sense of Resilience" Sustainability 13, no. 15: 8538.

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