Resilience: Disaster Resistance, Adaptation and Restoration

Reader Contribution by Miriam Landman
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People all over the world are starting to see an increase in extreme and volatile weather, record-breaking “natural” disasters, shifting seasons and habitats, species losses, and dwindling resources. (These are all trends that climate scientists accurately predicted would occur as a result of high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.) This climatological and ecological instability is creating huge economic burdens and heart-breaking social disruption and dislocation, and climate projections show that the situation will almost certainly get worse. 

As the costs and consequences of climate change become impossible to ignore, some people are recognizing the need to be more prepared for the challenges we’re likely to face in the short-term and the long-term (e.g., power outages, or food and water shortages, or flooding from storms and sea level rise in some areas). A variety of initiatives are arising that aim to share ways of becoming more resilient—i.e., able to survive and thrive in the face of climate-related dangers. These efforts are occurring at the household, community, town, city, regional, and global levels.

Some initiatives are focused on the design of durable, climate-responsive, and disaster-resistant homes and buildings, including dwellings that can withstand earthquakes, hurricanes, or floods, or that incorporate “passive” heating or natural cooling strategies so that they can remain livable when there is no power. Other initiatives are focused on personal or local food security; or the decentralization of energy production into localized or on-site power generation; or restoring degraded or contaminated land and habitats; or creating self-sufficient rural homesteads, self-reliant communities, and/or strong local economies.

MOTHER EARTH NEWS covers a lot of topics that are directly relevant to the concepts of resilience, preparedness, and self-reliance, particularly through its focus on modern homesteading, growing one’s own food, and various types of do-it-yourself projects.

These are some other noteworthy resilience-related resources and initiatives:

• Resilience  (a program of the Post Carbon Institute)

Community Resilience Guides

Resilience Circles

• Transition U.S.  (Transition Towns & other initiatives)

International Transition Network

Resilient Design Institute RDI explains resilience well: “Resilience is the capacity to bounce back after a disturbance or interruption of some sort. At various levels —individuals, households, communities, and regions — through resilience we can maintain livable conditions in the event of natural disasters, loss of power, or other interruptions in normally available services.  Relative to climate change, resilience involves adaptation to the wide range of regional and localized impacts that are expected with a warming planet: more intense storms, greater precipitation, coastal and valley flooding, longer and more severe droughts in some areas, wildfires, melting permafrost, warmer temperatures, and power outages.  Resilient design is the intentional design of buildings, landscapes, communities, and regions in response to the these vulnerabilities.”

• Article: Resilient Design: Smarter Building for a Turbulent Future, by Alex Wilson, Environmental Building News (, March 2012.

• Resilient Design: A checklist of actions from Environmental Building News (

The various actions that they suggest are organized into these 12 categories:

1.) Ensure that a home is safe in a storm. 2.) Build to resist or survive rain and flooding. 3.) Build super-insulated envelopes. 4.) Incorporate passive solar design in heating climates. 5.) Minimize cooling loads in cooling climates. 6.) Provide natural cooling. 7.) Maximize daylighting. 8.) Provide backup renewable energy systems. 9.) Plan for water shortages. 10.) Address fire resistance and durability. 11.) Consider resilience at the community scale. 12.) Support local food production.

• Hunt Utilities Group (HUG): a resilient-homes research and development campus in Minnesota. (More info about them here.)

Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Center for a New American Dream

Slow Money

Local Harvest

• Also, check out the many great online resources on permaculture, which include Grow Permaculture (formerly called the Permaculture Guild) and the Regenerative Design Institute, along with many other local and national permaculture groups and trainings around the world.

Related Posts

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Location, Location, Location: How to Choose a Sustainable Place to Live / Build a Home

Sustainable Neighborhoods and Communities: Initiatives, Certifications, and Developments

Tips for Saving Energy

Miriam Landman is an accomplished writer, editor, and sustainability advisor with expertise in green living, green building, and sustainable communities. For daily links to sustainable solutions and success stories, connect to her Facebook page for The Green Spotlight. To receive concise, quarterly email updates from The Green Spotlight,sign up here.