Towards a Resilient Future

By: David Miron-Wapner

“We recoil when faced with a future different from the one we imagine.” So writes Bill McKibben, founder of, in his critically important book, “Eaarth, Making a Life on a Tough New World.”

Eaarth is the latest call for deepening our understanding of the climate induced crises we face leading us inevitably to a future so altered that we lack the vocabulary to adequately describe what will be required of humanity to maintain the comfort and dignity of modern civilization. Expressing his frustration at the failure of even the term sustainability to capture the gravity of our future challenges, McKibben suggests: Robust, Durable, Stable, Hardy, and Sturdy; one and all solid, serious words.

Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben. Credit:

Allow me to propose another helpful word: Resilience, a word that expresses a direction towards an attitude of adaptability essential for survival and thriving under the conditions of our new inhospitable world. She is called Eaarth by McKibben, familiar, but not the Earth we know, depend on and expect to stay the same. On this new planet we will need to be thinking in terms of Resilience – in the sense of possessing an ability to recover or adjust to change.  Even if you already accepted living in a time of fast and furious change, could you have figured that you might need to adjust or adapt during a time when the global free services of clean air and water might breakdown and climate ceases to support current agricultural models.

Paralleling climate-induced natural system failures we are likely to see a variety of related global economic system breakdowns, such as industrial and agricultural supply chains that will demand regional and local resilience to supply real needs of people. Those more able to recover from the shocks and adjust to the changed circumstances will survive and even have an opportunity to thrive. Mutual support systems, intelligently linked, and based on principles of local sustainability, will come to the fore. To suggest a few that will be enabled by intelligently designed networks of:

  • Food – private gardens, community ventures, cooperative use of vacant and public lands; local distribution farmers markets; and
  • Energy – residential, community and industrial park production and networking with smart grid technology; and
  • Water – residential and local wastewater treatment, purification, storage and distribution.

Decentralized networks, interconnected communities, diversified local supply options; all may enhance the ability to learn from the failures that are sure to come in our period of adjustment to Eaarth. Our collective ability to recover or recuperate demands reliance on skills requiring flexibility to make repeated attempts and adjustments as we apprehend the consequences of our actions on this new reality.

Adaptation to our new planet Eaarth will challenge human solidarity. Augmenting our opportunities for success will be interlinked communities mastering the art of supporting the development of local durable systems that may attempt to mimic the services our old reliable Earth provided for free.