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Wednesday 11th April 2012
Proponents of nuclear power still won’t answer the resilience question
Contributor: Will Bugler

In February I wrote how issues of resilience were missing from the debate on nuclear power. Many high profile writers are more than willing to fight nuclear’s corner on safety or it’s carbon cutting potential but I am yet to hear a convincing response to the argument that nuclear power fundamentally undermines the resilience of our energy system.

One such nuclear proponent, George Monbiot, recently wrote a letter to activist and environmental campaigner Theo Simon, asking him to reconsider his negative stance on the nuclear issue. The email exchange has been published in the Guardian. Theo’s considered response is well worth reading carefully. His letter includes some important points that policy makers would do well to consider. He writes:

 “Accidents happen... They just do. I'd love you to have a head to head with a technical expert like the retired high-ranking Hinkley B engineer who came to our camp. From a far deeper knowledge base than mine or yours he'd explain the shortcomings of the EPR design, and tell you how contractors driven by deadlines and financial pressures inevitably build mistakes into complex systems. Actually you could chat with any ex-workers, from this or any other large hazardous industrial process, and get all the hair-raising insights you need into the inevitable foibles of human behaviour... which make some processes just too risky to pursue.


Nuclear entrenches power firmly in the hands of a state-protected, unaccountable and ruthless elite of technocrats and power-brokers, at a time when the urge of young humanity is towards transparency, openness and democracy. It can give no ultimate assurance of it's safety or it's costs. Neither can it demonstrate the kind of long-term resilience which may prove necessary if runaway climate change does, in spite of our efforts, develop. Resilience is to my mind something which we should be designing into our energy production plans now, as the future is so uncertain for our children. Nuclear requires a stable and continuous technocratic society to exist for centuries.

I can assure you that Theo is not alone in eagerly awaiting Monbiot’s response. Theo's arguments are powerful and compelling not least because, as he rightly asserts, “We don't need to pick nuclear up”.

Although it may catch in the throats of nuclear advocates on the Left, echoes of Thatcher’s ‘TINA’ argument are all too apparent in their assertions. But as Walt Patterson’s recent guest contribution for Get Resilient shows; there is an alternative.

Wednesday 4th April 2012
Deborah Frieze explains how resilience can be realised through community networks
Contributor: Will Bugler

Watch as Deborah Frieze, author of Walk Out, Walk On and our very first guest contributor, explains the importance of community networks in building resilience.

Thursday 29th March 2012
Panic buying of fuel exposes the fragility of just-in-time delivery
Contributor: Will Bugler

The peculiar advice given by Cabinet Office Minister, Francis Maude, suggesting that UK car drivers keep their fuel tanks topped up and keep Jerry cans of fuel at home, has unsurprisingly led to queues at pumps and petrol shortages on forecourts across the country. The Guardian newspaper has started an online map showing where panic buying is leading to fuel shortages.

The speed at which petrol stations run out of petrol when demand increases, even marginally, above ‘normal’ consumption, is symptomatic of the just-in-time delivery of petrol to our pumps. Just as with food to supermarket shelves, petrol is delivered on the assumption that consumption remains relatively stable and predictable. Problems such as tanker-driver strike threats and irresponsible advice from politicians are able to disrupt the delivery system very easily.

The simple truth is that the large-scale distribution of bulky fossil fuel energy sources is very difficult to make resilient. The future of energy distribution does not lie with fuels that require unstable, insecure supply systems; even if the Chancellor thinks differently.

Monday 26th March 2012
Rob Hopkins on peak oil, transition and resilience
Contributor: Will Bugler

Watch Rob Hopkins deliver a fantastic TED talk on the coming energy crisis and why resilience is so important for the coming transition:


Wednesday 21st March 2012
The rise and rise of resilience
Contributor: Jeremy Bugler

Suddenly it seems, the words `resilience’  and `resilient’ are everywhere.  People are using them now to characterise all manner of phenomena  - from SatNavs  to football teams.  Only this week, the Prime Minister, addressing the House of Commons on the matter of the Diamond Jubilee,  described the Queen : “For sixty years, Her Majesty has been a point of light in our national life : brilliant, enduring and resilient”.

In terms of the way the words have been used in the past,  Cameron was following tradition.  The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary records of a first use of the word `resilient’  in 1830, describing resilient  persons as “Rising readily again after being depressed; hence cheerful, buoyant, exuberant.”

It might be going a bit far to describe the Queen as exuberant,  except at times at the racecourse, but given her Annus Horribilis and other family traumas in the past, she has indeed proved to be resilient.

The OED goes back two more centuries to record the first or early uses of `resilience’    In 1626 : the act of rebounding or springing back.. and in 1824 : the power of resuming the original shape or position after compression bending, etc.

The 1824 definition is not too far adrift of what we mean by resilience in this website: the ability of a system to absorb shock and carry on providing the function it was designed to do.   But where one imagines that few people in 1824 were walking around muttering about resilience, it is not uncommon today.  People are realising that the contemporary global economy is high on efficiency but low on resilience (pretty much as a concomitant).

Does it matter that resilience is being used so widely, to describe even the comeback of a rock star from drug addiction?   Probably not a great deal. The use of the key words is to my mind a sign that people generally are comprehending that toughness, durability, maintaining function are really important qualities.  Perhaps it will not be too long before there is also a wider understanding that we give supreme priority to efficiency and cheapness at our peril.

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