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Monday 19th March 2012
New book: 'Local Dollars, Local Sense'
Contributor: Will Bugler

The first of a new series of resilience guides has been released by the Post Carbon Institute's new Resilience centre. 

In the new guide, called Local Dollars, Local Sense, local economy pioneer Michael Shuman shows investors, including the nearly 99% who are unaccredited, how to put their money into building local businesses and resilient regional economies—and profit in the process. A revolutionary toolbox for social change, written with compelling personal stories, the book delivers the most thorough overview available of local investment options, explains the obstacles, and profiles investors who have paved the way. Shuman demystifies the growing realm of local investment choices — from institutional lending to investment clubs and networks, local investment funds, community ownership, direct public offerings, local stock exchanges, crowdfunding, and more. He also guides readers through the lucrative opportunities to invest locally in their homes, energy efficiency, and themselves.

Local Dollars, Local Sense can be purchased from the Resilience.org website here

Wednesday 14th March 2012
Resilient societies in action
Contributor: Jeremy Bugler

Thinking about the resilient societies I have encountered myself, there are two that stand out.  The Innuit, and the contemporary Ugandan small farmer.

I came across the Innuit in the mid-70s, when I travelled to Alaska to report on indigenous whale hunting.  Before I went, I read a fair amount about the people I was about to visit. 

I read of the extraordinary ability of the Innuit to survive, even prosper, in a very hostile environment.   They had perfected hunting techniques which provided them with food and all the necessary vitamins.   One of them was devastingly simple:  on very foggy days, when the air was heavy with moisture, the Innuit hunter would go out onto the sea ice, and conceal himself behind an ice wall. He would wait then for the flights of incoming ducks, which would be flying low and slowly because of the moisture on their wings and in the air.  As they got close, he would jump up suddenly from his hiding place, shouting and making a loud noise.  Startled, the duck would wheel,  ship the air from their wings, and fall helplessly to the ground.   The hunter would then run out and simply pick up the fluttering ducks, stuffing them into a sack.   What could be more simple, or more ingenious?

Things, though, were changed utterly for the Innuit of Point Hope, Alaska, when my small plane landed on the frozen lake outside the village.   President Johnson’s Great Society had decreed that all Americans should have some minimum living standards and federal researchers, on visiting the Innuit in Alaska, could not believe how few dollars the Innuit lived on.  Social security came to Point Hope, and  at once there seemed no point in hunting in the cold and dark when ample food  could be bought for a few dollars in the local store.  The hunting expeditions diminished, the knowledge of the techniques died.   Only the older generations in the late seventies knew them.   The younger generations never felt they had to master them.

I had one embarrassing afternoon watching a young Innuit attempt to harness a dog team to a sledge.   He was groggy with drugs and got the traces hopelessly tangled.  I left as quietly as I could.

The overwhelming impression I was left with, as my plane climbed up from the frozen lake, was of a strong society now broken in pieces.  In terms of today, I might have written that a resilient society, able to take pretty much anything the natural world could throw it and survive, had been replaced with a broken society, with a demoralised people dependent now on incoming flights from Kotzebue and Fairbanks, and on their social security payments.

How Point Hope prospers today, I know not.  I trust the morale of the people has risen and the young people are seeing a future for themselves again.  But how much hope should one hold out for Point Hope?

The second community I want to mention is one of small farmers not far from Luwero in the central district of Uganda.    Incomes here are very low  A redeeming feature though is that the land is rich and fertile and the small farming families can grow enough to eat off a very little land.  The climate ensures that they can get two and sometimes three crops a year off the same land.   The Luwero district is also well watered, with a reasonably high water table.   The villages have struggle hard if their source of water is the local swamp or stream, as their cattle will drink there also, polluting the water.   But many villages now have water wells, often funded by the Busoga Trust, which provides clean and healthy water.  The water though still has to be lugged in jerry cans to the houses.

So the life of the small Ugandan farmer is hard and grinding.  The infant mortality rate is very bad and the poverty means that many children do not get good schooling.   In terms of sheer resilience, though, most Ugandan farmers can feed their families and survive.   They are not hugely dependent on outside supplies.

The limits of their resilience, it seems to me after a brief visit in February this year, might be their reliance on charcoal as a cooking fuel and on their population growth.  Charcoal production is doing great damage to Uganda’s forests and cannot continue as it is.  And Uganda’s  population is growing unsustainably.  In the past 40 years or so, I was told there it has doubled from 16 million to 34 million.  It may double again by 2050 or so. The more people in the villages and on the land, the smaller the farms become and the harder it becomes to feed the population.

The road to resilience has many barriers.

Saturday 10th March 2012
Nuclear power ticks on, but where's the debate?
Contributor: Will Bugler

The World Energy Council, an influential body made up of some of the largest energy companies in the world, has recently called for a new international accord on the safety of nuclear power. Their call comes as many countries around the world have continued to pursue nuclear power as a low-carbon solution to their energy needs. 

Aside from strong positions taken by countries like Germany, the World Energy Council contend that little has changed in the governance of the nuclear sector since Fukushima, a fact that has done little to deter many governments from continuing their push towards nuclear power. This map, showing the number of existing nuclear plants, those under construction and those that are in the planning process is testiment to a lack of imagination in energy policy at the highest level [click here for map]. 

Last month I wrote that the concept of resilience was missing from the nuclear debate. I could have been wrong; debate might be missing altogether. The map below, created by the Guardian Newspaper using data from Defra's recently published UK Climate Change Risk Assessment, shows flood risk to nuclear sites in the UK.  

 

There will be many who will say that the flood risk can be mitigated through flood defence measures; and they could be right. But the truth of the matter is that it is not the known risks that are the greatest threat to the systems on which we all depend. Plan to protect against one risk, and there will be many more that you have not thought of. I'm sure that the operators of the Costa Concordia, were supremely confident about the state of the art technology that protected the cruise liner; but their planning stopped short of a captain waving to a friend.   

Sunday 4th March 2012
Building community resilience using ‘very local networks’
Contributor: Will Bugler

The Mid Wales Permaculture Network has been planting the seeds of resilience in local communities with their ‘very local networks’ initiative. The grassroots project aims to foster support and resilience in rural and urban communities through establishing closer ties between local residents.

The concept is based on Vermont’s successful ‘Front Porch Forum’ which helps communities come together to collectively solve local issues. The project aims to build social capital which can help communities deal with shock. To learn more about social capital and community resilience watch the ‘Surfing the Waves of Change’ video [skip to 4:10 if you’re short of time].

Developing social capital is one way of making a society more resilient, allowing communities to be stronger in challenging times.

Too find out more about ‘very local networks’ click here.

Tuesday 21st February 2012
Welcome to the Get Resilient blog!
Contributor: Will Bugler

We’ve been working really hard over the last few months to put Get Resilient together. We hope you like what we’ve done and that you find the content interesting and insightful. We’d love to hear what you think

If you like what you see then please connect with us on Twitter and Facebook to continue the conversation. 

Resilience is a truly powerful concept that has the potential to transform the way that we live our lives. We are all aware that the world in which we live is unstable and we know that we will face some really big challenges, but often we can be left wondering; what can be done about it?  

One of the most exciting things about resilience is that it focuses on solutions, offering practical steps to ensure we are better prepared to deal with unexpected shocks and disturbances.

Here on the blog, you’ll find short posts about resilience issues in the news, great new resilience projects that we hear about, events to attend, ideas, thoughts… anything that might get the juices flowing. 

No long articles here; this is the place for those who like their resilience bite-sized. 

Lastly we’d like to say a big thank you to our first guest contributor, Deborah Frieze, for writing such a great article to get us off the mark.

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