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Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World F First Edition Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1597260930
ISBN-10: 1597260932
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Resilience Thinking is an impressive and highly successful effort to explain complex ecological and social interactions and changes in a unified framework and in language accessible to a wide audience. This book should stimulate extensive discussions on these critical issues and innovative ways to approach them."
(Harold Mooney Achilles Professor of Environmental Biology, Stanford University)

"Resilience Thinking provides a much-needed accessible entrée into a concept that holds the key to our future.... Full of wisdom, sophisticated science, and practical guidance, this book provides profound ideas, insights, and hope to scientists, students, managers, and planners alike."
(Jane Lubchenco Distinguished Professor of Zoology, Oregon State University)

"Resilience Thinking is an essential guidebook to a powerful new way of understanding our world—and of living resiliently within it—developed in recent decades by an international team of ecologists. With five clear and compelling case studies drawn from regions as diverse as Florida, Sweden, and Australia, this book shows how all highly adaptive systems—from ecologies to economies—go through regular cycles of growth, reorganization, and renewal and how our failures to understand the basic principles of resilience have often led to disaster. Resilience Thinking gives us the conceptual tools to help us cope with the bewildering surprises and challenges of our new century."
(Thomas Homer-Dixon Professor of political science, University of Toronto)

"...a clear, readable, non-academic explanation of the difference between an optimization mindset and a resilience mindset."
(GreenSpirit)

"This is one of those books that barely mentions planning as such, but has lots of implications for it. It's short but will repay some extra quiet time...Their goal is to get us to look at the world and its systems in a fresh new way."
(Planning)

About the Author

Brian Walker is a Research Fellow in Australia’s CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, Visiting Researcher in the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and Chair of the Resilience Alliance. 
 
 David Salt is a science and environment writer at the Australian National University, and has more than two decades experience writing and producing popular science magazines and books. 
 
 Both authors live in Canberra, Australia.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Island Press; F First Edition edition (August 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597260932
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597260930
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on July 2, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a great book. I've read several books on this topic, and so far, they have all had a similar issue: They are written by people who are scientists first, writers second. This book has two authors. One is a scientist and the other is a science writer. This made for a well put-together, understandable explanation of complex adaptive systems, which are what ecosystems are currently understood to be.

The authors have done a few things to make the book great. First, they have broken the topic down into a set of subtopics, with one chapter explaining each subtopic. At the end of each chapter is a summary of important points so it's clear what the authors are hoping you get out of the chapter. Each chapter is then followed by a case study that is used to illustrate the ideas just covered.

If you are looking for an introductory book on ecosystems and how humans affect their ability to maintain themselves, this is the book to read. The authors also provide several good resources at the end of the book if you would like to expand your knowledge further.
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This is a gem of an educational book. Mixing case studies with elaborating chapters on key concepts, it's as a good a volume as I have found for teaching undergraduates, graduates, and practitioners (farmers, factory managers, investors) the core ideas needed to restore a sustainable social-ecological system.

Highlights for me:

+ Optemization is a false premise, simplifies complex systems we do not understand, with the result that we end up causing long-term damage.

+ Resilience thinking is systems thinking. I cannot help but think back to all of the excellent work in the 1970's and 1980's--the authors were simply a quarter century ahead of their time.

+ In a nut-shell, resilient system can absorb severe disturbance.

+ System resilience is affected by context, connections across scales of time and space, and current system state in relations to threshholds.

+ Fresh water, fisheries, and topsoil depletion are major failures.

+ Drivers of environmental degradation are poverty, willful excessive consumption, and lack of knowledge (from another book, I recall that changes to the Earth that used to take 10,000 years now take three, one reason we need real-time science).

+ Key concepts are threshholds and adaptive cycles. Adaptive cycles have four phases: Rapid Growth; Conservation; Release; and Reorganization.

+ Redundancy is NOT a dirty word (just as intelligence--decision support--should not be a dirty word within the United Nations)

+ Ecological networks cannot be understood nor nurtured with a tight linking and understanding of the social networks that interact with the ecological networks.
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Format: Paperback
This book is Latour's actor network theory in another guise, with the physicalization of Kuhn's paradigm shift thrown in for good measure. It is a very interesting book on an emerging way to look at environmental crises (note, not the environmental crisis. We seriously need local knowledge and local experience to manage each individual ecosystem).

My major issues with this book are twofold. One is that it is not well written, though not altogether poorly written, you can simply tell when the science writer came in to jazz things up. Secondly, the authors spend a little too much time trying to convince the reader that resilience thinking is NEW, DIFFERENT, SUBVERSIVE, and the like. We get, on page 29, something that I just cannot stand: a little briefer than brief history of challenge to dogma. Galileo spoke out about the Copernican model (which was still perfect circles, Kepler had it right but Galileo ignored him) and the church shot him down. Darwin dared to say species change and the world exploded! Now, we, the humble new scientists bring you a new challenge to the dogma of ecology today. Give me a break! I would have thought a science writer on the team would have had the experience to leave out this trite nonsense. Just tell me about your idea and spare me the drama! Sorry, but poor history of science is a real pet peeve. :-)

But either way, this is still an important book that should be read by ecology students, politicians, resource managers, and anyone interested in new ideas. The case studies are really informative and clear, and the message is properly urgent
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This short book is an excellent introduction to resilience thinking. The core texts in this field tend to be rather daunting compendiums (see Gunderson and Holling's Panarchy) that only the already committed will read. This is a light introduction to the basic ideas and has lovely and useful case studies woven in. The core ideas of resilience thinking come from work in ecological systems theory over the past thirty years or so and are an application of work on complex adaptive systems. A key point is that natural and economic systems can only be understood and managed if their codependence is made explicit. Basic concepts such as regime (a set of connected stable states), threshold (boundaries between regimes) and the adaptation cycle (growth -> accumulation -> release -> reorganization) are well explained. The case studies cover The Florida Everglades, The Goulburn-Broken Catchment area in Australia, Coral Reefs in the Caribbean, the Northern Highland Lake District in Wisconsin and the Kristianstads Vattenrike Wetlands in Sweden. All of these cases come up frequently in conversations on resilience and are good touch points.

I expect to see applications of resilience thinking to many areas beyond ecology and resource management over the next decade: it is widely relevant to organizational theory and urban planning. It will be one input to a new syntheses that replaces our current and obsolete economic theory.

One small caveat, the book has some well done illustrations but the quality of the photos is dreadful.
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