What Is Resilience?

Why Climate Resilience for Rural, Coastal, and Underrepresented Groups



Resilience Defined

Resilience is a useful and powerful word often used in ecology, psychology, and business, and in each context it has a different meaning.

For Klima, we use the definition that has emerged from the researchers and practitioners who study coupled human and natural systems:

It is the ability of a socio-ecological system to absorb and withstand stressors such that the system maintains its same basic structure and function.

What That Means

This means that we recognize that people, place, and history are intertwined. We know that clean air, water, and soil depend on the culture, governing systems, history, and economy of an area, country, and region.

The ability of a group to bounce back or transform after climate events depends on not only on socio-economic and biophysical factors, but also the historic health of their natural system–and vise versa.

The current and potential risks to communities could be long term, such as toxic nutrients leaching into a fishery over decades, or they could be from shocks such as hurricanes. But social, cultural, and health risks, often overlooked in model analyses, take a prominent position when examining resilience in an integrated, decentralized process.

Resilience In Practice

Klima takes this understanding and “operationalizes” it in the real world.

Our first key is gathering the necessary stakeholders to inform and develop equitable pathways forward. We work directly with communities and organizations to examine the interactions of biophysical and ecological as well as social, cultural, government and historical factors to understand how a community can cope with climate change, or, if the system has reached beyond a certain threshold, to guide a transition.

We support the development of new partnerships to exchange local knowledge across sectors and buffer these socio-ecological systems as they manage their systems and risk.

Why Coastal, Rural, and Underrepresented

Klima recognizes that sustaining rural and coastal areas is essential to the health of the ecosystems on which we all depend.

Our clean water, food production, energy generation, and needs for general wellbeing are all dependent on rural resources and the people who manage them. In addition, poor and underrepresented communities–including minorities, women and children, and refugees–disproportionately bear the burden of the impacts of climate change.

Rural areas are overwhelmingly poor and underrepresented in national and regional policies and infrastructure investments, despite often being the backbone of a region’s life-sustaining resource supplies.

The Front Lines of Climate Change

Despite these challenges, rural, coastal, and underrepresented groups and communities can be the first to detect, identify, and adapt to changes in climate on an individual and community basis.

Their lives and livelihoods are linked to the resources first impacted by climate change. Despite embodying the local knowledge intrinsic to resilience, these communities frequently do not have exposure and funding to pursue long-term management. In addition, these communities are often isolated and lack the channels by which to share knowledge and resources with other communities that could improve current practices and provide solidarity when pursuing financial and social support.

Because climate resilience isn’t just about sea walls or infrastructure. It’s about people and their environment, intrinsically linked. It’s often about meeting basic needs: health care, food security, energy access, environmental justice, and preserving cultural knowledge.  

Ready to take action?

Contact Klima International to discuss your community resilience needs.
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