marker Publication Date: 2020-05-22
Since the beginning of the health crisis, the word "resilience" has been particularly used in political speeches and in analysis of the current crisis and on how to build a better world for everyone when this crisis is over.

But what exactly does this term mean? And how do ecovillages, through their organizations and activities, develop this resilience?

What is resilience ?

Resilience was first used in materials science to describe the ability of a material to return to its initial shape after deformation.
It was then derived to be used in various fields, in particular in psychology (representing the ability of an individual to build up despite a trauma) and in ecology (as the ability of an ecosystem to regenerate after an external disruption).

Applied to human societies, resilience can be defined as the capacity of a group of individuals, of a community to "bounce back", to adapt and recover after a setback: it's thus possible to speak of resilience in the face of natural disasters (such as flood) or manmade crisis (a nuclear accident for example).

Over the past few years, the concept of resilience has been increasingly used by cities and territories, as a tool for preparing mitigation and adaptation measures in the face of climate change.

For instance, the city of Paris published in 2017 its resilience plan (click here to consult it) in order to reduce the vulnerability of its population and prepare the city to the next challenges.
The administration of Paris has identified 6 main hazards which could occur in the coming years and deeply affect the life of all Parisians: terrorist attack, climate change, air pollution, inequalities between inhabitants, risks linked to the Seine (flooding, water scarcity, water quality degradation) and territorial governance (Paris and its periphery being a very complicated administration, making its governance more difficult).
This list is of course not exhaustive: for example, the risks linked to a nuclear accident, to a financial or oil shock or to road blockades are not presented and, as we can see now, the risks linked to a pandemic or to very large strikes as experienced in Paris at the beginning of the year are not mentioned, although the consequences on the lives of Parisians were particularly strong.

Resilience in ecovillages?

The resilience of a community or territory is based on three criteria:
  • diversity: diversity of community members (even more broadly, biodiverity), diversity of structures, of know-how, sources of supply for energy and food... This diversity will enable the creation of redundancies, very useful to limit dependence on a particular source of supply.
  • interactions: interactions within the community must be multiple to guarantee better resilience but it is however essential to limit the interdependencies between each element of the social system. The system must be as modular as possible, i.e. each element of the system must be able to continue to function in the event of a shock affecting the entire group, so that the harmful effects of the shock do not spread to all.
  • relocation: indeed, to be resilient, a community must be reactive in the face of brutal changes and must therefore be able to manage the elements satisfying its needs: as we have seen, when our sources of supply are distant, it is more difficult to have influence on them. This relocation requires the re-appropriation of the economy, the relocation of food production, energy production...

These three criteria are, as presented on this website, the basis for building eco-villages: being resilient is not necessarily part of the main objectives of a community, although eco-villages develop and strengthen this resilience through their construction.
In many ecovillages, the confinement experienced in many countries was a means of experiencing this resilience: after having collectively decided of measures to protect the community against the virus, members of ecovillage communities were often able to continue their activities without being affected by the imposed confinement.
They were indeed able to rely on a better control of their energy and food supplies as well as on collective participation to provide for the needs of the community, all the members being confined all together and not separately.