Resilience is one of the definitions they make us learn in Ecology. It’s the capacity to bounce back quickly after adversity. Resiliency is not the same as resistance, which is the degree to which one is affected by something. Why do they make us learn these two terms in ecology?
An ecosystem that is resistant might not be resilient. The Amazon rainforest is resistant because of its sheer size and biodiversity – it keeps taking our abuse without losing its integrity. However, its soil is so poor, that it wouldn’t bounce back after destruction – there isn’t enough nutrients to keep the whole forest going after we wipe it out. Once it’s out, it’s out.
Likewise, an ecosystem might be resilient, but not resistant. The weeds in your garden might not prove much resistance to the human hands yanking them out, but they’ll come back every spring.
People can also be all degrees of resistant and resilient. Protestors at Standing Rock are certainly both. They’ve resisted cold weather, punches, insults, abuse, criticism – and when they fall, they keep coming back. Our current president is not resistant, but he is resilient. He has a thin skin for criticism, but he’ll bounce back quickly with new forms of attack. Being resistant or resilient are two defining characteristics of how well we deal with situations, and it’s worth reflecting on which category we fall under.
I’m writing about resilience for two reasons:
- The Earth isn’t that resilient. It can be resistant, but it won’t bounce back after a certain point. Fossil fuels are limited and will run out. There is only so much carbon dioxide our atmosphere can take before life on Earth starts to suffer. Species and entire ecosystems will go extinct. And sure, maybe hundreds of millions of years from now the planet will have generated new life – but that’s not resiliency on our time scale.
- The Earth isn’t that resilient, but we need to be. Life is hard. Saving the world is even harder. But it will be outright impossible to accomplish if we don’t bounce back after every punch.
For the Earth’s sake, show her some resilience. Don’t forget to bounce back to normal after life throws a good punch at you. Never lose focus of what’s really important in life – remind yourself every day if you have to. The minute you throw it all out the window is a minute less for the things you care about.