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The Power of Resilience

If permaculture is our guiding philosophy for living a sustainable and culturally resonant life, resilience is at its heart.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Resilience.  If permaculture is our guiding philosophy for living a sustainable and culturally resonant life, resilience is at its heart.  And just like the ideas of permaculture, permanent agriculture and permanent culture, the idea of resilience crosses boundaries in our life that we often compartmentalize.

In psychology resilience is the ability of a person to manage stress or adversity.  Likewise, in agriculture it is the ability of a farming system to deal with climactic variability, variability that will likely increase as we begin to bear witness to the climate change occurring all around us. As economic jargon it is the ability of an economy to maintain its stability- this implies that all people have ample opportunity to earn and will also spend in a manner that maintains both wealth and quality of life.  Of late, the term resilience is being thrown around a lot not in small part due to the implications for sustainability in the long term.  The Resilience Alliance (http://www.resalliance.org/) is a research group of prominent scientists looking at sustainability through the lens of resilience.  They are multidisciplinary and focused on adaptive systems in a socio-ecological context (if you have a chance, I love their Resilience Science blog).

Humans are adaptive. I am. My garden is, hopefully.  My family is, certainly.  In fact, this year, after being uprooted from the home we had hoped to make into an extravagant food bearing and soul filling garden space, we decided to seek garden space in community with our neighbors.  Suddenly being tenants, our gardening goals were a bit dampened until we found some like minded neighbors willing to trade work in their garden for the food it produced.  And instead of working in a divided system (Your garden – My garden) we decided to collectively grow a subsistence garden (OUR garden) to support the two families.

Our goal was to grow as much food as we could for this year.  We planned on freezing, canning and “cellaring” our food, drying some if possible, to supplement our diet through the winter.  Since we were unsure what this arrangement might provide we also decided to split a CSA farm share with another family.  Turns out – our arrangement is remarkably resilient – it was a backup in case our crops failed so that we would have some source of local, organic produce through the summer at the very least.  In addition, the CSA provided variety throughout the season that would have been missing had we only relied on the subsistence garden.  And now, the garden has been put to bed, but the CSA is still providing fresh vegetables for our table.  NO CANNING NECESSARY! (Amen)

Furthermore, both the subsistence garden and the CSA share are actively building community in our lives.  Our relationships with both families are stronger; we share ideas and recipes and are getting to know one another a little more each day.  Moreover our local economy is more resilient.  Our CSA membership helped provide a full-time job for one farmer as well as part time work for three other people. In retrospect, my grief at leaving our garden was misguided since it in fact has lead us to such a wonderful harvest.

So this idea of resilience is permeating our lives, hopefully permanently.  And because of some of these decisions we hope to build resilient: health, ecology, community, economy, attitudes and more.  I find it a forgiving idea, since this journey toward our best life is clearly not perfect, however, if we are resilient the bumps in the road are less about hardship and more about BOUNTY.

by Megan Schneider, Guest Blogger


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