Zolli and Healy seek to define how systems and people maintain their capacity to continue and recover from adversity.
The authors report on global situations with a variety of different outcomes. In Bangladesh, a U.N.- and government-backed effort to promote the use of well water led to large-scale arsenic poisoning. In Chicago, former gang members are successfully collaborating to stop street violence. In Palau, Micronesia, local inhabitants are dealing with collapsing fisheries by “seek[ing] the correspondence between ancient and contemporary” methods. Zolli and Healy search for insights that illustrate how communities can best deal with disruptive disasters not just by surviving, but by adapting successfully to changed circumstances. They also examine the interplay between local community initiatives and global context—e.g., in the disruption of oil refineries after Hurricane Katrina, which caused higher gasoline prices, making the use of ethanol more profitable and thereby creating a shortage of corn and price inflation in Mexico. The authors pursue questions of scale in regard to the functioning of urban communities, and they look at what has been done to make financial systems and the electrical grid safer and more robust through the factoring in of redundancy. Branching out into the realm of spiritual development, Zolli and Healy suggest that mindfulness and meditation should also be part of the mix. They conclude that “while there's no single recipe for every circumstance, every journey toward greater resilience begins with continuous, inclusive, and honest efforts to seek out fragilities, thresholds, and feedback loops of a system.” Though the authors touch on a wide range of subjects, some readers may find the analysis to be overly superficial.
A broad-sweep overview of a complex subject.