Resilience to climate change is not just adaptation; it’s making a problem into an asset

It’s just getting light right now at Meadowcreek.  The moon is bright and Venus is shining in the East.  Owls are hooting, but no coyotes howling, unfortunately.  Maybe we should like the coyotes and owls less since they sure they love our chickens.

coyote-2Yesterday was  a wood cutting day at Meadowcreek.  I didn’t participate because I’m resting a knee I stressed a little too much with our recent stone work project.  Everyone else got plenty done, though.

A cool front moved in yesterday and we hoped for rain, but didn’t get any.  Meadow Creek is at a low point right now which made it a good time to go looking for fossils and other interesting stones and artifacts in the drier portions of the creek bed.

Resilience requires good timing.  Doing what needs to be done when conditions are ripe.  Nearly always that means building up assets for the future.

Ecological resilience is defined by how much disturbance a system can take.  A really resilient system will adapt to any disturbance, whether a change in climate or any other external system.

But resilience is not just adaptation to change.  It’s also mitigation.  That means building up assets, diversity, and redundancy to make good use of any external change or disturbance.

One of the best ways to increase assets, diversity and redundancy at Meadowcreek is building up our soils.  If it’s too dry to dig new beds, we can cut wood and make biochar or build/improve stone walls or levees.

So many approaches to climate change, or any disturbance, focus on how to react to maintain sustainable production.  A flood hits and a city builds a higher flood wall or a farming region builds a higher levee.

A more resilient approach is to not build on the flood plain and let the floods, which are going to happen, replenish soil nutrients. Or build on piers.  Our former woodshop (which is becoming a training/event space) is in the bottom, but on piers and high and dry no matter how much rain we get.

One of our residents is planning a new wood curing facility.  It won’t be in the flat land.  We save that for crops.  Come and help us build it, if you like.

It’s easy to say you should be proactive instead of reactive, but resilience means doing both.  There will always be unexpected changes, but if your system has enough diversity of assets (intellectual, spiritual and physical) you’ll be able to use any change to improve your system.

Last winter a couple of trees fell down covering a short trail to our favorite swimming hole.  This swimming hole is open to anyone from the surrounding area.  Some people who learned to swim there bring their grandchildren from hundreds of miles away.  One visitor offered to cut the fallen trees and clear the trail.  However, we’d been having some trouble with people taking four wheelers down to the creek and with others digging up ginseng and other herbs along that established trail.  So we left the fallen trees and made a new more narrow path to the Blue Hole.

We aren’t looking to sustain existing systems at Meadowcreek, but always to conservatively modify our systems to make them more resilient..  We put to good use what many see as disturbance.

When unusually large floods hit the Mississippi River, the Corps of Engineers is ready and opens levees to allow the flood to spread out across a much wider expanse of farmland.  This replenishes depleted soils with silt from the river and lessens pressure on downstream levees protecting towns and farm buildings.

Every time this happens, some whose land is flooded advocate for higher levees. The resilient approach is to work with nature instead of fight it. Use the disturbance to build resources for the future.

Unfortunately some seek to just sustain existing systems.  That is always the road to extinction–for a farm, a community or a nation.  Truly sustainable, resilient systems will always be conservatively innovative.

And you just accept that a coyote will get a chicken now and then, because you like to hear them howl at night.

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For more on conservative innovation, building assets and the other six key qualities of resilient systems, read our free online book by clicking this phrase.

Or get some practical experience in resilience by visiting Meadowcreek.  Click here to learn how to be a part of Meadowcreek.

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