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Seeing the forest for the trees: hybridity and social-ecological symbols, rituals and resilience in postdisaster contexts

Keith G. Tidball, Cornell University, USA


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The role of community-based natural resources management in the form of “greening” after large scale system shocks and surprises is argued to provide multiple benefits via engagement with living elements of social-ecological systems and subsequent enhanced resilience at multiple scales. The importance of so-called social-ecological symbols, especially the potent hybrid symbols of trees and their handling after a disaster is interrogated. The paper explores the notion of hybridity, and applies it to the hybrid symbol of the tree in postdisaster contexts. The paper briefly highlights three U.S. cases documenting the symbolic roles of trees in a context of significant shock to a social-ecological system: the terrorist attacks on New York City in 2001, the devastating hurricane that struck New Orleans in 2005, and the sudden tornadoes that wreaked havoc upon the small Midwestern city of Joplin, Missouri in 2011.

Key words

disaster; hybridity; resilience; social science; symbolism; trees

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087