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A Theory on Urban Resilience to Floods—A Basis for Alternative Planning Practices. 2012. Liao, K.-H.

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A comment on Three Different Concepts of 1) Ecological resilience, 2) Engineering resilience, 3) Resilience engineering
Shima Beigi on Aug 01, 2013 12:47:37

Ecological resilience, engineering resilience, resilience engineering are three different terminologies that are being used in the current state of literature in resilience science. 

Ecological resilience is discussed mainly from Resilience Alliance group. This is correctly discussed in the paper. However the comment that I have on the paper is about the use of Bruneau et al 2003 paper and Hollnagel (2006). 

The comments are designed in two parts separately. 

About The Use of reference M. Bruneau et al (2003)

M. Bruneau et al ( 2007, 2007) have identified challenges involved in quantifying resilience in that they specifically mentioned that defining the vertical axis (quality of performance) is a multidimensional task. Having said that they mention that resilience is a nonlinear and multidimensional concept in that the role of decision makers in developing the ability of communities to cope with disasters has been linked to the level of cooperation between different sectors, different organisations, and different stakeholders and the degree to which 'key functioning groups' share the same perception and vision about the concept of risk. M. Bruneau et al (2007) summarise that : "... in the end, willingness to invest in pre-earthquake mitigation measures aimed at reducing seismic resilience is intrinsically tied to the earthquake risk as perceived by the stakeholders'". 

In their view, In fact Bruneau et al view resilience as a context dependent subject which calls on the need for rethinking the traditional approach. 

Notice that the framework put forward by this group of scientists for resilience is multidimensional and has four parts: Technical, Organisational, Social, Economic (TOSE). In this case in reality what MCEER model is doing while is not exactly similar to ecological resilience, it still is definately addressing the complexity involved in analysis and measurement of resilience. Later publication from MCEER group are examples of such understanding. Therefore, I think use of MCEER paper is not really linked to engineering resilience. Engineering resilience is about not appreciating the fact that our world is complex and dynamic. Therefore our traditional linear way of thinking and managing our systems is not going to steer us toward desirable and sustainable outcomes. 

About the use of reference Hollnagel (2006)

This reference is talking about resilience engineering (RE) that is about rethinking the concept of safety in complex systems. In this book and subsequent publications from similar others, the concept of resilience is an ability that results in safety and safety is itself being seen in a complex and multilayered view. 

According to the book resilience engineering : "... Resilience is often defined in terms of the ability to continue operations or recover a stable state after a major mishap or event. This definition of resilience focuses on the reactive nature of resilience and the ability to recover after an upset. Resilience is the ability of system to prevent or adapt to changing condition in order to maintain (control over) a system property. The property that resilience engineering (RE) is concerned is safety or risk. To ensure safety the system or organisation must be resilient in terms of avoiding failures and losses, as well as responding appropriately after the fact...." Leveson et al (From Resilience Engineering Book 2006, chapter 8, page 96). 

According to C. S. Holling (1997): " resilience determines the ability of system to absorb changes of state variables, drivers and parameters and still persist. In this definition, resilience is a property of the system and persistence or probability of extinction is the outcome". 

If we put closely these two views of ecological resilience and engineering resilience (ER) from Hollnagel , it can be seen that the concept of loss is commonly seen from a probabilistic lens. Holling finishes his definition with "... and probability of extinction is the outcome.". Leveson emphasises on avoiding failures. 

I think these two views are equally valuable. I think the concept of loss in human systems is a complex issue. In human systems individual life matters. This itself can cause mismatch between the need for flexible for instance flood management system instead of control-flood infrastructure system. 

In short the point I wanted to make was that the use of references in this paper while are significant need to be unfolded so that the point the paper is trying to make become more significant and in line with the current literature on resilience subject. 


Best Regards 


Shima Beigi 


Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087