What is Resilience?

James Neill
Last updated:
09 May 2006

What is Resilience?

Resilience refers to the capacity of an entity or system to maintain and renew itself particularly in the presence of stressors, that is, when the existence or viability of the entity or system is challenged or threatened.  Resilience can be observed as a dynamic phenomena in a variety of systems.

What is Ecological Resilience?

Ecological resilience refers to an ecosystem's capacity to withstand stressors such as climatic variations and not manifest major alteration, such as overpopulation or environmental destruction.  Here are some examples of ecological resilience:A willow tree is often the last tree left standing in high winds.

  • The Willow Tree demonstrates ecological resilience via its flexibility - it is often the last tree left standing in high winds.
  • Possums were introduced to both Australia and New Zealand by European settlers in the 18th century.  The impact of possums on the New Zealand ecosystem was greater than on the Australian ecosystem.  The Australian ecosystem, in this case, proved to be more resilient to the impact of possums compared to the New Zealand ecosystem which became overrun by possums (due to the smaller land mass and lack of natural predators). 
Each of us comes from a long lineage of resilient human beings.  If our forbearers were not collectively resilient, they wouldn’t have succeeded in passing on their genes.  We are remarkable creatures with regard to our capacity to evolve and adapt.  Nevertheless, we also face the prospect of distinction within the not too distant future.

What is Cultural Resilience?

Many human cultures have come and gone, others have survived; the longer surviving cultures can be said to be resilient.  Cultural resilience refers to a culture's capacity to maintain and develop cultural identity and critical cultural knowledge and practices.  Despite challenges and difficulties, a resilient culture is capable of maintaining and developing itself.  A resilient culture engages with other The Ancient Greek civilization is gone, but many cultural artifacts remain.challenges such as natural disasters and encounters with other cultures, and manages to continue.  For example:

  • The Jewish culture proved to be resilient to the challenges of World War II. 
  • The Palestinian culture has been resilient to the challenges of Israel.

What is Psychological Resilience?

Psychological resilience refers to an individual's capacity to withstand stressors and not manifest psychology dysfunction, such as mental illness or persistent negative mood.  Psychological stressors or "risk factors" are often considered to be experiences of major acute or chronic stress such as death of someone else, chronic illness, sexual, physical or emotional abuse, fear, unemployment and community violence.  More about Psychological Resilience...