Using Resilience As A Decision Making Tool

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Using Resilience As A Decision Making Tool


Using Resilience As A Decision Making Tool



I saw a quote by Chris Martenson  (Resilience Advocate) which has stayed with me, and given me quite a bit of food for thought.

"Resilience, then, becomes the lens through which we filter all of our decisions.  It is a great simplifying tool.  Should we buy this thing?  Well, how does it make us more resilient?  Should we invest in developing this new skill?  Well, how will that help us be more resilient?  Should we plant these trees or those?  Well, which ones will add the most to the natural diversity and abundance around us?  It's really that simple.  Instead of finding ourselves overwhelmed by all the things we could or should be doing, we find our lives simpler and easier."

So, how can we use a resilience filter in our personal lives, and our community, to make the best choices and decisions for the future?  How do we take it from being a concept, and put it into practise?

Well, firstly you need to form an idea of what resilience means to you.  What areas of your life do you see potential for disruption or major change within the context of current and future events?

I would suggest that these might include:  work; finances; purchasing; education/skills; home; garden; food security; energy; water; waste management; transport; health; community.

Let's go through each of these areas and look at how a view through a resilience filter might be helpful.


How does your current work, or the field you are hoping to enter, look through the filter?  Is it in a field which is likely to withstand depletion of fossil fuels and all that relies on them... adaptable and willing, and able, to change?  Will it blossom and grow?  Or is it more likely to stagnate, experience interruptions and hardships, being forced to downsize or go out of business altogether?

If there are different choices or pathways you could take, which shows most promise in terms of being resilient?  Or is a complete change of direction the best option?

For instance, rather than working for a company that heavily relies on imports from overseas- which could see transport interruptions among other things- could you work for a similar company that does the whole process locally?

Could you specialise as an alternative power electrician, or in eco-building skills, to add more resilience to your business?


I'm certainly not going to advise on finances, as I have no expertise in this matter, however have a good look at where your money is and what it is doing for you.  Will these places safely ride the wave of (possibly immense) change?  What do they rely on?  What could interrupt or eliminate this?  Are there better options that seem more likely to remain stable, seen through the filter of resilience?  There are no guarantees of course, but don't just blindly assume "business as usual" in the financial sector.  Do what you sensibly can to protect your finances.

For example, if there was an interruption to the banking system, having enough cash on hand to deal with expenses for a couple of months might be wise.

Would physical assets, or even gold, give you more resilience than paper currency... which may in the future even become worthless, or almost?   Look into this very carefully however, before acting, as certain assets may lose a lot of value too, while others may become even more valuable.  It's not something to be rushed into without research.


The 'resilience filter' has huge application possibilities when it comes to what you buy- or don't buy.  Rather than just buy something on the spur of the moment, or because it is the latest gadget, or an ad caught your eye, or so and so has one and says it's good... view it through the lens of future resilience.  Does it fit the lifestyle you are heading towards?  Will it concretely add to your resilience in some way?  Or might it actually hinder your progression to a sustainable, resilient life?   For instance, a fancy electric gadget, for your kitchen or workshop, might seem time and effort saving when compared to its hand operated counterpart, but in your plans to live by making less of a 'footprint' does the extra power needed to operate it really fit your vision?  Also, many powered gadgets have a greater breakdown capacity than good quality, trusty old hand tools and utensils, and they can be harder to fix.  Many are really just designed to be thrown away and replaced.  To help us become resilient, we need tools that will stand the test of time, and use, and where possible, are fairly easily mended by us, or community members.


To become resilient, what knowledge is going to be important in the future?  Our most valued knowledge may look quite different in 10 or 20 years than it does now.  Using the resilience filter, what skills or knowledge should you try to gain?  What is going to be useful, even invaluable to you, or to the community in which you live?  Should you do some courses… or organise for courses and workshops to be held if there aren’t any available in your area?  Would gaining practical hands-on skills by volunteering or becoming an apprentice serve you well?  Who can you network with to share expertise?  Who can you learn from?  Who can you help develop skills by teaching?  

Can any of your hobbies and interests be developed to provide you or your community with more resilience- either in increasing your own skills to more expert levels, or by sharing them with others and increasing the skill base?  Are you an enthusiastic gardener?  Can you knit, quilt, spin, weave?  Can you make pottery or woodwork items?  Are you a great vegetarian cook, or do a lot of food preserving?  Do you have good household management or organising skills?  You may be surprised at just how much you, and other community members, have to pass on to others.  Something you take for granted as ‘just something you have always done’ may be a skill another would really love to develop.


The resilience filter can be utilised in so many ways within your home- from what you buy and use, services you access, how you recycle, emergency preparedness, to the very home systems you set up for your daily lives.  

Consider the following aspects:

  • What do you really need?  The less you feel you need, the less reliant you will be on the sources for these items, and the more resilient you can become!  Also, the less you have, the less things that need maintaining and having money and resources used on them.  Our article 'Preparing By Simplifying: Sometimes Less Is More' might be helpful to you if you would like to lessen your dependence on 'stuff'.  

  • What supplies should you have 'at the ready' to create resilience in the case of emergencies or temporary disruptions to various aspects of life?  Some simple preparedness can make a huge difference to how comfortable your lives are in the immediate aftermath of something, and how resilient you are able to be.  Having things ready, and knowing how to use them is the key.  After the event is no time to be trying to obtain things (along with the rush of everyone else) or learning how to build or use something.

    Here are some points to consider:

      If you lose power, for whatever reason, it makes sense to have alternative light sources.  These might include torches (with working batteries! Crank handle ones or solar rechargeable are also good, as if your run out of batteries, and can't buy more, you lose your torch light), candles (you can make your own too), and matches of course, fuel lamps and solar charged lamps.

      For power in general, you might consider having a back-up generator, although if fuel sources are scarce this may not be much use long term, but can certainly help ease you through short term power loss if you have some fuel on hand.

    Cooking:  A small camping gas stove can be a good back-up cooking source, solar oven, mud brick outdoor oven, outdoor BBQ- even just a fire pit, with suitably hardy cookware (no plastic handles to melt!)

      You can buy small gas heaters that use portable gas bottles, have extra blankets and quilts etc on hand, hot water bottles, and remember, warm drinks can go a long way towards warming up.  If you still have hot water because you haven't lost the source of that heating, warm baths can help as long as you dry quickly and rug up fast after getting out.

      Having a supply of clean, safe water on hand is very important.  Rain water tanks are a great way to do this.  If you are concerned about the quality of your rainwater, filtering it is a good idea, or using water sterilising tablets designed for the purpose. 

    If you don't have a rainwater tank, consider storing water in containers, but be aware of what material your containers are made from, as some can leach nasty chemicals into your water.  It is also a good idea to discard older water onto your garden or washing machine etc, and refill with new, every now and then to make sure it stays fresh.

    In an emergency, clean your bathtub, rinse well, then fill with cold water.  Fill any bottles or jugs you have in the house.  This will give you water in the very short term, if obtaining water is likely to be difficult.  For instance, if earthquakes are occurring, there is the danger that water pipes will be severed and no water will be being piped to your house until they can be fixed.


  • In choosing what products to use to clean your home, what options might create more resilience for you... and the planet?  If you are buying petro-chemical based cleaners, this may present a problem when oil is scarce, not to mention the harm many of these chemicals do to the Earth.  Increased resilience might be created by making your own cleaners from very simple, more natural ingredients such as lemon, vinegar and baking soda.  Also consider... in many cases no actual cleaner is really needed, as plain water will do the job admirably.  The resilience of making your own can be applied to clothes washing and dish washing also, among other things.

  • Curtains, blinds, roller shutters etc. should all be evaluated with resilience in mind.  What will help keep the temperature in your home as comfortable as possible naturally?  This may create different choices for different climates- you may need to keep heat out, or keep heat in, as a greater priority.  In most cases you can do both with good choices, but some options may lean more toward one extreme or the other, so do your research.

  • What about home appliances of every kind?  The filter can be readily applied to these to make significant differences!

  • How might you utilise recycling to make you more resilient?  See our article '33 Ways For Using 'Stuff' Around Your Home' for lots of ideas on this!  For instance- could you recycle your grey water to flush your toilet or water your garden?  What things, that you normally throw away or put in the recycling bin, could you reuse about your home?  Plastic containers can be used to store things or punch some holes in the bottom and grow seedlings in them.  Toilet rolls and milk cartons can also be used for seedlings.  Most kitchen scraps of course can be put on the compost heap or fed to worms or chickens.

  • How can you create more resilience in the way certain systems in your home operate?  Could lights, especially outdoor ones, be put on timers, or motion detectors to save on power?  What about putting other equipment on timers too?  How about a switch to turn a set of appliances off at the wall, rather than being left on standby?  Can you 'train' your family to do things in ways which will be energy saving?


Your garden can help create resilience in many ways.  See our article 'How Gardening Can Help Create Resilience' for more on this.  

Some of the questions that might help you filter out your most resilient options might be:

  • What plants might give most shade, and where should I plant them, to cut back on my need for air conditioning?

  • Can I utilise certain plants to help create micro-climates, so that other things I want to grow will be more resilient and flourish?

  • What about plants that have a dual function of cooling in summer and letting in the warmth of winter- such as deciduous trees or vines?

  • What creatures do I want to attract to my garden to help pollinate, control pests, improve soil and generally create biodiversity and what do I need to plant to attract them?

  • What plants will give us personal food resilience?  Should we grow extra to pass on to our community and spread the resilience?

  • What plants might we need to give us some kind of self sufficiency in basic medical needs, such as herbs?

  • How about plants for all kinds of other functions- see the above article for many of the things plants can help provide!

  • What plants can I plant that will lessen my garden's dependence on watering? 

  • What plants are ideally suited to my area, including soil type and climate, and therefore will be more resilient?

  • what kind of watering system should I install, if any, to help lessen water wastage.  This might also bring about questions about grey water usage and rain water tanks.

  • How can I create a continuous cycle in my garden so that one thing enhances another and waste becomes nourishment for another- so that everything has its place in a circle of resilience?


Food is definitely something worth creating your own resilience around.  Interruptions to food supplies could definitely be a thing of the future, for various reasons.  And even a thing of the present, under a natural disaster.

See our article 'Creating Personal Food Resilience' for more insight into this. 

Applying the resilience filter can help you decide what you should grow- what do you really eat, what will be most resilient in your area, what might you grow to use to swap for other things you may need- what is there a need for in your community?

What should you stock up on to be more resilient?  What might be hard to come by, and not easy for you to produce?

How else might you increase your food resilience?  Joining together with community members to share?  Making personal contact with local farmers etc.?  Who of these is more likely to be a reliable source in the future, due to their own resilient methods?   


When choosing energy providers, think for the future... who is most committed to 'green' energy (and by what means) and therefore likely to be the most resilient in times to come?  

Or better still, how can you create your own energy resilience?  What method would be most suited to your location and needs?  Wind?  Solar?  Would both make you even more resilient?


Apply the resilience filter when choosing water fittings for your home.  There are all kinds of things available that will save on water use such as low flow taps and shower heads, aerators, dual flush toilets, special toilet suites that have a hand basin over the cistern where the water is drained from the basin into the cistern for flushing use.

Appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines can also benefit from choices made through the view of resilience.  Lots of water to be saved there!


In an ideal world, there would be no waste... each thing would be part of a cycle.  There is no trash in nature.  Through the filter of resilience we can see ways of applying this, if not to everything, to much of what we create.  

It is far more resilient to improve your soil by creating rich compost from your kitchen scraps, than for them to go to landfill.  Vegetation can be composted.  So can much of your papers and cardboard.  Worms also love to munch scraps and paper.  Grey water is much better utilised on your garden or in various household applications, than running out through the drain system.  Even your toilet waste can be recycled, if you desire, in composting toilet systems.

Many things we might usually throw away CAN be used again in other ways.  Once again, see '33 Ways For Using 'Stuff' Around your Home' for lots of ideas.  

In the pursuit of planetary resilience, we should be filtering each item we discard... if we personally can't recycle it, can someone else?  Might it be useful to your local school or kindergarten or scout group?  A thrift shop or an animal shelter?  A council green waste composting program?  Most areas now have recycling collections or depots, so rather than throw an item that can be recycled in the bin, please think again, and send it to where it can be re-utilised.

Even the decision of what we buy can be filtered to have an impact on waste... we can make choices between almost identical products based on how much, and what kind of packaging they have.  Loose products, using your own containers, creates no extra waste, while as their heavily packaged counterparts do.  Things packaged in cardboard or paper bags, creates waste that can be recycled with less impact than plastic, many of which are not recycled at all.

Our aim should be to shrink our general rubbish bin contents down to as little as possible.  Resilience comes in creating a system where as much as possible is part of an ongoing mutually beneficial cycle, and not in the things that fall outside that cycle and create unusable waste.


Looking at how we move ourselves around through the resilience filter opens up the way we might choose to do things.  Is heavily relying on a petro-chemical fuelled mode of transport going to be very resilient in the future, especially when used for one person trips, and trips where only one thing is achieved?  Probably not... so what other options are possible?  

Vehicles that use other fuels?  Electric or hybrid vehicles?  Smaller vehicles?  Car pooling and car sharing?  Do you really need a vehicle at all?  Can your life be lived more locally?  Walking?  Cycling?  Public transport?  What is likely to create most future resilience for your situation, while still fitting your needs?


How can the resilience filter help you create resilience by enhancing personal health?  Lifestyle decisions can be made based on this viewpoint- What should I eat... and what shouldn't I eat?   What habits should I cultivate... and what habits don't serve me?  Should I stay at home and watch TV... or should I take the kids out for a run in the park?  Should I buy these chips and biscuits... or some healthy snacks for the party?  Keeping health as an important resilience factor in mind, can help make so many of these decisions easy!

As for beauty products... resilience could come in the form of using only things that don't damage the resilience of the planet or its creatures, such as organic, 'green' and non-animal tested products.  Or maybe even in not using many products at all, as many are not really essential.  You can become more resilient as you rely on needing less... so consider if you really need each item.

Personal resilience in this area might also involve filtering to make decisions about what you could grow or source to make your own healthy, 'green' beauty products.  You can make some very simple products that do a great job, using very little, and mostly from your own garden.


On a community level there are so many ways the resilience filter can be used.  Decisions about street trees and community gardens, storm-water, utilising volunteer efforts, community education options, community public transport and roads.  The possibilities are almost endless!  Just by asking "What decision will make this community more resilient in the possible challenges ahead?  How can we thrive and grow in a sustainable way?" may result in quite different decisions than other criteria setting the questions.  

The resilience and sustainability questions are the ones we need to encourage our councils and other community entities to be asking... along with other considerations of course... but recognised as aspects of enormous significance to the long term well-being of the community!

Although your list of areas of concern may be somewhat different, this gives you a bit of an idea as to how you might apply a resilience filter viewpoint to things in your everyday life.

As you get used to viewing things from this perspective, it becomes more natural and you begin to see opportunities where it can be useful in all kinds of aspects of your life.


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