Local resilience for sustainable societies
Some months ago I wrote a few lines on Sustainability in austerity. How local governments can deliver during times of crisis, by Philip Monaghan, a book that covers some arguments not to use local budget constraints as an excuse to stop working on sustainability from local authorities. Now the author goes deeper into the role of local communities in resilience practices with How local resilience creates sustainable societies. Take a look at it if you are exploring or working on sustainability from a community-empowerment perspective, as the book makes the case for bottom-up approaches to local sustainability issues with a very diverse selection of practices throughout the world. The text can serve as a first introduction on the intricate problems that make public sustainability policies so ineffective when dealing with sustainable social practices. Sharing the same concerns that inspired the previous book, this new one explores the context of local policies (especially the UK political context and the issues raised by the Big Society debate raised by current government). The main point here is, seen from a distance, how resilience is given a broader meaning than the traditional one in sustainability rhetoric, introducing the need for communities to gain independence (responsibility devolution would be the other side of the coin). A critical intersection where political conflict emerges now between power, public policies, rights and responsibilities of individuals and communities. The book tries to be illustrative of emerging practices that are empowering communities to solve their own problems; in the absence of action from public authorities, financial failure of public services or opposition to unfair situations, new practices and collective action ranging from Transition Towns movement to the rise of fourth sector organizations or community services managed as commons are taking the lead to build more sustainable societies.
Democratic practices, banking reform, ecosystem services, green economy or civic incentives are covered in this approach which intends to put some progress where sustainable thinking has had so many problems in generating new community practices. However, community-organized projects are going underway using new social dynamics fostered by social technologies and are generating local resilience not using sustainability confronting unsustainable global patters. The main contribution of the book resides in proposing a renovated framework for sustainability in which bottom-up community provision builds stronger societies. Economic crisis seems to be no end and, in the meantime, things are changing. Sometimes silently, other times violently. We are still in the beginning and, after decades of too much rhetoric on sustainability, local and decentralized solutions will be part of the answer.