The Perversion of Resilience and Regenerating Degeneration.

The concept of ‘resilience’ (Holling 2001, Walker and Salt 2006) has been appropriated by forces determined to pull it into the gravitational influence of industrial society on a globalised scale. Instead of helping us rebound into configurations of successful models of living after disturbance, we are now seeing ‘resilience’ being used to justify the ongoing existence of processes and activities that are driving humans to extinction. Coal, oil and gas- fracking industries now use their public relations departments to spin the message that their industries are not only sustainable, but resilient as well.

The ongoing resilience of technically non-sustainable and undesirable features of social systems can be termed “negative resilience” (Gallopín, 2006) or “perverse resilience” (Holling 2001, Ráez-Luna 2008). These forms of resilience occur where pathological social relationships that are oppressive and exploitative of humans and ecosystems are rendered resistant to change by economic and political subsidies (donations) and vested interests. There is a form of ‘corruption’ working here that destroys the foundations of life.

Indeed, I have had to create a new term to describe this process. ‘Corrumpalism’ (from the Latin corrumpere ‘to destroy’) I define as the ability to corrupt and destroy the integrity of a social system and its biophysical foundation by perverting all forms of development via the use of mis-information, falsehoods, money and/or violence to achieve self-interested outcomes that are the opposite of cultural and ecological interests. Resilience becomes perverse resilience under the influence of corrumpalism. A new example of such corrumpalism is the USA Trump administration insisting that the term ‘resilience’ be used instead of ‘climate change’ in all government policy. The corruption of resilience is now complete and new terms must be created that cannot so easily be usurped by those who are corrupt.

The term ‘regenerative’ must also be subject to the same criticism. Things that are undesirable can be “regenerated” or be part of a ‘regenerative’ process. The term can be easily appropriated by those who have absolutely no connection to the principles of the Symbiocene. For example, there are foresters in Australia who describe clear-felling old growth forest coups for logs, then totally burning what remains, as ‘regenerative forestry’. The millions of organisms, large and small, destroyed by such ecocidal practices experience degeneration, not regeneration. ‘Regenerative development’ has also become a new form of ‘greenwash’ where, for example, it can be applied to the concept of a ‘green port‘ in marine areas to justify and promote industry and tourism. There is even ‘regenerative capitalism’ on the buzz word list.

To regenerate, technically, means to put back in place, something that was there before it was lost. A bit like a lizard’s tail. Works well for lizards when they lose their tails, but maybe not so good for the impacts of human enterprise, especially under the capitalist paradigm. “Regenerative” suffers from the same flaw as “resilience” when things that should just ‘go away’ or not be done at all stick around like a bad smell.  Resilience becomes perverse, regenerative become degenerative. Sumbiosic development avoids this fate.


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