Build your resilience!

We need to prepare for ecological collapse

– by Fred Bass –

Ecological collapse is both threatening and overwhelming. Massive species loss, overuse of natural resources, ocean acidification, failing economic systems, widespread topsoil loss, and many more ecological losses are combining to impact all of us.

Many people hesitate to talk about the frightening situation, but as Professor Jem Bendell states with respect to climate change, “The longer we refuse to talk about climate, the less time we have to reduce harm.” Scientific evidence points to impending ecological collapse, but no one can predict what, when, or how it might hit. Given this huge uncertainty, the best bet is to build our general capacity to respond to these threats. This capacity is called resilience – the ability to bounce back from difficult, even extreme, circumstances.

Resilience exists at multiple levels: individual, household, community and ecosystem. Research has shown that resilience is demonstrated by ordinary people in extraordinarily challenging situations. Building resilience often involves going through stressful experiences.

So where do we start? As Bendell noted, we can begin by talking with one another.

With that in mind, I facilitated five, Eco-Resilience Workshops this year where participants gathered to share their thoughts, feelings, concerns and actions regarding ecological collapse. The workshops were free and kept to a maximum of 12 participants. My job was to ask questions to the group, allow time for each person to respond, and note participants’ ideas on a flip chart. The responses were transferred to a blog.

People came to the workshops for a variety reasons: to think about ecological collapse, to learn from others, to share difficult feelings, and to connect to like-minded people. How collapse would impact participants and their feelings about these possible impacts covered a broad range.

To my surprise, participants generally felt positive, energized and empowered at the end of each of the five sessions. Though individual responses were diverse, the positive vibe was widespread. We are social beings and, when we work together in difficult situations, we often get rewarding results.

For each individual, a workshop is a one-time event, offered to help people clarify and face our critical situation. I believe that those who attended the Eco-Resilience Workshops will go on to connect with others in order to participate in, and develop, ongoing projects that build personal and community-level resilience. With organizations committed to building resilience, I hope we can offer frequent Eco-Resilience Gatherings that would focus on different aspects of resilience.

I have recently learned of an exemplary model of community resilience. Local 20/20 is a community non-profit organization in East Jefferson County, Washington State. Local 20/20 has eleven Action Groups, including ones that address emergency preparedness, local economy, energy use, resiliency education and more ( I hope that some people from Local 20/20 will visit Vancouver this fall or early next year to share their experiences and wisdom with us, perhaps as part of the first Eco-Resilience Gathering.


The Eco-Resilience Workshops will resume in Vancouver this fall. To pre-register (a prerequisite to attend), please email: or call/text 604-657-1481

Fred Bass is a retired physician and epidemiologist, a former Vancouver city councillor, a facilitator of Eco-Resilience workshops, a spouse, father, grandfather; a Quaker, a Wednesday-night Zen Buddhist, a cyclist, and an aficionado of Mozart and Brasilian chorinho.

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