Environment and Development Economics

Resilience and sustainable development

a1 Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Box 873211, Tempe, AZ 85287-3211, USA E-mail: Charles.Perrings@asu.edu

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This special issue results from a call for papers to address the connection between resilience and sustainability, and stems from the fact that the ecological concept of resilience has been exercising an increasing influence on the economics of development. Resilience is interpreted in two different ways by ecologists: one capturing the speed of return to equilibrium following perturbation (Pimm, 1984), the other capturing the size of a disturbance needed to dislodge a system from its stability domain (Holling, 1973). The latter may be interpreted as the conditional probability that a system in one stability domain will flip into another stability domain given its current state and the disturbance regime (Perrings, 1998). The relevance of this concept for the problem of sustainable economic development has been recognized for at least fifteen years (Common and Perrings, 1992). Indeed, Levin et al. (1998) claimed that resilience is the preferred way to think about sustainability in social as well as natural systems, and a research network – the Resilience Alliance – has subsequently developed around the idea.

(Published Online July 13 2006)