Resilience Design vs. Sustainability

  DSC08033Written by: Katherine Chin

In Costa Rica, we visited four farms in the town of Mastatal — Siempre Verde, La Iguana Chocolate, Rancho Mastatal, and Villas Mastatal. During our visit to each of the farms, we were given a tour and the speakers would describe each of their missions and purposes.  One of the tours that I remember distinctly was the tour at Villas Mastatal. During the tour, our guide Javier, referred to the term “Resilience Design” in place of the word that is more commonly recognized, “Sustainability.”

This really caught my interest because it was the first time I had ever heard of this concept. The idea of resilience design is a relatively new term that Villas Mastatal was beginning to incorporate into their farm in order to convey that their mission is more than to be sustainable in their farming, building, and lifestyle but as a philosophy in practice. Javier talked about how he believed that sustainability meant to simply maintain and live within our means whereas resilience is having the ability to respond, recover, and be regenerative. To him, resilience design is to take a step further than sustainability.DSC08017

 At Rancho Mastatal, I was able to speak to the founder of the farm, Tim O’ Hara, in regards to sustainable agriculture.  He too mentioned the word ‘resilience’.

Tim talked about how there needs to be a system to respond to the “redundancy on systems that don’t rely on things that we have no control over.” Tim stressed the importance of having resilience, being flexible, and having the ability to adapt to events that are unpredictable.

_SuIj1NNxd80TPc3-4Qg5jzI-C0xIe3sjD5Br1OorjM,MnqX5LTLurYEDsCpfAjofVP0jGx0PL-Awv7Eyw-tz9g (1)After returning from Costa Rica, the idea of resilience design continued to spark my interest. I researched the internet and discovered that sustainability is suggested to be inherently static in which there is a point of stability and when we reach that point, we tend to remain there. Resilience, on the other hand, ‘is open to, embraces, and accepts change and diversity, promoting evolution as a result’. It focuses on the need to endure the unexpected, and to use the unexpected events to grow. Ultimately, resilience is about thriving while sustainability is about survival.

It is truly amazing and inspiring to me of how focused these farms in Mastatal were in terms of their impact on the land, nature, and the community and how they are advancing their mission.