Oct 05
Developing Resilience & Climate Change

Are You as Resilient as You Think? - Are You Sure?

Turns out I'm not… 

 We are in an era of exponential changes, from the climate and environment, to considerable shifts in technology, artificial intelligence (AI), the workforce, the economy, geopolitics and more. 

The definition of resilience according to Merriam-Webster is:

“an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”

Dictionary.com also ads the ability to recover from adversity. Having the “ability to adjust easily to change”  or "recover from adversity" sure seem like a valuable traits to embody.

But what does that actually look like on a day to day basis?

Two big awakenings came to me this year when it comes to my understanding of what it means to be resilient in this ever-changing and often challenging world.

What does #resilience look like built into the way that we think, design our lives, and cultivate ourselves and communities? Especially in our rapidly changing world?

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I have always considered myself to be a very resilient person, I live on a small homestead where we grow food.I know how to do a lot of things myself, I train in martial arts, teach wilderness and disaster survival skills and generally consider myself mentally hardy.
This summer, two events made me reconsider my understanding of the concept and question if I am as resilient as I think.
Survival Gardening
Survival Skills
Event #1 - My Garden & Homestead

We have laying chickens and a mix of traditional vegetables, perennial foods such as asparagus, we grow two varieties of edible mushrooms and have fruit bushes and trees.

In a good year, when the climate is reasonably “normal,” meaning a good mix of sun and rain, and our working and life schedules feel somewhat reasonable, the garden provides quite a bit of food for us.

The past few years I would say the climate has not been “normal.” Last year it rained way above the seasonal average. This caused many crops to grow slow or fail altogether. We also had issues with mold, mildew, and rot.

This year was the opposite, we had a summer-long drought. Being in sandy soil, most of our garden required almost daily watering to keep things growing.

Three things came together to create a bit of an, "ah ha” moment for me one day.

  1. 1) I was in a particularly busy time, with just barely enough time to stay on top of everything.

    Ironically, I was on my way to go teach at the Annual Preppers Conference, a gathering on preparing for emergencies and disasters. I went to town in the morning to do a few errands.
  2. I was heading back home with just enough time to water my garden and get out the door for the three-hour drive over to the conference.​

    2) I came home to find out the power was out.
  3. I was about to leave my garden for two days, it was close to 40 degrees. The garden was bone dry, and I now had to water by hand. This would take well over an hour.

    Now I needed to choose between being late for my presentation on preparedness or allow our months of hard work to shrivel up.
  4. Ironically I was not feeling very prepared or resilient myself at this moment.

    3) I was reading a book called the “Resilient Gardener,"  on growing food in a changing or unpredictable climate. 

    In the book, the author Carol Deppe makes the case that most of us design our gardens for good times. She shares a story about how she had grown an abundance of food her entire life and was a bit of an expert in growing, until….

    Her Mom got sick. This consumed a lot of her time, and suddenly her garden was falling apart. The garden was reliant on her being healthy and having an excess of time.

    Moral of the story, a resilient gardener designs their garden for hard times when they likely need the food the most, not the good times when things come easy!
  5. My garden is definitely designed better for good times and not as resilient as I thought. I plan to change this in 2019 and write about it on the Changing World page.
  6.  I have been growing food for a long time so I have a pretty good idea of what needs to change. In fact, my gardening style used to be more resilient years ago when I was less busy and a little more intentional with the design of it. 
  7. Time to get back to my permaculture roots!

This ironic event really made me question how resilient my busy, "just in time", lifestyle is.

As someone who believes in and teaches the ways of nature, I am reminded of a saying in farming culture, "When the sun shines, make hay.” 

The profound teaching of this is that as a farmer who depends on nature and its cycles for survival, there are times when you need to drop everything to work with the weather or a particular cycle, i.e., "make hay when the sun shines."

I have heard Indigenous elders reference strawberries in the same way, when the strawberries are ready, everything stops, and you pick. This is the only opportunity to harvest this essential crop for the year.

Make Hay
Survival Gardening Fruit

How often in our modern world do we skip "making hay” because there is something on the schedule such as work or an appointment?

How often do we miss the strawberry harvest because most of the time we can just go buy them at the store?

And how often do we have just enough time to get the most important things done, until something comes up…. and suddenly we don’t.

Event #2 - Under the Weather at a Pivotal Time
As I write this, I have been feeling ill for over a week now. My energy has been very low, and my mind has felt foggy, a virus? I'm not sure, but this is not normal for me. This happened to start a week after I gave myself a big fall pep talk.

A big project I have invested a TON of energy into over the past two years, creating the "Survive The Storms, Adventure Learning Course," is in full production. We are nearing completion and have one more big blast of work to do to make it all go live this fall.

Things are also really coming together with some other big projects. Another big push of energy appears like it will make some dreams come true. Ones that will allow a little more security, stability and hopefully resiliency in my wife & I's life. 
And there is fall tending of the homestead, gotta get the garlic in, wood stacked, and so much more!

And BAM!... I feel like all I want to do is crawl into a cave and go to sleep for a month.
This incident really has me pondering system design in how me and we as a culture earn an income, manage finances and design the systems that provide us with shelter, water, food, etc.

I know so many people that live just on the edge of what they are finically capable of.
Many of these folks are not glutinous and trying to “keep up with the Joneses.” They have simple lives and needs, but they are subject to a corrupt and out of balance economic system design.

On top of that, I personally believe our education system is outdated and has not kept up with the needs of our changing world and economy. I don't think most kids are adequately prepared to enter the workforce in a prosperous way. 

These events really have me pondering system design in how we as individuals, families, and a culture earn a living. 

Economy is Changing
I have actually been pondering this for some time and diligently working towards a better systems design for my finances and business model. I will be doing the same for my garden going into 2019 and sharing lessons as they come.

But none the less, this happened.

It is driving home the point as to why I started thinking that as a culture we need more resilient and holistic personal finance strategies and life systems to begin with.

Do you feel economically resilient?

Would paying your rent, mortgage or other bills be negatively affected if you could not work for a few weeks? What about a month?

Or if you are retired, what if someone got sick and your cost of living went WAY up? What if the stock market crashed and did not recover for five to ten years, how would this affect your retirement and quality of life?

Now let's apply that same concept and line of questioning to other aspects of our lives. 

Such as how we grow our food, tend our homes, raise our children, take care of (or don't have time to take care of) the natural environment that supports every aspect of our lives.

This is what I am contemplating regarding resiliency:

1) The contrast between my busy modern lifestyle & my belief in a more ancient way of living with the seasons and in balance with nature.

Having the flexibility in my schedule to be more opportunistic, to "make hay when the sun shines" and to "pick the strawberries when they are ripe".

Is this kind of flexibility and lack of busyness actually essential to resiliency and living in balance with nature in our changing world?

2) I am contemplating system design. 

How many systems, whether my garden and homestead or the multiple businesses I am involved in, rely on me having an excess of time and resources to keep them going?

Is this sustainable and resilient?

Economic Resilience

 A design in which an unexpected event that takes up a significant chunk of my time could have enormous negative consequences. One that effects to two critical life-sustaining systems, growing food and the ability to pay for everything I need to survive?

My epiphany this summer is that I considered myself resilient because I have a homestead, I grow food and have access to an abundance of water, I know a lot of skills and a lot of people with skills I don’t have. 

I also consider myself mentally tough and hardy, although I know this is an area I can always grow in as well.

And to be honest, I still do consider myself a resilient person.

In the end, even with these two events I referenced, I am already bouncing back, which according to Merriam-Webster, is the definition of resiliency. 

I know I have a lot of work to do, and a lot more to learn. I hope this resource, Changing World, can help you develop the resiliency and awareness that you require to thrive in changing times. 

Observing how quickly the world is changing & being aware of the many #challenges facing ourselves and future generations, It is a good time to re-examine just what cultivating #resilience actually looks like in our lives. 

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In Part 2 of this post I share a story from a seven day remote wilderness trip where I learn some great lessons in resilience from nature and experience the opposite end of the "too busy" spectrum that this article presents.

One of the upcoming posts that I am most excited about is a collection of “experts” answering the question,

 “What 3 traits or practices make you resilient and allow you to stay positive and optimistic in a changing world?”

This post will include a great mix of cultures, disciplines and life experiences.

I hope you will find it very insightful and practical in helping you cultivate your own personal resilience. Stay tuned, coming soon...

Let's keep growing, learning and adapting together.

Cheers to Cultivating Resiliency!

Please share YOUR thoughts in the Comments!

What does Developing Resiliency looks like to YOU?

You could even share YOUR answers to the same question I asked the "experts."

“What 3 traits or practices make you resilient and allow you to stay positive and optimistic in a changing world?”


About the Author

Chris Gilmour is the creator of ChangingWorldProject.com He has a diverse background in the study of ecology, teaching traditional wilderness & urban survival, consulting in modern-day emergency and disaster preparedness and has a passion for self-reliance such as growing food and the martial arts.