Twenty years before this photograph was taken, this oak was cut in two by a tornado. Yet with no outside help, it eventually returned to its original form. This is resilience. But while resilience is spontaneous in the wild, it requires careful acts of nurturing when human presence is involved.
Jean Giono, the poet of resilience, illustrates the kind of care and nurturing that can enhance resilience in two related stories. In the first, The Man Who Planted Trees (brought to the screen by Frederick Back), the rebirth moves from the outside in: the planting of trees causes the water to flow again and brings the people back to their abandoned village. In the second story, Harvest, the renewal starts in the centre and moves outward. A young man, the last inhabitant of an abandoned village, meets a woman who brings life back to his home. Revitalized by this domestic resilience, the man in turn reseeds his fields, bringing fertility back to the land.
The concept of resilience – along with the related concepts of vulnerability and adaptive capacity – is increasingly used by scientists reflecting on ways to generate sustainable change. This comes from the realization that the careful acts of nurturing needed for change to build on resilience only work if the complex web of interwoven natural and social factors is taken into account.