Vulnerability as a means of developing agency

Prof. Tim Smith1, Assoc. Prof. Dana Thomsen1

1University Of The Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, Australia


Dominant approaches to vulnerability focus on the avoidance of risk. In the case of climate change impacts many current responses are projected to have diminishing returns over time through manipulation of social-ecological systems (e.g. the construction of sea walls) resulting in maladaptation (e.g. exacerbating inequities). Such short-term responses are predicated by a range of factors including previous infrastructure and development decisions, political terms, and individual self-interest. These perspectives on vulnerability and pathways of response limit the development of agency and achievement of sustainable adaptation. This paper is focused on conceptions and actions relating to vulnerability and adaptation, including the implications for future path dependencies, values, and authentic learning experiences to enable adaptive capacity and adaptation.


Professor Tim Smith (PhD, GradCert (Higher Ed), BAppSc (hons), GAICD), is a human geographer focused on coastal management and climate change adaptation. His research aims to discover innovative coastal governance approaches that embrace vulnerability and change. He holds an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowship, is a Lead Author of the upcoming IPCC Assessment Report, and a member of the scientific steering committee for Future Earth Coasts. Professor Smith is also an Adjunct Professor with Brock University, Canada, an Adjunct Professor with Southern Cross University, and a Senior Research Associate with Uppsala University, Sweden.


Organising our ability to respond: recognising a social-movement as communities acting resiliently

Mr Jai Allison1

1University Of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia


Resilience praxis promises frameworks and antidotes for the rapidly changing risks and vulnerabilities facing increasingly complex and networked societies. Whilst seemingly useful, resilience praxis and discourse has been criticised for lacking the socio-political reflexivity needed to  account for complex social milieu. One concern is that in the universal pursuit of resilient subjects, societal expectations of who’s responsible for managing climate, environmental and other risks or vulnerabilities are being shifted from the state onto communities and individuals. This research draws together social-movement analysis and resilience ontologies to make sense of an empirical case study which illustrates how individuals’ sense of responsibility to their community contributed to a collective ability to respond to various disruptions. The case study traces how practitioners from the Northern Rivers region of NSW learned to operationalise resilience thinking whilst organising participatory emergent societal responses, such as the gas-field free social-movement that resisted the unconventional gas industry, the Lismore Helping Hands community-led flood recovery and the burgeoning self-organised energy transition initiative Repower Byron Shire. These practitioners’ experiences speak of becoming empowered to resist and respond to threats through collective political action. The results of which demonstrate a paradigm shift in how we might discern communities acting resiliently.


Jai is a transdisciplinary Phd candidate in the Geography department at the University of Newcastle Australia. He had has over close to twenty years’ experience working in community development and organisational change. Bringing a practice based approached to research Jai’s work on resilience crosses from disaster risk reduction to complexity theory and social movement studies. His PhD draws on Deleuzian geo-philosophy to speak resilience praxis and literature critical of resilience.


Resilient Livable Cities: Smart Disaster Prevention Mechanisms for Older Adult Communities

Dr Wei-kuang Liu1, Ms Ya-Hsu Chiang1

1Landscape Architecture, Chung Yuan Christian University, Taoyuan, Taiwan


This paper explores current situation and future development possibilities of smart disaster prevention management for older adult communities in Taiwan. With the advent of an aged society in Taiwan, the life quality, health, and safety of older adults have gradually attracted attention from the public. However, older adult communities are at a disadvantage for taking disaster prevention actions. In disaster resilience and prevention planning, smart care for older adult communities is critical. This study used Taichung and Taoyuan, two cities in Taiwan, as examples. A GIS mapping was utilized to obtain the distribution of communities with a high aging index and high population density. Furthermore, communities with high flood potential were located. Interview results showed that very few communities had smart disaster management schemes. Most communities relied on their security patrol teams for disaster prevention. On the basis of our case discussion, we suggest that in the future, GIS mapping should continue to be used to analyze high risk communities with large older-adult populations. Such populations should be assisted in developing smart technology monitoring and forecasting systems. This bidirectional real-time report mechanism can then be adopted as components of disaster management strategies.


I received my PhD in Architecture at the University of Edinburgh in 2011. Then I worked at National Cheng Kung University as a postdoctoral fellow, and taught in the Architecture Department at Feng Chia University in Taiwan. Since I paid many attention to practices of landscape planning and urban design, I changed my career to teach in the Landscape Architecture Department at Chung Yuan Christian University from 2018. My research areas include cultural landscape, urban regeneration, urban resilience and participatory design. Recently I also have some studies regarding the issues of aged societies in Taiwan.

Resilience offers escape from trapped thinking on poverty alleviation

Dr Steven Lade1,2, Dr Jamila Haider1, Dr Gustav Engström3, Dr Maja Schlüter1

1Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden

2Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

3Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, Stockholm, Sweden


The poverty trap concept strongly influences current research and policy on poverty alleviation. Financial or technological inputs intended to “push” the rural poor out of a poverty trap have had many successes but have also failed unexpectedly with serious ecological and social consequences that can reinforce poverty. Resilience thinking can help to (i) understand how these failures emerge from the complex relationships between humans and the ecosystems on which they depend and (ii) navigate diverse poverty alleviation strategies, such as transformative change, that may instead be required. First, we review commonly observed or assumed social-ecological relationships in rural development contexts, focusing on economic, biophysical, and cultural aspects of poverty. Second, we develop a classification of poverty alleviation strategies using insights from resilience research on social-ecological change. Last, we use these advances to develop stylised, multidimensional poverty trap models. The models show that (i) interventions that ignore nature and culture can reinforce poverty (particularly in agrobiodiverse landscapes), (ii) transformative change can instead open new pathways for poverty alleviation, and (iii) asset inputs may be effective in other contexts (for example, where resource degradation and poverty are tightly interlinked).


Dr Steven Lade is a researcher from the Stockholm Resilience Centre (Stockholm University) currently based at the Fenner School of Environment and Society (the Australian National University). He works at the intersection of complex system modelling, sustainability, and resilience on projects spanning agricultural poverty traps, fishery collapse, and global biodiversity loss and climate change.

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