Resilience is the central story of life on Earth. It could be considered another word for the life force. The never-ending dance of adaptation and innovation keeps species, communities and individuals constantly adjusting to micro changes in their environments as well as major ones.
A 2016 study found that more than 80 percent of coastal ecosystem scientists surveyed say they have observed instances of habitats resisting or recovering from capitalism-induced climate impacts. It’s what life does. Resilience is also on display in zones from Australia to the Philippines to Madagascar wherever ecological communities are provided with some degree of protection from capitalist greed.
This is not to minimize the cascade of crises facing our world. It’s just that no one knows the limits of resilience on a global scale. Global processes are not just bigger versions of small scale ones. Each level of Earth’s systems dances to its own beat. Given that we know so little we must do what all life does in the face of uncertainty: innovate, adapt, resist, respond, transform.
Resistance gets the goods. Yesterday Cyntoia Brown – sentenced as a teen to life imprison for killing her tormentor – walked out of prison, thanks to a wave of solidarity leading to Tennessee’s governor commuting her sentence. We are in a time when the currents of oppression, fascism and dystopia and those of solidarity, generosity and re-connection are on the rise at the same time and acts of official and mob cruelty coexist with upsurges of resistance and regeneration.
The Caribbean Summer uprising that has been shaking my homeland of Puerto Rico is like a coral reef on the rebound. The dead weight of colonial plunder, miseducation and contamination had fed into a narrative of helplessness and dependence. The self-reliance demonstrated in the face of Hurricane Maria created the conditions for a reawakening of the spirit of hope and anger that swept away the colonial governor and is still on the rise.
Power, for human beings, is closely connected to the stories we tell, hear and believe. It was Cyntoia’s story that sparked the outpouring of support. It was the story of homegrown self-sufficiency that re-kindled Puerto Rico’s dignity – a dignity that refused to accept accept another insult. It will be stories of resilience, solidarity and courage that power the global resistance to the cult of greed has governed our world – and our dreams – for too long.