Should sustainability and resilience be combined or remain distinct pursuits?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

255 Scopus citations


It has become common for sustainability science and resilience theory to be considered as complementary approaches. Occasionally the terms have been used interchangeably. Although these two approaches share some working principles and objectives, they also are based on some distinct assumptions about the operation of systems and how we can best guide these systems into the future. Each approach would benefit from some scholars keeping sustainability science and resilience theory separate and focusing on further developing their distinctiveness and other scholars continuing to explore them in combination. Three areas of research in which following different procedures might be beneficial are whether to prioritize outcomes or system dynamics, how best to take advantage of community input, and increasing the use of knowledge of the past as a laboratory for potential innovations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number37
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014


  • Adaptation
  • Adaptive capacity
  • Resilience theory
  • Sustainability science
  • Transformation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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