12 June 2017

Nailing down resilience and sustainability

Options Magazine Summer 2017: Ali Kharrazi, an alumnus of the 2012 YSSP, is taking a critical look at the concepts of resilience and sustainability

© Ali Kharrazi

© Ali Kharrazi

Resilience is a slippery term. Resilience might refer to a person or community’s ability to adapt and rebuild after a disaster, but the term is also used more technically to describe the properties of a system to recover from collapse or catastrophe. These multiple definitions of resilience mean that there are also many approaches to study it. In a recent study, University of Tokyo researcher Ali Kharrazi and IIASA researcher Brian Fath bring some clarity to the concept of resilience and the empirical—or evidence based—approaches used to study it in social environmental systems.

“Resilience is the ability of a system to survive and adapt in the wake of a disturbance.” says Kharrazi, an alumnus of the 2012 Young Scientists Summer Program (YSSP). However, he says, “there are few empirical approaches to the concept of resilience. This makes measuring, quantifying,communicating, and applying the concept to sustainability challenges difficult.”

The study found that in fact, none of the current methods can handle all aspects of the concept of resilience. What’s needed, Kharrazi says, is to apply different empirical approaches towards real-world sustainability challenges, using real data from cities and countries.

Kharrazi credits the YSSP with strengthening his passion, and giving him the research skills to make a positive impact on humanity and sustainable development. “When I first started my PhD I became interested in the concept of resilience, its relationship to common sustainability challenges, and our inability to measure and quantify this important concept. Since my PhD I have continued to do research in this area and apply it to various domains, including energy, water, and trade.”

Text by Katherine Leitzell

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Last edited: 16 August 2017


Ali Kharrazi

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