Project Goals

The project has aimed to integrate the research of scholars in all the relevant social scientific and natural scientific disciplines in order to evaluate and interpret the evidence for societal resilience to environmental stress and change. This aim has been met thus far by concentrating on a series of case studies. Through workshops, seminars, colloquia and lectures the specific interests and research skills of the Princeton-based organizers have been represented. Their activities have been complemented by seminars delivered by colleagues working in other areas and time periods.

Historical examples of socio-ecological resilience have been, from the beginning, the focus. Resilience is a concept borrowed from the field of human ecology, and postulates the existence of causal links between the resilience of natural environments on the one hand, and social systems existing in these natural environments on the other. By focusing on a variety of historical cases in which comparable pre-modern societies responded in different ways to similar climatic and environmental changes, this project contributes to a number of debates within policy and planning circles as well as within environmental science and in disaster mitigation and prediction modelling in its aim to integrate environmental and societal variables in a unified analysis. This approach permits the investigation of the various factors – political, economic and cultural – that mediate the impact of environmental change together with the social and cultural factors that determine the mechanisms of resilience.