New Publications on building Resilience in the Anthropocene

10 Mar 2020 - 08:45

Recent publications give an overview of the Global Risk Governance programme research project ‘the Art of Resilience’, a joint project with the International Centre for Comparative Criminology (CICC), University of Montreal and the Global Risk Governance, Programme, UCT. The aim of the project is to understand how security professionals are responding to disruptive and unanticipated events. A key lens for this analysis is exploring how such professionals use the concept of resilience to understand and act across unfamiliar domains which are currently poorly secured - namely the ‘new worlds’ of the Anthropocene and cyberspace.

Accommodating landscape-scale shocks: Lessons on transition from Cape Town and Puerto Rico, considers the effect that large climate shocks have on centrally planned utilities and why people opt for off-grid solutions in response to disruptions in supply of water and energy. This paper questions if this could be part of an emerging trend in response to large climate disruptions we anticipate in the 21st century. 

When Anthropocene shocks contest conventional mentalities: a case study from Cape Town, considers what effect such landscape-scale disruptions have on the mental frames of local governments whose conventional approach and governance patterns are challenged by the potential of a New Normal in climate risk to utilities and the provision of public goods like water during severe droughts like the Cape Town drought. 

Municipal finance and resilience lessons for urban infrastructure management: a case study from the Cape Town drought, concretises these observations through a municipal finance lens and question the sustainability of the Cape Town financial model through a resilience lens. This work highlights resilience imperatives of flexibility and redundancy.

Building on these observations of responses to climate risk at multiple levels in society, Climate gating: A case study of emerging responses to Anthropocene Risks, relates these observations to emerging trends and their cascading uptake of ‘off-grid’ provision of goods by non-state actors, seen in other fields, a phenomenon we call ‘climate gating’.

The securing actions of private entities highlights the imperative of redundancy as an expression of resilience at a household level. Enhancing capacity through off-grid alternatives like boreholes and water tanks, private responses to the drought led to the emergence of innovative arrangements, at extraordinary scales, to adaptively secure variants of household-level water access and reserves while expanding general reserve margins. Figure 1 of this paper illustrates this dynamic through a chronology of rainwater harvesting tank sales data, number of registered boreholes and well points, and reduction in number of households consuming more than 20,000L per month over the drought period. 

A subsequent paper Gated Adaptation during the Cape Town Drought: Mentalities, Transitions and Pathways to Partial Nodes of Water Security, uses the Cape Town drought case study to draw attention to the entrenching effect of climate shocks on areas of privilege and inequality of water access. This paper sketches the reconfiguration of the governance arrangements around water caused by off-grid actions and asks the question of transition and reconfiguration for water systems facing climate disruption. 

A sixth paper on this theme, ‘Partial functional redundancy’: an expression of household level resilience in response to climate risk, extends ecological framings of resilience into socio-ecological and governance domains for urban infrastructure managers concerned with climate risk. Considering the larger body of work on municipal finance and socio-technical transitions, demonstrate the relevance of the idea of Climate Gating for public and private actors seeking to secure key public goods in coming years as under moments of climate (or other) disruption. Reliable and equitable access to adequate provision of public goods is anticipated to be increasingly challenging due to observed and anticipated disruptions of climate change and variability on city-wide infrastructures. The novel capacity generated through Climate Gating responses to climate risk demonstrate what we call ‘partial functional redundancy’ - a key expression of resilience for elites. Although pragmatic, the partial expressions of redundancy will likely have challenging distributional outcomes for water access.

Simpson, N.P., Shearing, CD., Dupont, B. 2020. ‘Partial functional redundancy': an expression of resilience in the Cape Town drought. Climate Risk Management. 28,

Simpson, N.P., Shearing, CD., Dupont, B. 2020. Gated adaptation during the Cape Town drought: Mentalities, transitions and pathways to partial nodes of water security. Society & Natural Resources

Simpson, N.P., Shearing, C.D. & Dupont, B., 2020. When Anthropocene shocks contest conventional mentalities: a case study from Cape Town, Climate and Development, 12(2): 163-169, DOI:

Simpson, N.P., Shearing, C.D. & Dupont, B., 2019. Climate Gating: A Case Study of Emerging Responses to Anthropocene Risks, Climate Risk Management  

Simpson, N.P, Simpson, K.J., Shearing, C.D. and Criolia, Liza Rose, 2019. Municipal Finance and Resilience Lessons for Urban Infrastructure Management: A Case Study from the Cape Town Drought, International Journal of Urban Sustainable Development, DOI:

Simpson, N.P. 2019. Accommodating landscape-scale shocks: Lessons on transition from Cape Town and Puerto Rico. Geoforum, 102 (June 2019) DOI:

Mutongwizo, T., Holley, C., Shearing, C. and Simpson, N.P. 2019. Resilience policing: An emerging response to shifting harm landscapes, Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, paz033,