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Assessing resilience in Collie: a case study in Western Australia

Dortch, Eloise (2010) Assessing resilience in Collie: a case study in Western Australia. Masters by Coursework thesis, Murdoch University.

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    Abstract

    Resilience is a system’s ability to absorb or adapt to change without losing essential structures and functions. In a changing world, resilience assessment is a means of assessing the condition of complex ecological and social systems in the face of multiple trends and threats. This thesis examines the usefulness of resilience assessment as a policy tool when applied to communities that will be affected by policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, via a case study of Collie, Western Australia. A historical analysis shows that Collie’s coal industry is in the late conservation stage of an adaptive cycle and vulnerable to collapse. Current threats to the industry include climate change, greenhouse gas mitigation policies, competition from other energies, local air quality concerns, growing industrial demand for water and finite coal reserves. While some threats are volatile and therefore predictions are uncertain, these threats appear likely to push the industry into serious decline within the near to medium term (10–15 years). Collie has some capacity to adapt to such a transition, including moderate existing economic diversity and strong social capital but it appears that community awareness about the threats could be enhanced. In addition, there is evidence that perverse resilience influences energy policy in Western Australia, with persistent structures and functions that cause social and environmental harm. These are causing unequal flow of wealth and opportunity in Collie and are undermining its adaptive capacity. If new coal projects proceed, Collie will sacrifice important assets including water supplies, rivers, clean air, rural lifestyle, sense of place and heritage, along with future opportunities to diversify its economy. Alternatively, it could prepare now for inevitable transition. Resilience assessment is a useful tool for other communities that are likely to experience transition owing to climate change and resource depletion, including north-west WA towns that are also home to high greenhouse gas-intensity industries.

    Publication Type: Thesis (Masters by Coursework)
    Murdoch Affiliation: School of Sustainability
    Supervisor: Albrecht, Glenn
    URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/4140
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