by Dr. Carl A. Smith, Int. ASLA
Despite a rich, broad, and mature literature that has emerged over the past few decades, the concepts of sustainability and resilience are still sometimes used interchangeably. Even among experts the terms are considered somewhat difficult and lack generally agreed-upon definitions. Here, I provide some thoughts on workable definitions, and a sense of how the concepts of sustainability and resilience—specifically in an urban context—resonate but might also differ.
I have just attended (and presented at) the Cities in a Changing World: Questions of Culture, Climate and Design conference, hosted by the New York City College of Technology (City Tech), CUNY. The event featured many international presentations relating to urban sustainability and/or resilience within the context of an emerging era of post-COVID green recovery. Although there were very few landscape architects in attendance, I believe our community could have much to offer, as our cities move towards less carbon-dependent and more socially equitable futures. Therefore, a further consideration of nomenclature around key terms of sustainability and resilience—building on Sustainability vs. Resiliency: Designing for a Trajectory of Change, a Field post by Keith Bowers, FASLA, from 2018—is timely.