Ms Monique Salomon, a researcher in the School of Environmental Sciences, recently had the opportunity to find out more about the new and growing science of resilience, innovation and sustainability. She attended the Resilience 2011 Conference and participated in the Resilience Alliance Young Scholars (RAYS) workshop in Arizona, USA. 

The Conference, titled “Resilience, Innovation and Sustainability: Navigating the Complexities of Global Change,” brought together scientists from a broad spectrum of disciplinary backgrounds as well as representatives from government, business and NGOs.  The primary aim was to discuss and address growing concerns about the long-term sustainability of the current global human-environment system.  The Conference was organised around six intellectual themes which sought to integrate knowledge from various perspectives.

Salomon, who has been conducting research on communal rangeland management in the Okhombe region in KwaZulu-Natal, presented a poster at the Conference on “Keeping Cattle in a Changing Rural Landscape.” She explained that the research engages with the debate on people, cattle and the environment.  It was initiated in South Africa to investigate why cattle keepers in Okhombe did not adopt a rotational resting system that had been designed with community members to improve the management of communal cattle grazing. 

Prior to the Conference, approximately 40 RAYS attended a workshop at Arizona’s Camp Tontozona.  Participants came from universities, research institutes and development organisations in the United States, Canada, Alaska, the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and South Africa.  Salomon, who joined the team “Operationalising Resilience in Communities” said, ‘the aim of the workshop was to bring together an international, multi-disciplinary group of early career researchers to share experience, discuss issues and concepts, and explore research collaboration in the broad field of complexity and resilience.’

Salomon was particularly struck by an example of how climate change is impacting the traditional agricultural system of a local community in northern Italy: for generations cattle keepers have produced the famous Fontina cheese which is now under threat.  Due to the increase in average temperature and decrease in rainfall in the area, the flower and grass species are changing.  This results in a decrease in the fat content of the milk which in turn affects the level of fat in the Fontina cheese, resulting in it being below the EU prescribed levels.  The cheese now has to be sold as Alpine cheese, which retails for much less than F
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