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  • Marsden et al 2014 Resilience and Adaptation - an activity systems approach

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Resilience and Adaptation: An Activity Systems Approach

Research output: Contribution to conference - Without ISBN/ISSN Conference paper

Publication date2014
Number of pages14
Original languageEnglish
EventUniversity Transport Study Group 2014 - Newcastle University, Newcastle, United Kingdom
Duration: 6/01/20148/01/2014


ConferenceUniversity Transport Study Group 2014
CountryUnited Kingdom


Climate change will create new stresses for populations across the globe. Whatever mitigation pathways are adopted the question is about how much, not whether, climatic change will impact on society. In particular, we can expect more extreme rainfall events, flooding and variations in temperature which our infrastructures were not designed to cope with.
This paper poses fundamental questions about how societies should respond to this. In particular, through the use of existing frameworks of resilience and adaptive capacity the paper presents a comparative analysis of two potential response strategies. The first is a transport systems approach which focuses on the availability of infrastructures and transport services. The second is an activity systems approach which focuses on ability of society to conduct activities. The differences are explored conceptually and through a series of innovative data sets collected during periods of significant weather related disruption as part of the RCUK funded Disruption project.
The paper concludes that a transport systems approach sits comfortably within existing institutional structures and accountability processes. Each element of the system seeks to minimize the extent to which it is a source of failure under climatic events. This results in an ultimately flawed investment strategy underpinned by a paradigm of perceived stability. Such an approach also marginalizes user preferences for other strategies. The activity systems approach by contrast broadens the toolbox of responses beyond the transport system and integrates personal and group action and capacities. The activity systems approach incorporates the transport system but does not privilege it. Adopting such an approach could radically alter the transport planning paradigm and is not restricted to planning for extreme climate scenarios.