Topic: Negotiating the triple-bottom line: resilience and social sustainability in three cotton-dependent communities in Australia
Keywords: social-ecological resilience; community resilience; social sustainability; change management
The Australian cotton industry relies on the skills and capacities of the service sector, predominantly located in regional towns. In turn, regional communities have organised around the cotton industry as a major source of income. The resilience of the industry and cotton-dependent communities is currently being tested by drought and attendant changes to water policy. Alongside this, anticipated changes in energy generation and technology adoption could significantly impact the future of regional communities. In light of these challenges, the Australian Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC) is funding research that pursues a better understanding of what makes regional cotton communities resilient and how the industry can contribute to building and maintaining their social sustainability. While the industry trusts in its adaptive capacity via the adoption of new technologies and cotton varieties that would allow growers to move their production further south towards greater availability of water, the research presented here reveals a number of tensions between industry and community interests. For example, the assumption that a resilient industry equals resilient communities is simplistic and contestable. A more holistic understanding of resilience that incorporates the social, ecological and economic pillars of sustainability is required. The paper explores opportunities for driving sustainable change afforded by a nuanced and critical interpretation of community resilience and as they emerge from an ongoing participatory research project involving three regional cotton communities in Australia.