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Combine resilience and efficiency in post-COVID societies

As countries prepare to remodel themselves after the COVID-19 pandemic, they must tackle growth and development expectations by using resources more sustainably, and by ensuring that their societies are better placed to weather future disruptions.

The COVID-19 experience indicates that society could become more vulnerable to systemic shocks and cascading disruption if the practices on which it depends excessively prioritize system efficiency over resilience. Efficiency emphasizes performance at maximum capacity with minimal use of scarce resources. To meet the rising demands of society, efficiency-based approaches often rely on increasingly complex and interconnected systems. But when a tightly interdependent society encounters acute or chronic stressors beyond its expectations or operating capabilities, such highly efficient systems are prone to catastrophic failure that can delay or prevent recovery.

More-resilient systems might be less efficient, but they recover better from systemic disruptions. Building resilience does not mean abandoning efficiency, but rather maximizing socio-economic systems’ long-term sustainability in the face of future disruptions. Marrying resilience with efficiency would allow society to preserve or even improve living standards in current and future crises.

Nature 588, 220 (2020)



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