Economies of Scale Suppress Risk Resilience.
The food system is one context where this hypothesis might be tested. Over the last half century increasing scale and specialization of production and processing have significantly reduced the consumers cost of food as a proportion of overall income. The source of this savings has, however, also substantially reduced the number, diversity, and distribution of producers and processors. This narrows the ability of the food system to bounce back from a catastrophic event. If this is true for the food system might it also be the case for other supply chains?
Because the supply chain originates far away and draws on unknown sources there is an impression of complexity. And across these attenuated supply chains there are complex characteristics: lots of filters, need for pattern recognition, and some aspects of adaptive response.
But is the food system “complex” as defined by the Cynefin framework? The crowd sourcing of many more independent producers and processors has been reduced and standardized. Open markets have been replaced with much more predictable production contracts. The entire system has been reengineered and squeezed to maximize every penny-per-pound. In some ways, with fewer participants and fewer relationships the food system is actually much simpler than four or five decades ago.
And, from Resiliance Alliance:
The resilience of social-ecological systems depends largely on underlying, slowly changing variables such as climate, land use, nutrient stocks, human values and policies. Resilience can be degraded by a large variety of factors including:
1. loss of biodiversity
2. toxic pollution
3. inflexible, closed institutions
4. perverse subsidies that encourage unsustainable use of resources
5. a focus on production and increased efficiences that leads to a loss of redundancy