Fitting into nature–or not

The role of this website is to interpret emergy science and ideas surrounding descent for a broader audience.  At the Emergy conference this week, the increasing problem of environmental pollution and human waste was a recurring theme, as was the difficulty of environmental stewardship and low-energy living while nested within an industrial society at the larger scale. With thoughts from the prior post about the primary importance of developing a balance between nature and society, my immediate thoughts turn to what we can do personally. Continue reading Fitting into nature–or not

Developing a future balance of nature and society

Crafoord Prize 1987 HT Odum's goals (from Box 1 of UF Library Odum Special Collection)
Crafoord Prize 1987 HT Odum’s goals (from Box 1 of UF Library Odum Special Collection)

In 1987, H.T. and Eugene Odum were jointly awarded the Crafoord Prize by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The Crafoord Prize is the Nobel equivalent for the biosciences, math, geosciences, and astronomy.

Howard Odum was one of the first to realize seriously the dangers of using fossil fuels. In his book “Environment, Power and Society” (1971) and “Energy Basis for man and Nature” (1976),he developed the theory that the processes of ecological systems are dimensioned according to the amount of solar energy reaching the earth, and that extra energy increases in various forms cause damaging disturbances.

In “Systems Ecology” (1983) he stresses man´s responsibility in the biosphere, a responsibility for what may be termed a permanent economy. The “work” that nature performs for man, for example in the production of forests, fish and clean water must in his view be made use of, not dissipated through interference that can cause unforeseeable future damage (Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 1987).

When asked about what he would do with the prize, H.T. Odum said,  “Perhaps we can obtain matching funds and establish the program that we have long discussed on Developing a Future Balance of Nature and Society. We could do such research projects as:

  1. finding ways to make the economy of humans and that of nature cooperative

  2. planning for the lower energy world that is coming

  3. find public policies which can maintain economic prosperity when growth is no longer possible.” (Odum, 1987)

More than twenty-five years later are we any further along as a society in our understanding or prioritization of this research need?

8th Biennial Emergy Research Conference

uf

Prosperous Way Down Pre-conference

Wednesday January 15th, 2014, from 1 – 5 pm

Held at the H.T. Odum Center for Wetlands

University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

This pre-conference is loosely organized by Doctor Tom Abel and is free for 8th Biennial Emergy Research Conference attendees. Proposed topics below, other topics to be determined via self-organization of the discussion.

  • Presentation of systems diagrams to illustrate issues
  • Reports on descent-related conferences attended
  • Reports on ongoing initiatives on a prosperous way down (PWD)
  • Reports on strategies for teaching and communicating about PWD
  • Report community organization and action about PWD
  • Reporting research on PWD

Preliminary schedule for the 8th Biennial Emergy Conference is posted as a PDF here. It is not too late to escape the polar vortex and come to Florida to warm your toes and learn something new about environmental accounting and energy descent! Registration available here.

CFWheader

When cow love meets car love

By Tom Abel

For an anthropologist like myself raised on stories of the Nuer and Dinka (and the other tribes in the region), the latest news from the Sudan is jarring.  These men fighting each other are not ‘soldiers’, they are warriors.  They live in ‘tribes’ or ‘local groups’ ruled by kinship.  And they fight each other in terms of historical animosities.  But they are now armed (who armed them?), and the big players (the US, China, others) have oil ‘interests’ in the region.  So the language has changed, this is a ‘state’, it should follow the ‘rules’ of international law, people can be charged with ‘war crimes’, etc.  The US has soldiers stationed nearby to protect ‘facilities’.  Thousands of UN ‘peacekeeprs’ as well as ‘attack helicopters’ are coming.  All of this, clearly, is not for the building of ‘democracy’ or for some other higher moral purpose, but to create ‘stability’. Continue reading When cow love meets car love

From rails to trails in the Florida Keys

By Mary Logan

We are in Florida, warming up, visiting family, rehabilitating an old house, and attending the biennial Emergy conference in Gainesville in January. We are taking a break from the house rehab by bike touring from Sarasota to Key West and then back to Gainesville. Touring by bike emphasizes the difference in perspective between human-scaled travel and the machine-powered society that south Florida has adapted to. Continue reading From rails to trails in the Florida Keys

There’s no place like Nome

By Mary Logan

Thanksgiving week in America is a time of celebration of family, and of giving thanks. I feel very privileged to live at a time and in a place that is so entitled in terms of resources, security, culture, and opportunities. One way that I can attempt to live up to that privilege is through this blog, in ways that attempt to change the culture for the better for future generations. And one of the best ways to change culture is to make the alternative more fun. Bike touring is one of the low-energy habits that has become habit-forming for us, as it is inexpensive, it allows us to get out into nature and into new places that might be difficult to get to otherwise.

previous trip to Nome Alaska
previous trip to Nome Alaska

One photo that has been passed around from this blog is a surprising one. It is a photo of a previous bike trip to Salmon Lake, near Nome Alaska, on a tour with friends several years ago. This photo shows up repeatedly on my website statistics page as having been passed around all over the world–why is that? Are other people planning trips to Nome? Is it the beauty of the place, and the wide-open vistas of the arctic tundra? For Thanksgiving, I would like to share a photo essay of that trip, in appreciation of Alaska’s unspoiled wilderness. I give thanks for having access to one of the most amazing, pristine, unspoiled wildernesses in the world. Continue reading There’s no place like Nome

Care for the earth

By Mary Logan

connectthedotsdoomerhumorThere have been a flurry of public conversations recently about the importance of protecting the biosphere. We are paying more attention to the environment again, after forty years of neglect. And many people are finding this website after googling a surprising question, “Is ecology good for economies?”

There is a growing recognition of the importance of the environment, but there is still a disconnect in understanding the link between environment and economy, and inertia about how to begin to make changes we need to make. How do we convert the basic cultural assumption or value that what is good for us is good for the world? How do our values and ethics shape our culture for adaptation to a future of energy descent? Are values more important during times of scarcity, and how must our values change if we are to survive?

permethics
http://permacultureprinciples.com/ethics/earth-care/

I recently read Holmgren’s 2002 book, Permaculture; Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability. The developing science of permaculture applies systems ecology principles to a new way of living—a permanent culture that honors the environment. Permaculture respects our energetic limits, as a means of restoring the environment while adapting to our future of less energy. Holmgren begins his book appropriately with a description of the three ethical principles of permaculture: care for the earth, care for people, and fair share. The second and third principles are derived from the first, which is primary. I was going to write a general review of Holmgren’s book, but then realized that I needed to spend an entire post discussing his first ethical principle of Care for the Earth. The review will have to wait until later.

Holmgren recognizes the increasing importance of environmental protection during the collapse of a society in overshoot. As the culture evolves to fit a lower energy pattern, societies that survive will be those that care for and protect their ecosystems. Too many people with too much technology will put extra pressures on the biosphere. Our growth-oriented values, ethics, and religion will have to evolve over time if we are to survive. What might that look like?

Continue reading Care for the earth

Culture in cycles

By Tom Abel

We want to change the world.  So we speak, we blog, we tweet.  Many academics want to make the world a better place, especially lefty social scientists or earthy ecologists.  So they research and they write.  And the media, the Fifth Estate(!), they make TV News, write articles, they are supposed to protect us from the worst of us.  Your well-meaning Pastor (if you have one) each week does his or her best to paint a picture of a better world.  So why is the world so slow to change?  Why don’t we have more control, we bloggers, reporters, academics?  We’ve said our piece.  Why doesn’t the world change?!  One answer is that culture is about learning.  It’s about evolution.  It’s about self-organization.  We say our piece, it goes into the world.  Now what?  Well, according to the paper that is the subject of this post, unless your ideas get picked up, (probably changed), cycled again, and again, and bumped ‘up’, and maybe ‘up’ again, they are done.  Say what?

Egghead Introduction

HT Odum explored systems of all types and proposed general principles that apply widely.  Earth, sea, land, air, biosphere, universe are all subjects addressed in his process theories of energy self-organization, hierarchy, pulsing, material cycling, and others.  Of these subjects of study, the Earth biosphere possesses an energy form that so far has not been found elsewhere in the universe.  Generically we call it ‘information’.  To be clear, for Odum information was not information theory.  He defined information instrumentally.  Information is a quality of genetics in life and of culture in humans.  Information is that which aids in the persistence of self-organization in time and its sharing in space.  Information allows systems to ride-out the many fluctuations in energy sources, to preserve well-tested designs through time, designs in body, in ecosystems, and, with the evolution of humans, in culture.

In Odum’s language, information is a ‘storage’ or concentration—an extremely valuable one to the process of self-organization.  It must therefore be preserved against Second Law depreciation.  The process by which information is preserved he calls the ‘information cycle’ (sometimes the ‘information circle’).  He has given us a few systems diagrams of the information cycle, this one is my favorite (Odum 1996:223). Continue reading Culture in cycles

Energy, ecology & economics–part III

By Mary Logan

This is the third and final post in a series revisiting HT Odum’s classic Ambio paper on the 3Es (Ambio, 1973). The article was republished in Mother Earth News, and the reprint is still available online through Minnesotans for Sustainability. The first 15 points are covered in part one  and part two of the post series. The final five points, 16-20 of the Ambio paper, are extracted and quoted below, with updated explanations. In this final section of the paper, Odum described relative energy availability during stages of growth and descent, and recommended policies for energy descent. Continue reading Energy, ecology & economics–part III

The flap about space travel

By Mary Logan

Why is the movie Gravity so scary to some people, and why are people in both sciences and the humanities discussing the movie in a focused fashion, picking at its details? I would argue that the movie Gravity serves as a metaphor for a shift in world views about what is possible and sustainable in terms of our high-tech society. The discussion here of space travel allows me to continue my fall theme of illustrating emergy principles using science-fiction blockbuster movies. The movie also provides an opportunity to illustrate the emergy basis of space travel, and to suggest a metaphor between the failures of technology in the movie and the unsustainability of our modern civilization. Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen the movie Gravity yet, there are spoilers ahead. Continue reading The flap about space travel

Energy, ecology, & economics — part II

By Mary Logan

This is part two of a three-part series revisiting HT Odum’s classic Ambio paper on the 3Es, which was written 40 years ago for a special issue of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science’s Energy in Society issue (Ambio, 1973). The article was republished in Mother Earth News, and the reprint is still available online through Minnesotans for Sustainability. The first 10 points are covered in part one of the post series. Points 11-15 of the Ambio paper are extracted and quoted below; in this section of the paper Odum described the not-yet named field of ecological engineering, as well as energy quality (transformity), and the net energy of solar and nuclear energy. Continue reading Energy, ecology, & economics — part II

Energy, ecology, and economics revisited

By Mary Logan

We must understand the concept of net energy in order to see the underlying energetic basis for society.  Yet net energy is often misunderstood, typically through optimistic measures of valuation that do not address the hidden inputs. Perhaps HT Odum’s clearest, simplest, most understandable paper on the topic was written 40 years ago, in a special issue of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science’s Energy in Society issue of Ambio (1973). The article was republished in Mother Earth News, still available online through Minnesotans for Sustainability. The paper remains as relevant and fundamental to the arguments for net energy today as it did 40 years ago. Each time I read the paper, I find new meaning from it. Perhaps it is time to revisit the principles quoted below from the paper, to update the terms and give modern examples of the interrelationships between the 3Es of energy, ecology, and economics. Some of the terminology and accounting methods have been refined over time, but the general principles remain unchanged–principles that are essential to the energy dialogue. Continue reading Energy, ecology, and economics revisited

The transformity of personal action

By Mary Logan

The more freedom we enjoy, the greater the responsibility we bear, toward others as well as ourselves. –Oscar Arias Sanchez

It is easy to get distracted when the world appears to be falling down around our heads. This week, the Emergist reports that he has gotten waylaid by intrusions at the personal scale, and relates those intrusions back to the principles of emergy and transformity. Here’s a snippet below from his blog this week about the transformity of his education, his feelings about his competing needs of parenting at the personal scale, and the urge to give to actions at the larger scale, and the relative value and costs of education in our society. The post is warm, funny, and something that I’ve been thinking about this week, too. Go read it, please, and I’ll wait right here while you do.

The Emergist Attacked by Two Toddlers

This blog has gone quiet for sometime, not that I haven’t had anymore topics to blog about, but because my oldest toddler has learned to turn off the computer. I actually have two posts fully thought out and half written. Further complicating the process is that the older one grabs the tip of my nose whenever he wants my attention, which is all the time, while his sister sneak attacks by smearing saliva on the screen with her hands. This all significantly ups the ante to write anything. Continue reading The transformity of personal action

Stranger in a strange land

By Mary Logan

Everything pulses, and pulses maximize the flow of power in systems. I pulsed in a big way this year. After too much time spent thinking, reading, and writing (and sitting in a chair) during the first half of the year, I put down the keyboard and took off on some physical, slow travel adventures for the summer. One of these adventures was a 2,000-mile bike tour, from Bellingham Washington, to Glacier National Park, to Yellowstone National Park, and then ping-ponging around Yellowstone on an event ride, Cycle Greater Yellowstone. We had beautiful, hot, dry weather, and a great trip. I cleared my head, I lost over 15 pounds, and I lived a simple, basic, Spartan life of biking, eating, sleeping (we camped). Touring the national parks by bicycle turned out to be an ideal way to see the crowded parks during summer. Our summer bike tour was purging and restorative, and there was time to think about my life at the personal and the larger scale. Reentry has been a bit disorienting—I feel like a stranger in a strange land. Continue reading Stranger in a strange land

Notes from the road

By Mary Logan

I am writing this while sitting on a very comfortable stack of hay in the small animal barn at the county fairgrounds in Republic, Washington. We have converged on this camping spot along with a very large motorcycle rally that takes place this weekend—it should be an interesting night. We are traveling by bike through small, rural, northwest towns along the Northern Tier route mapped by Adventure Cycling. We left Anchorage almost two weeks ago via the Alaska Marine Highway cross-gulf ferry, the MV Kennicott. We got the boot from Alaska, with 30 mph headwinds, pouring rain, and bugs in Girdwood and Whittier. We landed in Bellingham’s welcoming arms with hot sunny weather and began riding. In the past week, we have had glorious weather, with big tailwinds pushing us over four successive mountain passes.

washingtonpass

There are three of us again this summer, my husband Todd, our friend Kathleen Pelkan, and me. Pelk is from Bethel, Alaska, and we’re from Anchorage.  My husband dreamed up this trip as a training ride for a big event ride in Yellowstone in August, Cycle Greater Yellowstone.  So far the training curve has been fairly steep, with Washington Pass on day number three demanding 5000 feet of climb and a 66-mile day with full panniers. Fortunately there was mixed berry pie and cold beer on the other side of the pass in Mazama to reload calories and cool our cores. One of the advantages of bike touring is that you can eat anything you want, and still lose weight. The motto for this trip? We will stop for pie and beer!

Continue reading Notes from the road

Prosperous Equality

By Elliott Campbell

Frustration. That is my typical response to the news of the world. There are so many ills and so little substantive dialogue, in media or government, about real pathways to change. And for those of us concerned with peak energy and the potential collapse of civilization, there is no dialogue, no acknowledgement of even the potential of a problem. A feeling of helplessness and even resignation is a natural response to disenfranchisement. Adherent to the Maximum Empower Principle, the world is self-organizing to maximize empower. That means that energy and resource use continues to expand as long as possible and a growth based economy maximizes empower. In the current state of energy resources, stopping growth and transitioning to a steady state or dynamic equilibrium economy is simply not possible, even as we exhaust our earth’s resources and constantly increase our risk of catastrophic climate change. There is a certain fatalism to that can be demoralizing. Why bother working for change if significant deviation from the growth paradigm is not possible, due to thermodynamic law?

inequality
Figure depicting the income gap in the United States

What is possible is preparation, by creating a society that can correct its course, to adapt. The way we govern and run our economies is not now structured in a way that it would even be possible to transition successfully to a lower energy world. This is something we can change, and we will need to in the coming years. In their book, A Prosperous Way Down, the Odums laid out a pathway for preparation, transition, and descent. The policies and actions for preparation are what we should be working towards now. A recent work by Richard Wilkenson and Kate Pickett, The Spirit Level, provides strong evidence for action towards perhaps the most important step for adjusting society to be able to descend: reduction of inequality. They present evidence linking higher inequality to increased instances mental health issues, increased drug use, decreased physical health and life expectancy, decreased average educational performance, higher rate of teenage births, higher rates of violent crimes, higher rates of imprisonment, and fewer opportunities for upward mobility. The authors compared degree of inequality and social ills between 23 rich countries, and within the 50 US States, and found statistically significant relationships between inequality and all the problems listed above. The US has the highest degree of inequality in the world, with the gap increasing rapidly for the past 30 years. Continue reading Prosperous Equality

Pushing the Prosperous Way Down

By Elliott Campbell

In my experience the concept of a “prosperous way down” from the perspective of one immersed in the current cultural and economic paradigm of constant growth is anathema to some and dubious to most. I was asked to speak to two environmental groups, The Baltimore Green Forum and the Greenbelt Climate Action Network, as a result of the post I wrote for this blog last October. While the organizers of the groups, Sam Hopkins and Lore Rosenthal, of BGF and GCAN, respectively, were very supportive I was skeptical of the reception the ideas espoused by the Odums in A Prosperous Way Down would receive. This fear caused me to debate whether or not to present prosperous way in the class I taught last semester at University of Maryland, Energy and the Environment. However, I strongly believe that talking about the prosperous way down, spreading the knowledge, is one of, if not the, most important contributions I can make to society as a scientist, so agreed to both presentations and made the prosperous way down lecture the last lecture in the class.

Click this image to go to his personal site
Click this image to go to Chefurka’s personal site

When communicating these problems I find it is informative to think in terms of Paul Chefurka’s 5 stages of awareness, analogous to the Kubler-Ross model 5 stages of grief. Continue reading Pushing the Prosperous Way Down

Transitions

Dr. Elliott Campbell will be administering the ProsperousWayDown website for the summer. Elliott recently received his doctorate from the University of Maryland, studying with David Tilley and received a MS degree from the University of Florida under Mark Brown, both of whom studied with H.T. Odum. Elliott’s grandmother is Betty Odum, widow and longtime collaborator of H.T., and father is Daniel Campbell, a senior researcher at the EPA, so it is safe to say ecology is in his blood. He is now a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Maryland. We can look forward to diverse viewpoints on the website this summer, from different regions, generations, and backgrounds.

BirdGirdHeader

A mind like compost?

by Mary Logan

On Top (Gary Snyder, Axe Handles, 1983, p. 11)

All this new stuff goes on top
turn it over       turn it over
wait      and water down
From the dark bottom
turn it inside out
let it spread through, sift down,
even.
Watch it sprout.

A mind like compost.

As our world views begin to shift, there will be much discussion about critical thinking. Shifting world views expose flaws in people’s thinking, from the ways we protect our ideas, to inaccurate assumptions, and to the inferences that result. This is in part because fundamental assumptions of our society are beginning to show cracks. There are many descriptions of critical thinking, but most of them do not go far enough in describing the synthesis necessary in describing our global problems. Ecological, macroscopic, and systems-based critical thinking are necessary to ask the proper questions about our global problems. Continue reading A mind like compost?

Going Local

by Mary and Todd Logan

springnotfoundAnchorage in general is in a sulk. Three or nine inches of snow fell yesterday and today, depending on where you live in the Anchorage bowl. This snowfall gives Anchorage a new record for the longest snow season on record, 232 days long. Bike to Work Day on Friday was rainy and then snowy. The Nenana Ice Classic, Alaska’s biggest guessing game on when the ice goes out in the spring on the Tanana, was the latest breakup in recorded history. Gardeners are frustrated, and even the skiers are tired of winter. We seem to be experiencing a cooling trend for Alaska due to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and changes in the winter ice patterns–more in the Bering Sea and less in the Arctic. Alex DeMarban at Alaska Dispatch summarizes the study: Continue reading Going Local

The speech Obama needed to make

By Mary Logan

404govtnotfoundI’ve stayed away from politics pointedly in posts, because voting for either party is still just voting for growth, with different labels applied.  I do not believe that the current corporate giveaway that we call a political system is fixable unless we elect a leader who is ecologically and energetically literate. I doubt that will happen. That said, here is an earth day wish for real servant leadership which would fix our problems. The post is directed at a specific leader, Obama, since the United States is the worst offender in terms of extreme behavior and unsustainability.

As your president, I can set the agenda for what needs to be done, but I am relatively powerless unless I have the backing and the will of the people behind me, to mobilize the other two branches of government–the legislative Congress and the judicial Supreme Court. Increasingly, the checks and balances in this country are creating a stalemate, which only the powerful corporate lobbyists can overcome, and only in their favor. I am asking now for your help in averting a major crisis in this country, one that we have never faced before. Continue reading The speech Obama needed to make

What would you do if your money became worthless?

by Mary Logan

I am working on a policy post, but it is still cooking. So I will instead post a link to the best description of hyperinflation in Weimar Germany that I have ever read, that was written in 1970 when we went off the gold standard for good. Forty-three years later, our currency sins are finally beginning to catch up with us. What will penance for currency abuse look like? Since I have never received an answer to the question, “what would you do if your money becomes worthless,” I’ll ask it again.  Dead silence on this topic implies big blind spots.

Bezemer & Hudson, 2012 http://michael-hudson.com/2012/09/incorporating-the-rentier-sectors-into-a-financial-model-3/
Bezemer & Hudson, 2012 http://michael-hudson.com/2012/09/incorporating-the-rentier-sectors-into-a-financial-model-3/

While inflation in most countries is still manageable, the rate of inflation is increasing. That means that the amount of money relative to the underlying worth of the economy is expanding, through expansion of debt and money printing. Currently the debt in wealthy countries is mostly sequestered in the financial iron triangle loop, with little escaping into general circulation except where corporate salaries and graft trickle down to wealthy managers. At some point the sequestration will end, and the trickle down will turn into a rush. The jockeying that we are seeing now between countries attempting to balance their devaluation with the devaluation in other countries will become a race, and inflation will increase. How will our inflation race play out, and how will it be different from the description of the German Nightmare linked here? Another longer descriptions of the process is linked here. Might we segue into a new currency without pain and defaults for too-big-to-fail entities? Can we escape hyperinflation, given our bankrupt political processes?

wheremymoneywent

Header: Slave Market with Disappearing Bust of Voltaire, Salvador Dalí, 1940; Dalí describes his work on the painting “to make the abnormal look normal and the normal look abnormal.” While Dalí apparently disagreed with Voltaire’s philosophies, Voltaire had several relevant quotes on money that may apply here; “Dont think money does everything or you are going to end up doing everything for money” and “Paper money eventually returns to its intrinsic value — zero.” 

The overgrowth of control circuits and the rise of autism

by Brian @ http://theemergist.wordpress.com

This is a repost from TheEmergist on April 21, 2013. Brian runs the twice-monthly blog The Emergist.  He is a stay-at-home dad of two young children and one very young six-acre forest garden.  He became enthralled with HT Odum’s theories after reading Environment, Power, and Society in the 21st Century (EPS) and uses his blog as an outlet for the strange stream of consciousness that EPS induces in its readers.

Key questions

  • What are the reasons civilization maybe more prone to frequent collapse? Cancer? Complexity? Something else?
  • What do models of autism tell us about the “disorder”?
  • How should/has humanity combat/ed autism?

H/T to Mary and Jan for helping me parse this post out. I don’t think they necessarily agree with this idea, but their resistance helped make it much better. Further, I apologize if anyone takes issue with my usage of the term pathology or autism. They just happen to be most succinct words I can think of for this topic.

Emergist definition

Autism-/’ô – tizem/ – Using high quality energy to do a task that can be performed with lower quality energy to gain control by simplifying a subsystem. The resulting effect is waste, which feeds back to disorder the overall complexity of a system. Continue reading The overgrowth of control circuits and the rise of autism

Principles for the Pulse that is Peak Oil « integral permaculture

From David M. at Integral Permaculture; “Howard Odum was of the opinion that all systems on all scales pulse.  Storages gradually accumulate, consumers consume and develop, and eventually decline, and then dispersing materials that will be used in the next pulse.” And if “energy flows, storages, transformations, feedbacks, and sinks” are central to any system, man-made or otherwise, we can see that the peaking of world oil production is going to have a huge effect.”

Also from David’s post, a quote from Holmgren; “…If there is a single most important insight for permaculture from Odum’s work it is that solar energy and its derivatives are our only sustainable source of life. Forestry and agriculture are the primary (and potentially self-supporting) systems of solar energy harvesting available. Technological development will not change this basic fact. It should be possible to design land use systems which approach the solar energy harvesting capacities of natural systems while providing humanity with its needs. This was the original premise of the permaculture concept. While available solar energy may represent some sort of ultimate limit to productivity it is other factors which primarily limit it.”

via Principles for the Pulse that is Peak Oil « integral permaculture.

Social justice and solar equity

 By Mary Logan

“El socialismo puede llegar solo en bicicleta” (Socialism will only arrive by bike) —José Antonio Viera-Gallo, Assistant Secretary of Justice in the government of Salvador Allende (from Illich, Energy & Equity, 1973)

What is the relationship between social justice and resource sustainability? Many authors have tackled this subject from many directions, including Illich (1973), and O’Riordan (1976). In the developed world, freedom includes emancipation from nature, where freedom does not occur until we escape our limits. The spiritual is separate from the material, and energetic limits are not a consideration. Adequate society means that everyone else attains the first world countries’ level of development (Mies & Shiva, 1993).

Various authors have attempted to categorize environmental ethical thought. In a recent issue of Green European Journal, Boulanger included a useful figure adapted from Hopwood, Mellor & O’Brien (2005) that places various groups within a framework of two different criteria; how focused are we on the importance of equality versus our orientation towards environmental concerns? The implied question Boulanger is asking is, what are the proper politics for a world that is reaching its limits, and where do your values fit within this spectrum? Is this the best way to view the issue of social justice, and is the diagram inclusive enough in considering our limits? Can we have our equality cake and our environment too? Continue reading Social justice and solar equity

What did you do in the empire, grandmother?

por la abuela

Rudolf-Mates-1929 50watts.com-A-Forest-Story-by-Josef-Kozisek-(Czechoslovakia--1929)_900
Rudolf Mates, 1929 50watts.com-A-Forest-Story- by-Josef-Kozisek-(Czechoslovakia–1929)_900

The empire was an amazing time to be alive, dearie. I was what they call a professor. That meant that when I got up in the morning, I would take a hot shower, drink coffee that had been automatically brewed, get in a car that was parked in a heated garage, and drive through traffic for half an hour to a building in the middle of the city. Sometimes I would ride my bike instead, but I was considered a great renegade for doing so. There, I would park, and go in to an office, which was a series of rooms with fancy furniture and lots of computers and telephones. And there I would sit, in a room by myself with my computer, and write things in response to others’ messages. Continue reading What did you do in the empire, grandmother?

Emergy Accounting Summer School

International School on Emergy Accounting, Venice Italy, 17-21 June 2013

The International School on Emergy Accounting is organized by the Department of Molecular Sciences and Nanosystems together with the Department of Economics of Ca’ Foscari University, and in collaboration with Parthenope University of Naples. Aimed at building unifying perspectives for effective analysis of complex systems through the concept of Emergy, it is open to PhD and postdoctoral students. In particular, it will focus on the potential of emergy accounting in problems related to sustainability, offering a unique opportunity to merge scientific and economic aspects within research.

Directors:

  • Francesco Gonella, Dept of Molecular Sciences and Nanosystems, Ca’ Foscari University, Italy
  • Sergio Ulgiati, Dept of Environmental Sciences, Parthenope University, Naples, Italy

Main lecturers:

  • Mark T. Brown, Dept of Environmental Engineering Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, USA
  • Sergio Ulgiati, Dept of Environmental Sciences, Parthenope University, Naples, Italy

Details

Course Outline

Five day workshop stressing emergy concepts, theory, and principles. Each day is composed of 4 sessions, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. One or two sessions each day is devoted to a case study that includes “hands-on” computation of emergy or simulation of models to reinforce lecture material and extend understanding of systems concepts. Continue reading Emergy Accounting Summer School

Adding and removing complexity

By Mary Logan

An article on the difficulty of building truly green buildings and recent discussions about the healthcare system triggered thoughts about a major transition problem that is occurring over and over again—the problem of a complex hierarchy that demands feeding with extra energy. Previous posts about the added complexity that digitization brings are pertinent here, but this post is about the general problem of how we respond to limits by adding complexity, and what it might take to remove complexity at the top of the hierarchy without collapse. Continue reading Adding and removing complexity

What might a smart paradigm include?

by Paula Williams

Dr. Williams wrote her dissertation on The role of social paradigm in human perception and response to environmental change. She is the director of UAA’s Office of Sustainability. Her previous post on this topic appears here: http://prosperouswaydown.com/williams-not-economy-paradigm/

If not a stupid paradigm, then, as previously described, what might a smart paradigm include?

Many people who live in societies that embrace the western industrial dominant social paradigm don’t subscribe to that paradigm in whole or in part.  Many realize, or sense, that our current paradigm threatens our ability to survive long-term.  Our current paradigm tells us that the economy must continuously grow; that the role of government is to enforce contracts and keep it’s regulatory hands off of business; that technology will save us, particularly from our environmental sins; that humans are the most important forms of life; and that competition is the best way to manage systems and people.

Because this paradigm shapes the way most people think about how the world works and even shapes our living space (for example, with an emphasis on roads and driving) it won’t be easy to change.  But since not changing it will clearly impact whether we survive into the future and what future life for our children and grandchildren will look like, changing the paradigm, or trying, is a moral imperative.  First we need to consider what a new paradigm should look like. Continue reading What might a smart paradigm include?