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.

  • I’m wondering if Odum ever met Buzz Holling, or explored the “panarchy” concept, because that is what he appears to be describing.

    • Odum and Holling were colleagues at University of Florida, Jan, and while Holling was working at smaller scales and more conservative ideas (not energy based), there was some influence there, since both were involved in ecological economics at one point, and IIASA in Austria. Holling’s ideas originally evolved out of population ecology, while HT Odum’s were more physical. Buzz was better connected to EP Odum, and spoke at his funeral. There was lots of mixing among the various graduate students, more than anything.

    • You ask good questions, Jan, because the difference is the basis for whether we believe that we can keep what we’ve got or not, and thus the difference in the stance of and more energetically-based views. There’s a discussion of the difference in beliefs in Goldsmith’s The Way.

      HT Odum and Holling were colleagues at Univ. of Florida, and they had interactions through the University, ecological economics, and IIASA in Austria perhaps. Holling’s background was population ecology, smaller scale, and less physical (energetic), but there was influence there. Holling related more to EP Odum, and spoke at Gene’s funeral. There was lots of mixing among various graduate students (a tangled web), as you can see at the link below.

      • Brian

        Thank you Mary for forcing me to put another book in the queue.

      • Cool! Thank you for that bit of history, and the documentation to support the connection!

        No slight intended to Howard or Gene, but great ideas seldom happen in a vacuum, and I’m delighted to hear of the cross-pollenization that happened at U of F at that time.

        I’m fascinated that places develop “nexus” in some way; they become “strange attractors” in chaotic terms. Another such nexus I was peripherally involved with was Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, which gave us the personal workstation, the mouse, ethernet, object-oriented programming, and the windowed computer interface.

        It seems that those of us who seek a prosperous way down are spread all over, though, connected by abstract “places” like your blog. How can we develop a nexus of physical place or places for us? If we believe what we say is going to happen, we need to be working on these “lifeboat communities,” as Heinberg calls them.

        • Eventually there will be more and more of us, as the economy contracts, and peoples’ corporate-based livelihoods fail. It will be easier to make communities wherever we’re at. That said, look us up if you ever get to Anchorage, Jan. We’re in the phone book. ;-}

  • David MacLeod

    Jan, Odum briefly discusses Holling in chapter 3 of A Prosperous Way Down, and again in footnote 1 of Chapter 5 – Pulsing and the Growth Cycle.

    In Odums earlier book, Energy Basis for Man and Nature (1976), chapter 15 is devoted to “A Steady State Economy,” where he writes “we consider the properties of a steady state, which may be attainable now or may be something to look forward to with hope.”

    In A Prosperous Way Down (2001), he shows revised thinking. Instead of the steady state, he presents the 4 stage pulsing paradigm of growth, climax-transition, descent, and low-energy restoration. So it appears that Holling did very much influence his thinking.

    Holmgren also references Holling as “one of the pioneers of this new model of ecosystem change and its wider application to human institution and societal change.” This is a huge aspect of Permaculture Principle #12: Creatively Use and Respond to Change. An excellent chapter in an excellent book (Permaculture Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability).