Metabolism and Spatial Concentration

Production, growth, and consumption are supported by the use and dispersal of energy and materials through work. Different types of growth are supported by varying energy inputs. Energy hierarchies and spatial organization and development of systems are linked by energy transformations. Principles of spatial organization through transformations and energy hierarchy are important to understand the changes to urban civilization that will be required in descent.

The self-organization of energy into hierarchies explains how and why phenomena over the surface of the landscape form spatial centers of energy transformation on all scales. Small centers converge their outputs to larger centers that represent the larger scale [and so on].  . . So by what mechanisms are energy hierarchies and spatial organization  of centers linked? Because energy decreases with each transformation, the downstream products have less energy to feed back and amplify. However, if systems converge the transformation products to centers spatially, they concentrate these flows so that the feedback out from the centers is concentrated enough to have a strong effect by spreading its useful work over the contributing area.

The cascade of similar structural patterns on different scales can be generated by fractal models according to Mandelbrot (1983), a well-known way to understand hierarchical snowflakes, tree branches, and flowers. The energy hierarchy is a fractal cascade with fractions of energy inflow transmitted through each energy transformation. That fractal forms are so abundant is another evidence of the energy hierarchy law (Odum, 2007).

Quantitative Food Chain MTB Lecture 3 

Self organization generates spatial centers as part of energy hierarchy. One reason is that spatial concentration is a way of making transformed high quality flows of less energy have a commensurate feedback effect outward to reinforce the system. Examples are the information centers of cities, the water convergence at the mouths of rivers, and the concentration of organic matter in tree trunks. Concentrations are readily measured as areal empower density with values ranging from less than 1 E11 sej/m2/yr in wilderness to 50,000 E11 sej/m2/yr in city centers (Odum, 1998).

Additional Human Food Chain MTB-3 

Odum, Brown, Whitfield, Lopez, Woithe & Doherty 1995 Zonal Organization of Cities and Environment

Cities develop as information-rich centers. Resources converge on the center which diverge materials and services back to rural environs. Information is most used in the centers in the cities. As the base of the economy grew, some cities became supercities to which others organized their dependence. Those countries which became centers for the world developed more information than others. The trend towards more information use was led by world class centers. Information helps a center win out in competition to be the most important. A total information society is impossible; information cannot take the place of agriculture and industry  (Odum, 1987, p. 54).

The sources of inputs for cities are so distant that the people don’t realize the basis for their economy. Fewer resources will mean less concentrated cities. Total activities will decrease, and city patterns will reorganize, with smaller units, lower building heights, less cars, and less new construction. Transportation will reorganize, and as density decreases, greenbelts will reestablish (Odum, 1987). Cities will need to reintegrate politically and financially with the whole region they serve. We can use energy evaluation to select land uses with maximum public benefit, and use empower density and transformity to associate activities of compatible intensity (Odum & Odum, 2001, p. 221).

Huang on energetics of urban development

Folke on ruralization and sustainability

Odum et al. on Zonal Organization of Cities and Environment (1995 PDF)

Odum, Brown, Whitfield, Lopez, Woithe & Doherty 1995 Zonal Organization of Cities and Environment

Odum, Brown, Whitfield, Lopez, Woithe & Doherty 1995 Zonal Organization of Cities and Environment

Odum, 2007, p. 203

Some communities can establish themselves in backwater rural areas and flourish–others maintain themselves in urban centers, and the two types work together–a two-way flow of experience, people, money and home-grown vegetables. Ultimately cities may exist only as joyous tribal gatherings, and fairs, to dissolve after a few weeks. Investigating new lifestyles is our work, as is the exploration of Ways to explore our inner realms–with the known dangers of crashing that go with such.

Master the archaic and the primitive as models of basic nature-related cultures–as well as the most imaginative extensions of science–and build a community where these two vectors cross (Snyder, 1969, p. 102).

Our civilization can thrive in a future where we live with less