Thinking Like a System about Climate Science

by Mary Logan

H.T. Odum spent formative years interrupting his undergraduate study during World War II as a tropical meteorologist in the Panama Canal zone, which helped him to develop understanding of the energetic basis of global systems. He was generally less disturbed about the threat of climate change than he was about our coming bottleneck due to peak oil, proposing that the greatest and most impacting effect of climate change would would be greater extremes and wider swings in weather. On the subject of climate, he was

A little ice-age in Anchorage

unsure about whether heating due to greenhouse gases would cause significant rises in sea level or not; one early hypothesis of his in the 1980s was that if heating caused more water vapor to go into the air, then more snow and ice could form in polar regions at high altitudes. Glaciers might melt at their toes at sea level, but might actually accumulate in ice fields, perhaps counteracting the relative rise in sea levels. While there is accumulating evidence that sea levels are rising, and the jury is still out on glaciers at high altitudes/latitudes, there are certainly greater extremes in weather.  I ponder these questions as I write about the intersection of climate and peak oil this morning, looking out my window in Anchorage, a weather sample of n=1. We are victims of the polar jet and La Niña here in Alaska this winter, and I’m wondering when it’s all going to melt?!? Continue reading Thinking Like a System about Climate Science

What is Special about “A Prosperous Way Down”

by Thomas Abel

What does A Prosperous Way Down add to the many current discussions of Peak Oil, Transition, and Collapse?  What does it say that is different?  What unique contributions does it make?  And how does it jive with positions of others who are writing under the three topics listed above?

When I raised this question in our PWD workshop I did not honestly know the answer.  I assumed it would take some careful reading and distilling.  But I had forgotten that the Odums attempted to directly answer that question for us in Chapter 1.  I will summarize their answer, but first a general comment.

The ideas in this book are not ‘peak oil’ ideas.  It is not a book about fossil fuel extraction and diminishing returns, though those issues are there.  What immediately sets A Prosperous Way Down apart from other books about peak, transition, or collapse is its big ideas about all systems of nature—about air, sea, and land, about life, about energy, about culture and people.  The Odums’ recommendations for a prosperous descent are one outcome from a general theoretical understanding of all living and non-living systems and processes of the Earth in our Universe.  As the Odums say, Continue reading What is Special about “A Prosperous Way Down”