Item Link: Access the Resource
Media Type: Article - Foundational
Date of Publication: May, 1974
Year of Publication: 1974
Author(s): Howard T. Odum
Dr. Howard T. Odum wrote about sustainable societies, ” a society that balances the environment, other life forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period”, in 1974.
As long-predicted energy shortages appear, as questions about the interaction of energy and environment are raised in legislatures and parliaments, and as energy-related inflation dominates public concern, many are beginning to see that there is a unity of the single system of energy, ecology, and economics. The world’s leadership, however, is mainly advised by specialists who study only a part of the system at a time.
Instead of a single system’s understanding, we have adversary arguments dangerous to the welfare of nations and the role of man as the earth’s information bearer and programmatic custodian. Many economic models ignore the changing force of energy, regarding effects of energy sources as an external constant; ecoactivists cause governments to waste energy in unnecessary technology; and the false gods of growth and medical ethics make famine, disease, and catalytic collapse more and more likely for much of the world. Some energy specialists consider the environment as an antagonist instead of a major energy ally in supporting the biosphere.
Instead of the confusion that comes from the western civilization’s characteristic educational approach of isolating variables in tunnel-vision thinking, let us here seek common sense overview which comes from overall energetics. Very simple overall energy diagrams clarify issues quantitatively, indicating what is possible. The diagrams and symbols are explained further in a recent book (see Ref. 1).
For example, Figure 1 shows the basis of production in interaction of fuel reserves, steady energies of solar origin and feedback of work from the system’s structure. Figure 1 is the computer simulation of this model for our existence, showing a steady state after our current growing period. As the fuel tank is drained, we return to a lower solar base of simpler agriculture. Simple macroscopic minimodels based on overview of world energy provides the same kind of trend curves as the detailed models of Forrester and Meadows (see Ref. 2). With major changes confronting us, let us consider here some of the main points that we must comprehend so we may be prepared for the future.
To read more on Dr. Odum’s theories, click here.