Thursday, February 11, 2010

Environment, power, and society for the twenty-first century

"Get a rare, fresh, enlightening glimpse of the Big Picture of our environmental and energy problems - Highly recommended." -- Choice

Howard T. Odum possessed one of the most innovative minds of the twentieth century. He pioneered the fields of ecological engineering, ecological economics, and environmental accounting, working throughout his life to better understand the interrelationships of energy, environment, and society and their importance to the well-being of humanity and the planet.

Environment, Power and Society for the Twenty-First Century: The Hierarchy of Energy is a major modernization of Odum's classic work on the significance of power and its role in society, bringing his approach and insight to a whole new generation of students and scholars. For this edition Odum refines his original theories and introduces two new measures: emergy and transformity. These concepts can be used to evaluate and compare systems and their transformation and use of resources by accounting for all the energies and materials that flow in and out and expressing them in equivalent ability to do work. Natural energies such as solar radiation and the cycling of water, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen are diagrammed in terms of energy and emergy flow. Through this method Odum reveals the similarities between human economic and social systems and the ecosystems of the natural world. In the process, we discover that our survival and prosperity are regulated as much by the laws of energetics as are systems of the physical and chemical world.

The Book Environment, Power and Society for the Twenty-First Century: The Hierarchy of Energy is available on Google Books with limited preview.

Climax and Descent (Chapter 13)

The growth of civilisation on the nonrenewable reserves of the earth is surging to a climax of information miracles, stormy economics, turbulent populations, concentrated wealth, and bewildering complexity. Although the future is always masked by the oscillations of smaller scale, the empower of society may be at climax in transition to times of receding energy. This last chapter uses principles of energy hierarchy and pulsing to anticipate the future, suggest adaptive policies, and seek a prosperous way down.


By developing explanations and plans now for making descent prosperous, we can be ready when the shocks of change galvanize the attention of society. Some can have faith in the future from understanding energy principles. Other will find faith in religions that adapt the necessary commandments for once again fitting culture to the earth. The people of Easter Island disappeared, leaving only their monuments as an example to the world of what happens when culture cannot downsize to fit its environmental production.

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