Environment, Power, and Society for the Twenty-First Century

Environment, Power, and Society for the Twenty-First Century: The Hierarchy of Energy

Howard T. Odum
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 432
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/odum12886
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  • Book Info
    Environment, Power, and Society for the Twenty-First Century
    Book Description:

    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.

    This volume 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50293-1
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Mark T. Brown, Elisabeth C. Odum and Daniel E. Campbell

    With the publication of Environment, Power, and Society in 1971, H. T. Odum changed the lives of countless individuals; altering their worldview by starting them along a quantitative, systems-oriented path toward holistic thinking. He introduced them to the Energy Systems Language, a visual mathematics capable of representing the details and bringing into focus the complexities of any system, and to the “macroscope,” his tool for eliminating details and gaining an overview of the entire system. For many of us Environment, Power, and Society was profound, a book that cleared away much of the mystery about how the world...

  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Howard T. Odum
  5. CHAPTER 1 THIS WORLD SYSTEM
    (pp. 1-12)

    This book is about nature and humanity. Nature consists of animals, plants, microorganisms, earth processes, and human societies working together. These parts are joined by invisible pathways over which pass chemical materials that cycle around and around, being used and reused, and through which flow potential energies that cannot be reused. The network of these pathways forms an operating system from the parts. Behavioral cues pass between animals; human discourse and money organize society. A study of humanity and nature is thus a study of systems of energy, materials, money, and information. Therefore, we approach nature and people by studying...

  6. CHAPTER 2 SYSTEMS NETWORKS AND METABOLISM
    (pp. 13-31)

    Understanding environment and society as a system means thinking about parts, processes, and connections. To help us understand systems, we draw pictures of networks that show components and relationships. Thereafter, we can carry these system images in our minds. In the process, we learn how energy, materials, and information interact. If we add numerical values for flows and storages, the systems diagrams become quantitative and can be simulated with computers. This chapter introduces a versatile energy systems language for representing verbal concepts with network diagrams. The diagrams explain how photosynthetic production and the respiratory consumption of whole systems are symbiotically...

  7. CHAPTER 3 ENERGY LAWS AND MAXIMUM POWER
    (pp. 32-62)

    Systems depend on power, which they use to develop structure and functions that self-organize according to laws of energy transformation and use. As suggested by Alfred Lotka in 1922, maximum power results from self-organization according to the natural selection of systems designs. This chapter explains energy laws, including the maximum power principle and its control of production, growth, competition, succession, energy storage, diversity, and the oscillatory pulsing of all systems.

    In human affairs the word power often refers to the effectiveness of action or the capability of action. Great military power implies large military bodies involving many people and machines...

  8. CHAPTER 4 ENERGY HIERARCHY AND NATURAL VALUE
    (pp. 63-101)

    Whereas the classical energy laws (chapters 1–3) explain much of what happens in single processes, energy hierarchy principles relate processes between scales. This chapter explains how the energy hierarchy accounts for spatial organization and distribution of pulse intensity, stored quantities, and material concentrations. The fundamental principle offered in this chapter is not only that energy organizes hierarchical patterns but that energy is itself a hierarchy because the many calories flowing through numerous small units in a network converge to form units with fewer total calories but with larger size and territory. The energy hierarchy provides a measure emergy, spelled...

  9. CHAPTER 5 ENERGY AND PLANET EARTH
    (pp. 102-130)

    The energy hierarchy principles from chapter 4 invite us to look at the planet Earth as a diversity of units organized to maximize empower. The self-organizing units of air, ocean, and land are intimately coupled by the circulation of material and the automatic planetary cogeneration of nature’s giant heat engines. The earth’s multiple energy sources process materials through energy transformation networks, developing patterns of concentration and scarcity within watersheds and seascapes. In the latest of the earth’s episodic pulses, fuel use by civilization is enriching the earth’s emergy and changing climate. This chapter explains how the energy hierarchy distributes the...

  10. CHAPTER 6 ENERGY AND ECOSYSTEMS
    (pp. 131-175)

    Forests, streams, seas, and living reefs are ecological systems, called ecosystems for short. They cover the earth with life and control the geobiosphere. They process energy, materials, and information to support an amazing diversity of species. They are the life support system for humanity. In this chapter, we consider how ecosystems illustrate the principles of self-organization: energy hierarchy, metabolism, spatial concentration, material cycling, and pulsing from chapters 1–4. Understanding mechanisms at the level of ecosystems helps us understand the larger scale of society in later chapters.¹

    The whole biosphere, its metabolism and circulating materials, was viewed as a single...

  11. CHAPTER 7 EMPOWER BASIS FOR SOCIETY
    (pp. 176-220)

    The emergence of human societies from minor components of nature to the dominant modern technological civilization is a story of shifting empower. Progress has become so rapid and dramatic in the last two centuries that many people believe anything is possible. This chapter first considers the power basis for earlier societies, the limits to solar energy, and some of the ways food, clothing fiber, shelter, and heat were supplied to human society. Next urban civilization is explained. Then emergy is used to evaluate alternative energy sources and the carrying capacity of the earth for people in the future.

    To understand...

  12. CHAPTER 8 STRUCTURE, INFORMATION, AND EVOLUTION
    (pp. 221-251)

    The geobiosphere builds and maintains structural storages with productive work. Some structural storages are nonliving, such as those of a mountain or a thunderstorm. When inputs decrease, nonliving structures dissipate, and later if energy inputs are again available, self-organization has to start over. With information the products of self-organization carry over from one episode of growth to another, making life, progress, and evolution possible (see chapter 4). The configurations of structural storage are extracted, copied, duplicated, and tested in new applications. This chapter considers structure, information, evolution, and their energy basis.

    The storage tank symbol (fig. 8.1) represents accumulations of...

  13. CHAPTER 9 ENERGY AND ECONOMICS
    (pp. 252-280)

    The system of humanity and environment is aided by the circulation of money, a special form of information. The acts of buying and selling appeared as human beings developed the mental capacity and social tendencies that allowed the exchange of goods. The circulation of money helped networks self-organize for maximum power by reimbursing people for their work immediately. Money is now the principal control mechanism for several levels of the energy hierarchy. However, the influence of economic values is expected to decrease as the global shortage of nonrenewable resources reduces annual empower. This chapter considers ways in which energy and...

  14. CHAPTER 10 ENERGETIC ORGANIZATION OF SOCIETY
    (pp. 281-312)

    With the ability to learn and cooperate, people occupy the top of the hierarchy of earth energy. Networks of humanity include human biology, individuals, families, populations, occupations, businesses, and governments. People process resources (chapter 7), information (chapter 8), and money (chapter 9). In its structure and functions human society has many similarities with ecosystems. Both require inputs from many scales of the energy hierarchy and feed their work back to reinforce their sources. Figure 10.1 shows some of the necessary pathways for people in order of transformity from left to right. This chapter considers human populations, the organization of human...

  15. CHAPTER 11 ENERGETIC BASIS FOR RELIGION
    (pp. 313-331)

    Apparently, all societies develop religious institutions that give human individuals learned programs of dedicated behavior. Cultures prevail that motivate people to contribute to the maximum empower of society,¹ but poorly adapted religions interfere with optimum functions. With the expanding role of society on Earth, the ethics of human behavior requires morality on a larger scale not much covered by earlier religious teaching. This chapter shows the systems nature of religion, its place in the energy hierarchy, relationships of religion and science, global pluralism, adaptive God, alternative views of the cosmos, and the kind of religion needed for times ahead.

    Religion...

  16. CHAPTER 12 PARTNERSHIP WITH NATURE
    (pp. 332-379)

    Self-organization is rapidly adapting our fuel-driven, urban economy to the environmental systems of atmosphere, oceans, and landscapes. As our fuel culture waxes and wanes, environmental fit is likely to become society’s next concern. With survival at stake, humanity will need knowledge and faith to refit society to renewable resources. New kinds of systems will interface the human culture and the environment of the future. Innovative combinations will emerge as the global diversity of species interacts with the diversity of human technology. In this chapter we consider principles for restoring humanity’s partnership with nature.

    When the energy under human control was...

  17. CHAPTER 13 CLIMAX AND DESCENT
    (pp. 380-396)

    The growth of civilization 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.¹

    Figure 13.1a summarizes how the economy of society is supported by renewable energies of environmental production and reserves of fuels and minerals...

  18. APPENDIX: FORMULAS FOR ENERGY SYSTEMS MODULES
    (pp. 397-408)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 409-418)