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Entropy production delusion

It is common in knowledgeable circles to talk about the development of civilization in terms of entropy discussion. The term 'entropy...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The demise of civilization

A short history of civilization provides insight into developments and what the future will be. Hunter-gather societies made way to farming communities in many regions thousands of years ago as our ancestors became more knowledgeable and acquired better tools. This development occurred at different rates around the globe for a variety of reasons, including the influence of climate. It led to towns as a greater range of skills were acquired and cities followed. An elite led these developments with the workers providing the diversified labor and skills. The needs of the populace increased from food, water, clothing and shelter to gradually embrace the wide range of goods and services that a high proportion of the current global population now take for granted.

Some civilizations carried this development too far. The Sumerians developed a very knowledgeable society but they went too far in their agriculture using irrigation. Salination spoilt the soil so the civilization went into decay despite their advanced culture and now the country is mainly desert. Easter Islanders suffered a similar fate as they used up limited natural resources, partly to build idols. The Norse in Greenland did not learn from the Inuit about how to obtain food in the harsh climate. They employed unsuitable European agriculture while not being able to catch seals.

However, in the main, the global civilization developed although at different rates. Industrialization enabled the use of stored natural resources such as coal and oil to produce the goods and services that became the foundation of a high material standard living for millions in the developed countries. Society embraced this progress without understanding the real cost. The transient material wealth of civilization was being obtained by irreversibly drawing down the natural material wealth that had evolved over eons.

The current infrastructure provides many in the global community with a range of services that are now taken for granted. Well established cities such as London, Paris, New York and Tokyo have a variety range of services used by their residents and visitors almost unthinkingly while many skilled workers use natural resources for their operation and maintenance. Even the newer cities consume vast amount of natural resources and spew out material wastes day by day.

This infrastructure is like a gigantic organism feeding on natural resources and emitting wastes, seemingly without control. The powerful in society continue to proclaim the advantages of economic growth without taking into account the divestment of natural wealth. But natural forces are extracting the price of this exuberance so civilization is entering into its senescence and its demise this century is certain.

It is ironical that current society has not learned anything from the demise of so many previous civilizations. They enthusiastically embrace the wonders of technological innovations without counting the cost or the unintended consequences. Climate change, ocean acidification and the pollution due to toxic wastes