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Re: [energyresources] Re: Reflections on Sustainability

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  • Denis Frith
    There are two aspects to this discussion. One is the recycling issue and the other is whether if recycling is effective is that sufficient for sustainability.
    Message 1 of 48 , Nov 30, 2010
      There are two aspects to this discussion. One is the recycling issue and the other is whether if recycling is effective is that sufficient for sustainability. I agree with Frank and Eric that even if effective recycling is carried out, the operation of the current form of civilization is not sustainable. I have given reasons for that. They are a resume of the arguments I have presented in What went wrong? The misdirection of civilization.The instigation of irreversible rapid climate change is just one. Effective recycling, if it were implemented, would only slow down the rate of usage of the natural capital.

      However, recycling still remains a controversial issue. Tom says my thesis on the subject is wrong because of the arguments he puts forward in his thought experiment. The arguments I have put in my book constitute a novel, as far as I know, view of the question of order and disorder of the operation of the systems of civilization. They establish, in my opinion, that the usage by the systems of civilization of natural material resources is unsustainable because this usage results in irrevocable waste. Recycling, where it is worthwhile, just extends the life of the material. I have discussed with Tom off line this difference in view. I am now of the opinion that I should extract from my book the material relevant to that issue and present it in academic circles for peer review. It is a crucial issue in the development of understanding of what is bound to happen in coming decades. This seems to be the only way that this novel science will receive critical
      appraisal, so eventually widespread acceptance that will guide sound remedial action.

      I will, however, outline here the case that I make. Comparisons with existing theories will be left to the thesis. Questions and constructive comments on this outline are welcomed as they will assist me in formulating a sound thesis by connecting all the dots and crosses.

      Operation of materialistic systems (organisms) entails the flow of energy and materials through the system. The energy exits this operation as waste heat. The material as waste material. Whether that is true waste is the central question here. This continuing operation of the system fosters its development while natural forces operating internally in the system tend to counter this development. Initially the inputs win over the internal destructive forces and the system grows but a stage is reached when the destructive forces start to win and the system enters senescence leading to its demise as waste material. It is possible to influence the rate of the symptoms of aging by varying the input of energy and materials. That is treatment of the aging process but not reversing it. That growth followed by senescence is the life story of the system operating through the input of energy and material and the output of waste energy as heat and material. The life
      story of  system S is the life story of its material. System F drives the operation of system S. System S ends up as waste material. So must system F after it has fostered the operation of system S. It is hard to obtain a mental image of the two dynamic processes, operation and development, operating in conjunction until you think of how humans operate during their development through growth, maturity then senescence.

      Denis Frith

      --- On Tue, 30/11/10, Frank Holland <frankholland3@...> wrote:

      From: Frank Holland <frankholland3@...>
      Subject: Re: [energyresources] Re:
      Reflections on Sustainability
      To: energyresources@yahoogroups.com
      Received: Tuesday, 30 November, 2010, 9:06 PM


      You are right, Eric, we should not just look at energy but all the other

      parts of the ecosystem that we use, water, soil, air etc.

      Your comments lead us back to Australia and the aboriginal way of life;

      I wonder if Denis will approve!


      On Mon, 2010-11-29 at 17:34 -0800, Eric Pfeiffer wrote:


      > Evening Frank, Tom....

      > Even pointing to preindustrial agricultural society as sustainable

      > has problems.

      > Agriculture was sustained by expanding into new areas to

      > change from forested to agricultural land to meet the needs

      > of a population that was depleting the soil quality and growing

      > beyond the productivity of the land. Using wood as fuel

      > depleted the surrounding forests.

      > Was there ever sustainable practices in human history? We would

      > have to look far far back into our human history to find any

      > such time if any existed. I guess I see our history as one of

      > racing to find the next resources to substitute for present resources

      > being exhausted, a race that now extends to all areas of the

      > globe: on land, beneath the sea, and even into the atmosphere.

      > ....In the meantime, we seek more of all resources at an

      > ever faster rate as everyone across the globe now seeks

      > the lifestyle of the US as portrayed by the media on the World

      > Wide Web. The internet has done it's work well in creating limitless

      > demand for goods not in just a few countries but now in every

      > single country across the globe by everyone across the globe.


      > --- On Sat, 11/27/10, Frank Holland <frankholland3@...> wrote:


      > From: Frank Holland <frankholland3@...>

      > Subject: Re: [energyresources] Re: Reflections on Sustainability

      > To: energyresources@yahoogroups.com

      > Date: Saturday, November 27, 2010, 10:47 AM




      > You have a good point, Tom Wayburn, but it still costs energy and

      > materials to recycle materials. Yes less energy that mining it again,

      > but there is still a cost.


      > To quantify this would require a lot of working out, but after

      > spending

      > nearly 40 years recycling, my feeling is that we could only do it with

      > a

      > much smaller population and a lower lifestyle than we have now. And I

      > wonder how much of that population would be involved in the recycling

      > aspects.


      > Denis might be repetitive, but he is not entirely wrong. His thesis

      > leads us back to a pre-industrial revolution society, or further back

      > to

      > pre-agricultural revolution times when only the suns energy drove the

      > system on a daily basis. You are suggesting we can have some of the

      > benefits of agriculture and industry by recycling. OK, but my question

      > is how much of those benefits will sustainable energy support?


      > Frank

      > 53.22N 2.07W


      > On Sat, 2010-11-27 at 15:08 +0000, twayburn@... wrote:

      > >

      > > Virginia, Tom, et al.

      > >

      > > Despite many useful attitudes and an excellent set of political

      > > instincts, my friend Denis is still busy with his incorrect sweeping

      > > statements about civilization inevitably drawing down our stockpiles

      > > of "natural capital" by which term, in addition to energy, he means

      > > the many vital materials currently being scattered to the winds by

      > > unsustainable processes that could be and should be replaced by

      > > sustainable processes. This is what Denis denies. He has noticed

      > that

      > > the purveyors of renewable energy technologies almost never include

      > > the restoration of the environment and the replacement of natural

      > > capital when they compute the energy invested. Probably, with

      > current

      > > technology, most alternative energy technologies would not have

      > EROEIs

      > > greater than 1.0 if they did include these restorative processes.

      > (See

      > > http://dematerialism.net/eroeistar,htm) Nevertheless, if ever a

      > > renewable energy technology could be developed with a positive net

      > > energy even after the stockpiles of natural capital employed in the

      > > process had been restored, it would indeed be sustainable despite

      > what

      > > Denis claims. We know that this is possible because of the

      > > conservation laws for material. Solar technology is approaching this

      > > point. Thus, after gathering materials, building infrastructure,

      > > manufacture, installation, operation, maintenance, and clean up when

      > > the process wears out, there is enough energy left over to collect

      > all

      > > of the materials including the rare earths from wherever they end up

      > > when the process has ended its useful life and to place them in

      > useful

      > > stockpiles. Clearly, one would not scatter them back into the hills

      > > and mountains from which they were mined but rather retain them in

      > > warehouses, rail cars, or ships for future use with even less energy

      > > than it took to gather them in the first place. It's cheaper to

      > > recycle the materials of construction than it is to mine, refine,

      > and

      > > transport them from their natural state.

      > >

      > > Tom Wayburn, Houston, Texas

      > >

      > > P.S. We can't let Denis run around everywhere in cyberspace and

      > spread

      > > incorrect notions wholesale wherever he goes. He still does not

      > > understand net energy and EROEI.

      > >

      > > --- In energyresources@yahoogroups.com, Denis Frith

      > <denisaf2000@...>

      > > wrote:

      > > >

      > > >

      > > >

      > > > Virginia

      > > >

      > > > You may be able to explain how it is that this article portrays a

      > > > situation that is not consistent with a simple physical principle,

      > > the dynamics

      > > > of operations. I have asked this question in various forums a

      > number

      > > of times

      > > > over the years without getting a constructive answer.

      > > >

      > > > Â

      > > >

      > > > Bartlett mentions ârate of consumption of non-renewable

      > > resourcesâ in

      > > > the context of economic growth. Economic growth just increases

      > that

      > > rate. These

      > > > resources will still be consumed at a rate when economic growth is

      > > over. Consuming

      > > > non-renewable resources is an unsustainable process. He quotes

      > > Limits to Growth without understanding

      > > > that their world model predicts the cessation of growth and

      > > subsequent decline

      > > > due to resources running out. The consumption of resources is the

      > > causative

      > > > factor in the model as it is in reality. Cessation of growth is

      > the

      > > > consequential effect.

      > > >

      > > > Â

      > > >

      > > > His statement âsustainable use of energyâ shows that he does not

      > > > understand a simple physical principle. The flow of energy can do

      > > useful work

      > > > or serve a useful purpose but it always dissipates to waste heat

      > > during the

      > > > flow process. However, a system has to be installed in

      > civilization

      > > to enable

      > > > this energy flow to serve a useful purpose for society. The

      > > provision of the

      > > > system entails the use of non-renewable resources so the use of

      > > energy in the

      > > > systems of civilization is not sustainable. The systems need to

      > use

      > > these

      > > > resources for construction, operation and maintenance during their

      > > limited

      > > > life. A coal-fired power station generates useful electricity

      > during

      > > its

      > > > limited lifetime at the real cost of depleting non-renewal natural

      > > resources

      > > > and fostering the devastation of the environment, including

      > > contributing to

      > > > greenhouse gas emissions. Some of the resources used, such as

      > steel,

      > > may be

      > > > recycled but that will only be a worthwhile use of irreplaceable

      > > natural

      > > > material resources (INMR) in the required system in a few

      > > circumstances

      > > >

      > > > Â

      > > >

      > > > A part of economic growth has been due to the skill and cleverness

      > > of

      > > > the workers controlling the production of goods using some of the

      > > non-renewable

      > > > resources (INMR). Continuing economic growth will be possible only

      > > so long as

      > > > the contribution by the workers offsets the rate of depletion of

      > > INMR. In fact,

      > > > the most likely trend in the future is the contraction of the real

      > > economy as

      > > > INMR , including oil, becomes scarcer.

      > > >

      > > > Â

      > > >

      > > > He says âThe inevitable and unavoidable conclusion is that if we

      > > want

      > > > to stop the increasing damage to the global environment, as a

      > > minimum, we must

      > > > stop population growth.â That statement is incomprehensible. The

      > > operations of

      > > > civilization are damaging the global environment. That is a

      > > well-established

      > > > fact. It cannot be stopped so long as the operations of

      > civilization

      > > continue.

      > > > Stopping population growth will only slow that devastating process

      > > down.

      > > >

      > > > Â

      > > >

      > > > I have covered this subject in What

      > > > went wrong? The misdirection of civilization. However, I am

      > curious

      > > > as to how it is that seemingly knowledgeable people have such a

      > > > misunderstanding of the dynamics of operations. They understand

      > that

      > > their cars

      > > > irreversibly consume fuel when operating. They know that if they

      > put

      > > the foot

      > > > down on the accelerator the rate of fuel consumption will go up as

      > > the car

      > > > speeds up. They know that they have to consume food and liquids in

      > > order to be

      > > > able to continue to operate. They still have to do that once they

      > > have stopped

      > > > growing. Why do they believe the operation of civilization is

      > > different?

      > > >

      > > > Â

      > > >

      > > > Denis Frith

      > >

      > >

      > >

      > >

      > >


      > --


      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]






      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Denis Frith
      I would point out that there have been many sound discussions, like that below, of what has been happening in the operation of the systems of civilization.
      Message 48 of 48 , Dec 11, 2010
        I would point out that there have been many sound discussions, like that below, of what has been happening in the operation of the systems of civilization. Conventional economics has led the way down the unsustainable path but it is still the dominant paradigm despite the sound warnings. Ecological Economics presented a sound view of what was wrong with classical economics decades ago but it never got any further than whisperings in some academic circles. In some respects the bewilderment of the conventional economists at the current financial crisis is quite amusing. Their theories about balance of market forces have crumbled at the hands of the speculative investors. Whilst this happens, the systems of civilization continue to ravish the environment at an unsustainable rate. Society will have to pay a very high price for the creation of fiat financial wealth by investors at the expense of the divestment of real natural wealth.

        WikiLeaks is stimulating a social revolution against the manipulations of our 'leaders'. We really want an Earthly Revolution that focuses on the place of humans in the natural operations as the edifice that is industrial civilization disintegrates through lack of sustaining natural capital such as oil.

        Denis Frith

        --- On Sat, 11/12/10, e_bittencourt <e_bittencourt@...> wrote:

        From: e_bittencourt <e_bittencourt@...>
        Subject: Re: [energyresources] Re: Reflections on Sustainability
        To: energyresources@yahoogroups.com
        Received: Saturday, 11 December, 2010, 9:41 PM


        I am familiar with Georgescu Roegen book - which I have used in some courses, intended to bridge engineering to humanities . The book is "The Entropy Law end the Economic Process", which I understand, was directed ( mainly?) to economists to point out the dissipative nature of the economy , where the body of economic processes, consists of a complex system of dissipative processes , which is , as a whole, dissipative. Today , the book can be seen as an important contribution towards the consolidation of Evolutionary Economy.

        Economic theory has been ignoring this entropic nature , which resulted , according to GR, in the energy and ecological crisis.

        However, one should not be restricted to GR when the dialogue with people outside Economy. Economy is peculiar , since distinguishes itself as an unusual combination of lack of ethics and equivocated theory.

        Even engineers have been taught thermodynamics concentrated to classical thermodynamics , with irreversible linear, and irreversible non-linear thermodynamics, eithre not included or barelly mentioned in most introductory texbooks .

        In the preface of the book "Modern Thermodynamics-From Heat Engines to Dissipative Systems", Ilya Prigogine and Dilip Konderpudi , mention that " Within the past 50 years our view of Nature has changed drastically .Classical science emphasized equilibrium and stability. Now we see fluctuations, instability, evolutionary processes in all levels from chemistry and biology to cosmology . Everywhere we observe irreversible processes in which time symmetry is broken" , adding that " ..unfortunatelly, most introductory texts are limited to the study of equilibrium processes ..." .

        I believe that the economic system , the industry in general , and politicians -the power elite , for obvious reasons, chose to ignore the mentioned entropyc nature, as an inconvenient truth. I recommend getting familiar with the work of James Kay

        Edison Bittencourt

        ----- Original Message -----

        From: h w

        To: energyresources@yahoogroups.com

        Sent: Friday, December 10, 2010 4:01 AM

        Subject: Re: [energyresources] Re: Reflections on Sustainability

        @Denis -

        you're misunderstanding my position, and (IMHO) giving too much credence to the grander claims of G-R.

        First - I am NOT disagreeing with G-R in terms of the actual PRACTICE of material entropy. People use stuff, it falls apart, and not all of it can be recycled. This is a simple point of practicality.

        However, it is not a function of the universe, which is what the laws of thermo are.

        Your tire example, for example. Yes, the tire wears away into a fine dust that is blown away. You're not likely to going to get your rubber back by vacuuming the repair lanes of the New Jersey Turnpike. That is a point of practicality, However, the ATOMS that comprise that tire have not disappeared. They have likely been either blown into the topsoil or washed away into a drain and run out to sea. The atoms still exist, and the themselves have not really changed. At all, unless they've somehow become ionised, which is extremely unlikely.

        A lightning bolts blasts off one evening and the electricity blows into the ground and is quickly reduced to heat, and from there it either degrades into ever lower heat states in the earth or it radiates out into space. In either case, the electromagnetic energy has changed in quality, radically. It used to be electrons carrying charge, that quickly released itself as heat and light and sound, which then degrades quickly into heat. You're not going to get the energy back from it: it's quite literally gone.

        The atoms from the tire Are Still Kicking Around, in their original state. They have not degraded or changed state or anything. They're just part of several billion other atoms comprising a speck of old tire tumbling around in the ragweed next to Exit 10. It is not *practically* available to us, but it has not gone away. It is that difference that gets scientists upset with G-R. I'm not *disagreeing* with G-R, I'm simply acknowledging the the complaints that scientists have against him using terms like "3rd law thermo" for his theory. Regardless of G-R's math, his claim doesn't make logical sense, for the reasons described above. Matter and energy are technically interchangeable, but only under specific conditions. Using thermo on material does no one any good.

        That Said, I must underline that I *DO* agree with G-R's basic premise - that materials are lost during processing, whether it is melting an aluminum can or wearing down a tire while sitting in traffic in Edison NJ. There is a *practical* loss. But I (and many others) do not see it as an *absolute* loss to the universe. It is simply no longer available to humans. I'm sure the rubber speck may be of some great value or use to a bacterium...






        --- On Thu, 12/9/10, Denis Frith <denisaf2000@...> wrote:

        From: Denis Frith <denisaf2000@...>

        Subject: Re: [energyresources] Re: Reflections on Sustainability

        To: energyresources@yahoogroups.com

        Date: Thursday, December 9, 2010, 4:00 PM


        With due respect, your argument is what is fallacious. It is based on the conservation of mass in a recycling process but does not take into account the system required to carry out the process. Energy and materials are required for the construction, operation and maintenance of the system during its limited life time. Can the materials used by the recycling system have been recycled? That is the relevant question as energy supply is not a



        Miller at Sandia National Laboratory provides details of a system that uses sunlight to provide the energy to transform CO2 plus water to CO, H2 and O2. That is a useful process but depends upon the ability to capture the CO2 from the atmosphere. However, that is dealing only with the process. This consideration only of the process is the common attitude of engineers and physicists. What about the system that has to be installed to carry out this process. Biologists have to deal with systems in which the energy flow process is only part of what is happening. Prigogine is well known for his contribution to the need to consider the operation of the system rather than just consider the process that is carried out in the system.

        G-R used the term 'material entropy' in recognition of the dissipation of material in operation of systems. Even Clausius considered

        that aspect of what happens in the operation of systems. Fleissner quotes the dissipated matter as tires wear out due to friction as an example of material entropy increase.

        It is well recognized by scientists that energy is dissipated to waste heat, so thermodynamic entropy increases, in all energy flow processes. Unfortunately, the dissipation of the materials during the operation of the system, so material entropy increases, is not so well recognized. Mayumi comments on how this dilemma has confused many scientists over the years. G-R likened the situation to that regarding perpetual motion machines in that the effect of natural forces is ignored. Just as energy is invariably dissipated to waste heat in the process, material if invariably dissipated to waste material in the operation of a system. Energy can be recycled, as when heat energy is extracted from the cooling water of a power station. The dissipation of that energy to waste heat if thereby delayed but the principle is unaffected. Similarly, material can be recycled but the principle of the dissipation of material to waste is unaffected. Those who believe in

        complete recycling of materials are in the same category as those who believe in perpetual motion machines.

        Denis Frith

        --- On Thu, 9/12/10, h w <misterwarwick@...> wrote:

        From: h w <misterwarwick@...>

        Subject: Re: [energyresources] Re: Reflections on Sustainability

        To: energyresources@yahoogroups.com

        Received: Thursday, 9 December, 2010, 3:10 PM

        I think there are several problems with this, and a few of them can be laid at Georgescu-Roegan's feet. Thermodynamics is a property of energy, which can be measured and when it degrades into heat, its loss is absolute. 50,000 amps here now, a flash of light, a crash of noise, some heat and then nothing as it is all absorbed into the local system to die a death in Brownian motion.

        Where is the electricity of that bolt? Nowhere - gone. Not just to an observer, but the universe itself pulls it into ever higher entropy.

        Now, if you use an object, and choose to recycle it, the first loss is in your decision to not recycle it. Because then it gets tossed in a landfill and the thermodynamic gradient from the sun makes the weather do its thing, and the object rusts and rots in some landfill.

        However: the iron (or aluminum or indium or whatever) is not LOST. The atoms of (material x) simply ende up oxidised and slowly removed to the ocean or weathered and released to the atmosphere. And with enough energy, it is theoretically possible to reclaim every stinkin' atom of the object in question. Truly. HOWEVER, that is not possible for the photons released by the energy flash described earlier. NO amount of energy in the universe will every get back all the energy used in that flash.

        Therefore, and rightly so, Georgescu-Roegan gets slapped around for implying that the process he is describing is some kind of law of thermodynamics, when in actuality, it's simply not true.

        Howe3ver, and as I noted earlier, what he said makes sense in a practical manner.

        Someone wrote about copper recycling in the parts per billion. OK fine. That's assuming the copper dug up in Chile, refined in Arizona, sold as a stereo component in Seattle, then left on the PATH train in hoboken NJ to end up in a landfill in West Virginia is somehow traceable and deliverable to your parts-per-bilion recycling plant.

        Even if you somehow were able to build a 100% recycler, it doesn't matter, because the stuff gets lost long before it gets to the recycler. And if the recycler is some poor bastard in China who's roasting computer stereo components in an open pit fire, you can be assued that some percentage of the materials is being wafted into the atmosphere, because there just aren't enough brutally painful death from cancer these days. And this percentage becomes a factor in the recylcing equation, once againt bringing me to my point about exponential growth, because anything that acts at a percentage is subject ot the laws of exponential growth.

        Hence: recycling is temporary.




        --- On Wed, 12/8/10, twayburn@... <twayburn@...> wrote:

        From: twayburn@... <twayburn@...>

        Subject: [energyresources] Re: Reflections on Sustainability

        To: energyresources@yahoogroups.com

        Date: Wednesday, December 8, 2010, 5:36 AM

        Well, Denis, I am sure that I am no better than a lot of people; but,

        inasmuch as you have appealed to Daly and Georgescu-Roegen, I would

        appreciate it if you would tell me what they have done to show that I am

        wrong. The exact statement in Daly's paper about G-R is as follows:

        "The entropy law tells us that there are limits to the efficiency of

        conversion of energy from one form to another and there is a practical

        limit to materials recycling." [italics mine] But, I have already

        granted you the practical aspect of the question. We are concerned

        with the theoretical question. It seems you are indulging just a

        little bit in the ad verecundiam fallacy. You need to enter G-R's

        proof of the limits to recycling into our discussion. If there is

        anything to it, my hint about the Third Law might be useful.

        Tom Wayburn, Houston, Texas

        --- In energyresources@yahoogroups.com, Denis Frith <denisaf2000@...>



        > Tom says below

        > <The problem is that Denis has stated this description of our past

        experience as an incontrovertible physical law, which it is not.>

        > Numerous authoritative articles have examined the physical reality of

        this question over many decades. The recent linking to Daly's comment on

        this issue and the contribution of Georgescu-Roegen to understanding

        provides insight into what had already been determined decades ago.

        Tom's repeated assertion that I have got it wrong erodes his credibility

        and my attempts to provide understanding (of what knowledgeable people

        had already established).

        > I have noted Tom's worthy efforts to promote dematerialism but I find

        it hard to take that he continues to say I am wrong about an issue that

        has been soundly established decades ago. He is no better than the

        economists that Daly and others criticize for their false assertions.


        > Denis Frith

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