Sunday, May 27, 2012

Energy Bulletin: Nature and Human Development Limitations

Limits We are Reaching – Oil, Debt, and Others

by Gail Tverberg

The world is clearly reaching many limits. This graphic below shows how I see man interacting with natural systems, back before man discovered fire and back before man became intelligent enough to kill off whole species.

Figure 1. My view of man’s relationship to natural systems, in the beginning.

In these earliest days, human systems were a part of the natural system. Humans behaved like other animals, and fit easily into the natural order. There weren’t many humans–probably under 100,000 total in the whole world.

This is the way I see man’s systems interacting with the natural system now:

Figure 2.My representation of relationship of systems created by humans to the natural system, at the present time.

In my illustration, human systems are sufficiently interrelated that they combine to form one single interrelated “humans’ system”. This system draws its power from the natural system. It also puts its waste products back into the natural system. Because of entropy, we know that everything we create eventually ends up as waste products. In order to keep the humans’ system going, we need to keep adding new energy to the system, partly to offset entropy and partly to support the growing world population.

What limits are the human and natural systems reaching now?


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