Entropy, evolution, and the way-
             down


  Ernest Garcia (Universitat de València)
          De-growth Confere...
Limits to growth revisited

“Once the limits to growth were far in the
future. Now they are widely in evidence.
Once the c...
Global Status of Ecosystem Services. 1: Provisioning Services

Service                                                    ...
Global Status of Ecosystem Services. 2. Regulating and Cultural Services
Service                                          ...
World ecological footprint

2



                                                                    1,21

1
             ...
Source: ASPO Newsletter, August 2005.
Apparently, both ways, sustainable development and degrowth could lead
to a steady-state situation: the line of population...
Three elements of the steady-state:

Stock: to maintain constant at a sustainable level (sufficiency)
Throughput: to minim...
If we are truly beyond the limits, then de-growth is not an
option, but a fatality. And the only option is:


- chaotic, c...
Governance and complexity


Sustainability begins to refer, not to a
controlled development process
(sustainable developme...
Post-development and alternative local development

Three common characteristics:

Accent on the local-regional, as suitab...
A prosperous way-down

Descent (scale-down) is now inescapable, but it
does not necessarily mean falling into chaos.
Moder...
Die-off
Scaling-down implies a catastrophic collapse,
without the possibility of choosing another way.
Laws of energy and ...
Collapse
“A complex society that has collapsed is
suddenly smaller, simpler, less stratified, and
less socially differenti...
Utopian revival and social theory


Empirical analysis of the relationship between
population, resources and environment l...
Entropy, evolution, and the way-down
Entropy, evolution, and the way-down
Entropy, evolution, and the way-down
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Entropy, evolution, and the way-down

  1. 1. Entropy, evolution, and the way- down Ernest Garcia (Universitat de València) De-growth Conference Barcelona, March 26-28, 2010
  2. 2. Limits to growth revisited “Once the limits to growth were far in the future. Now they are widely in evidence. Once the concept of collapse was unthinkable. Now it has begun to enter into the public discourse –though still as a remote, hypothetical, and academic concept. We think it will take another decade before the consequences of overshoot are clearly observable and two decades before the fact of overshoot is generally acknowledged” (Meadows et al., Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update, 2004)
  3. 3. Global Status of Ecosystem Services. 1: Provisioning Services Service Subcategory Status Food Crops Livestock Capture fisheries Aquaculture Wild foods Fiber Timber +/- Cotton, hemp, silk +/- Wood fuel Genetic resources Biochemicals, natural medicines, pharmaceuticals Water Fresh water Source: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Synthesis Report
  4. 4. Global Status of Ecosystem Services. 2. Regulating and Cultural Services Service Subcategory Status Air quality regulation Climate regulation Global Regional and local Water regulation +/- Erosion regulation Water purification and waste treatment Disease regulation +/- Pest regulation Pollination Natural hazard regulation Spiritual and religious values Aesthetic values Recreation and ecotourism +/- Source: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Synthesis Report
  5. 5. World ecological footprint 2 1,21 1 World ecological footprint 0,49 (number of planets) 0 1961 1965 1969 1973 1977 1981 1985 1989 1993 1997 2001 Source: WWF, Living Planet Report 2004.
  6. 6. Source: ASPO Newsletter, August 2005.
  7. 7. Apparently, both ways, sustainable development and degrowth could lead to a steady-state situation: the line of population and resource use under carrying capacity, which is similar in both cases. But…. Pre-analytical visions: - Nothing grows forever (ecology of populations, Boulding, Daly) - Nothing lasts forever (entropy, bioeconomics, Georgescu-Roegen) -These two visions open the way to two different lines of reasoning
  8. 8. Three elements of the steady-state: Stock: to maintain constant at a sustainable level (sufficiency) Throughput: to minimize (efficiency) Service: to maximize (without limit) Daly presented the steady state as sustainable development because he believes that service can increase indefinitely (but this is a kind of economic growth without growth in physical scale) The D’Arcy Thompson analogy (growth and form) is interesting… But: There is no upper limit to service? Can too much pleasure kill? Psychology and anthropology are, at the end, the keys to explore the final meaning of steady state Psychology and anthropology or, in other words, human nature. Evolution?
  9. 9. If we are truly beyond the limits, then de-growth is not an option, but a fatality. And the only option is: - chaotic, catastrophic de-growth (unsustainable degrowth?) - ordered, even prosperous de-growth (sustainable de-growth?) Lines to explore this issue: - Human evolution: selective pressures under conditions of scarcity (tragedy of the commons, evolutionary psychology) - Historical and anthropological evidence (collapses, Pascua/Tikopia, Toynbee…) -- Philosophy (Hobbes vs Rousseau) -- Sociology (institutional resilience, utopies as whole society experiments) …..
  10. 10. Governance and complexity Sustainability begins to refer, not to a controlled development process (sustainable development), but to some criteria of adaptive flexibility, often alluded by means of ecological analogies (resilience, co-evolution) or by means of engineering analogies (rubustness) .
  11. 11. Post-development and alternative local development Three common characteristics: Accent on the local-regional, as suitable scale for expressing resistances and arising alternatives Vindication of autonomy, as much in front of the market as in front of the state Insistence on cultural diversity (knowledge based on experience and adapted to the case, rejection of universally applicable models, plurality of spaces for a multitude of experiments)
  12. 12. A prosperous way-down Descent (scale-down) is now inescapable, but it does not necessarily mean falling into chaos. Modern societies can choose: “Precedents from ecological systems suggest that the global society can turn down and descend prosperously, reducig assets, population, and unessential baggage while staying in balance with its environmental life- support system. By retaining the information that is most important, a leaner society can reorganize itself and continue making progress” (Odum & Odum, 2001).
  13. 13. Die-off Scaling-down implies a catastrophic collapse, without the possibility of choosing another way. Laws of energy and evolution determine the outcome: “We are genetically driven just like any other animal. We have no mind other than the body, and we lack behavioral choice. The plague cycle is a vital component of the evolutionary process and an essential evlolutionary escape clause in the case of a fertile, high-impact species like Homo sapiens” (Morrison, The Spirit in the Gene, 1999).
  14. 14. Collapse “A complex society that has collapsed is suddenly smaller, simpler, less stratified, and less socially differentiated. Specialization decreases and there is less centralized control. The flow of information drops, people trade and interact less, and there is overall lower coordination among individuals and groups. Economic activity drops to a commensurate level…” (Tainter, The collapse of complex societies, 1995) Compare it with the environmentalist programme: scale down, slow down, democratize, decentralize… Maybe the question is not so much the outcome as the costs of the transition.
  15. 15. Utopian revival and social theory Empirical analysis of the relationship between population, resources and environment leads to conclude that natural limits have been surpassed. Descent, then, is inevitable. The question is how social change and social organization are going to be shaped in that context. As it happened at the beginnings of the industrial society, the first years of the third millennium are registering a sprout of utopian views. Suitable sociological theories are still lacking.

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