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Supply Side Sustainability       An Overview of the works of Allen, Tainter and                        Hoekstra*          ...
What’s New Here?•      A first attempt to provide a complete descriptive, explanatory and (to       some extent) predictiv...
A Fundamentally Inter-disciplinary             Perspective• Multi-disciplinary team of authors have been working  together...
Summary of their Theory• A systems based theory for all the biophysical  and social phenomena we might observe   – Its big...
Theory DetailThe earth is a semi-open system…1.     To which…the Laws of Thermo-dynamics apply2.     Hence…energy gradient...
Examples1. Society (including culture) is an                                3.   Together the dualist view of   inevitable...
Provides context for human choices andbehaviours which might lead to sustainability•   Humans, as an integral part of all ...
Only 5 Problem Solving Approaches            are Available to Managers  1. Accept and pay costs  2. Shift or defer costs  ...
Implications…for Achieving Sustainability…            It is Very “Simple”!  •    When members of a society believe social ...
Recommendations for Managers to     Increase Likelihood of SustainabilityWithin three avenues for action always choose to:...
Sustainability as Reflexive* Process(aka as a Continuously Unfolding Series of Paradoxes)1.   Sustainability is :     •   ...
Sustainability as Reflexive* Process(aka as a Continuously Unfolding Series of Paradoxes)5.   “Our urgent need is to produ...
Bibliography• Allen, T. F. H., Tainter, J. A., & Hoekstra,  T. W. (1999). Supply-side sustainability.  Systems Research an...
Implications for Observation, Hence for   Prediction and Problem SolvingIt is critical to understand the impact of observe...
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Supply side sustainability summary-upward a-v1.02

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A summary of the excellent works of Allan, Tainter and Hoekstra on Thermodynamics, Sociology, Sustainability, Ecology and Management!

I note SlideShare doesn’t do a very good job of the PowerPoint animations which makes some of the slides more comprehendible - so suggest you download it. Also allows you to see the speakers notes on many of the slides.

Allen, T. F. H., Tainter, J. A., & Hoekstra, T. W. (1999). Supply-side sustainability. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 16(5), 403.

Allen, T. F. H. (2003). In Hoekstra T. W., Tainter J. A. (Eds.), Supply-side sustainability. New York: Columbia University Press.

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Supply side sustainability summary-upward a-v1.02

  1. 1. Supply Side Sustainability An Overview of the works of Allen, Tainter and Hoekstra* Nov 21, 2011 Antony Upward* see Bibliography for full citation 1ES / ENVS4523 Systems Thinking Discussion Group, Antony Upward #211135423
  2. 2. What’s New Here?• A first attempt to provide a complete descriptive, explanatory and (to some extent) predictive framework for society which is premised our understanding of the natural sciences based on systems and complexity thinking – i.e. it’s a forward looking “systems age” view not a backward looking “machine age” view‡ – Compare this to much social science in which ideas that may be incongruent or incompatible with the natural sciences are proposed all the time*• Attempt to promote the view that – Applied Ecologists are Managers – (Compare to applied Physicists / Chemists / Biologists are Engineers)• I find this attempt at “completeness” intellectually very seductive * Perhaps this is simply due to lack of knowledge where propositions of social sciences are never tested against natural science laws: this position is advanced in Barkow, J. H. (2006). Introduction. In J. H. Barkow (Ed.), Missing the revolution: Darwinism for social scientists (pp. 3-59). New York: Oxford University Press. ‡ See lecture by noted systems thinker Russell Ackoff which explains these terms: http://www.organizationaldynamics.upenn.edu/ackoffvideos view “Navy-tape-01.mp4” ES / ENVS4523 Systems Thinking Discussion Group, Antony Upward #211135423 2
  3. 3. A Fundamentally Inter-disciplinary Perspective• Multi-disciplinary team of authors have been working together for an extended period• Knowledge / experience covers the following disciplines: – Biologist – Ecologist – Sociologist / Historian• Result: – Authors consistently attempt to recognize and overcome the constraints / boundaries / biases of their disciplinary backgrounds – Sociological explanations and theorizing is compatible with known laws of natural scienceES / ENVS4523 Systems Thinking Discussion Group, Antony Upward #211135423 3
  4. 4. Summary of their Theory• A systems based theory for all the biophysical and social phenomena we might observe – Its big!The bio-physical and the social independently and together are far-from-equilibrium complex systems driven by generative processes based on available energy and constrained by numerous evaluative processes… lets unpack this…ES / ENVS4523 Systems Thinking Discussion Group, Antony Upward #211135423 4
  5. 5. Theory DetailThe earth is a semi-open system…1. To which…the Laws of Thermo-dynamics apply2. Hence…energy gradients exist between the earth and space3. These drive the generative processes from which emerge energy dissipative structures and organizations of increasing levels of complicatedness and complexity…4. Which are subject to evaluative processes that determine the fitness of those structures and organizations within their containing environment…5. That with sufficient energy the systems† these processes create, lead, over time, in all environments*, to the elaboration of structure and organization6. Hence all bio-physical and socially constructed states and behaviours that we can choose to observe, at any level of discreteness and scale, emerge from this system of processes† i.e. these are SOHO systems, after Kay. J. 2000. "Ecosystems as Self-organizing Holarchic Open Systems (SOHOs): Narratives andthe Second Law of Thermodynamics" in Sven Erik Jorgensen, Felix Muller (eds), Handbook of Ecosystems Theories andManagement, CRC Press - Lewis Publishers. pp 135–160* As in the FES definition of this term – environment as context for everything and anything: Morley, D. (1997, 2010). Thinking,Learning and Acting Environmentally. Unpublished manuscript presented by the author in ES/ENVS5100 in Fall 2010.ES / ENVS4523 Systems Thinking Discussion Group, Antony Upward #211135423 5
  6. 6. Examples1. Society (including culture) is an 3. Together the dualist view of inevitable emergent property of the thermodynamics and evolution biophysical given sufficient energy is gives an explanatory framework for available human “development” – i.e The emergence of culture is just the continuation of evolution – e.g. Bio-physical distribution of plants and animals suitable for domestication affected patterns of global social development† (i.e. increase effectiveness of energy capture)2. But its not a one way street: society impacts on the bio-physical (i.e. increase efficiency of energy capture) – e.g. Changes in bacteria as we use antibiotics – e.g. Changes in climate as we use stored solar energy (fossil fuels)† See these works evidence to support this claim: Diamond, J. M.(1999). Guns, germs, and steel: the fates of human societies. NewYork: W.W. Norton & Co. and Diamond, J. M. (2005). Collapse:how societies choose to fail or succeed. New York: Penguin. ES / ENVS4523 Systems Thinking Discussion Group, Antony Upward #211135423 6
  7. 7. Provides context for human choices andbehaviours which might lead to sustainability• Humans, as an integral part of all eco-systems, are intimately and increasingly involved in both the generative and evaluative processes from which eco-system states and behaviours emerge – Our “purposeful” nature means our behaviour impacts both: • The initial conditions of the generative process and • The outcomes the evaluative process – As our social structures and organizations have become more elaborate the scale of our impact grows • The scale of the machine age’s use of stored solar energy is the driver for the material change in our impact• Therefore…how we implicitly or explicitly prioritize and choose to solve problems (aka “management”) makes a difference • BTW: it always has! – Our chosen purposes (aka “management objectives”) are driven by our individual and collective values• Result: We are the first generation of human managers to both sufficiently understand our context and to have the systems based scientific, social and historical knowledge to attempt to be proactively sustainable through our ability to: – Systemic problem solving – Predict the (previously unforeseen) consequences of our solutions – Monitor the impact on eco-systems of the actions we takeES / ENVS4523 Systems Thinking Discussion Group, Antony Upward #211135423 7
  8. 8. Only 5 Problem Solving Approaches are Available to Managers 1. Accept and pay costs 2. Shift or defer costs 3. Find subsidies to pay costs 4. Reconnect costs and benefits 5. Don’t solve the problem* From Tainter’s 2010 presentation at International Conference on Sustainability (see ~minute 7 of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhTKirUZiWQ) based on his 1998 book Tainter, J. A. (1988). The collapse of complex societies. Cambridge, United Kingdom,Cambridge University Press. ES / ENVS4523 Systems Thinking Discussion Group, Antony Upward #211135423 8
  9. 9. Implications…for Achieving Sustainability… It is Very “Simple”! • When members of a society believe social costs exceed benefits, societies collapse – Management that leads only to increased structure / complication will create this condition… – But “inventing complicated solutions is easy, inventing simplicity is hard” (p359) • Therefore to sustain a society and avoid collapse requires ability to – Recognize in our value systems the short and long term implications of the laws of thermodynamics* and the importance of eco-systems – Understand the eco-systems† upon whose outputs society depends – Problem-solve with the primary objective of eco-systems productivity • Context provided by the authors leave only three “simple” avenues (and combinations) available for management action (p391): 1. Simplify to level commensurate with available energy 2. Find more energy to subsidize increasing elaboration 3. Use energy supplies as efficiently and effectively as possible * Allen, Tainter and Hoekstra’s work tends to focus on the “in the moment” impact of these laws; for a treatment of the longer term impacts see this 1975 paper by Ecological Economist Nicolas Georgescu-Roegen: Energy and Economic Myths. Southern Economic Journal, 41(3), pp. 347-381. † Ecosystems include by definition a “systems age” approach requiring analysis and synthesis in observation, prediction and problem solving and the inclusion of the bio-physical, including humans and hence human society, within the problem space ES / ENVS4523 Systems Thinking Discussion Group, Antony Upward #211135423 9
  10. 10. Recommendations for Managers to Increase Likelihood of SustainabilityWithin three avenues for action always choose to:1. Manage for productive systems rather than for their outputs2. Manage systems by managing their contexts3. Identify what dysfunctional systems lack and supply only that4. Deploy ecological processes to subsidize management efforts rather than conversely5. Understand the problem of diminishing returns to problem solvingES / ENVS4523 Systems Thinking Discussion Group, Antony Upward #211135423 10
  11. 11. Sustainability as Reflexive* Process(aka as a Continuously Unfolding Series of Paradoxes)1. Sustainability is : • An active condition requiring choice, not a passive consequence of doing less (p12) • “The interplay between a continuously evolving state of nature and a continuously changing state of mind”, not “a (static) ecological condition” (p23, P381 – see notes) • Only assessable historically (p199)2. The definition of sustainability must come from the values of the observer, it can’t come from the “material world”; sustainability is not a “natural law” (p167) • “The things we want to sustain have only the values we assign to them, which are (hence) transient, variable and mutable” (p25) • “What we might choose to attempt to sustain are (thermodynamically) unlikely configuration’ (i.e. far from equilibrium states) and hence there will always be a cost of critical inputs that hold the systems dynamically away from the (thermodynamically) dead state” (p335) Only we can judge whether the cost of those inputs is warranted.3. Any definition of sustainability needs to answer “of what, for whom, for how long and at what cost” (p26) • Sustainability is the process which “maintains or fosters the system contexts that produce the goods, services and amenities that people need or value at an acceptable cost” (p26)4. “Unsustainable practices can sometimes improve people’s well-being. (see notes for example)” • “This is part of the dilemma of sustainability. Intelligent and well-meaning people can review indicators of sustainable and reach quite opposite conclusions about our future. Moreover, they could all be correct.” (p81) * Loosely based on ideas from Beck, U., Bonss, W., & Lau, C. (2003). The Theory of Reflexive Modernization. Theory, Culture & Society, 20(2), 1-33. doi:10.1177/0263276403020002001 ES / ENVS4523 Systems Thinking Discussion Group, Antony Upward #211135423 11
  12. 12. Sustainability as Reflexive* Process(aka as a Continuously Unfolding Series of Paradoxes)5. “Our urgent need is to produce knowledge (of what constitutes sustainability) more rapidly than the growth of unsustainable complexity” (p161)6. “To be sustainable is clearly a delicate business. Furthermore, although none of the elements of sustainability (monitoring, predicting and problem solving) can be left out, even undertaking them all does not guarantee success” (p161)7. “While social justice is part of sustainability, and that democratic systems appear to be the best way of achieving that, it is irresponsible to allow populist demands to destroy the means of production (i.e. the eco-systems within the biosphere)” (p413) • Cost of additional complexity in solutions (e.g. as a result of increased public participation required by democratic processes) may not lead to solutions which are better enough to justify the incremental costs (p162)5. Definition of sustainability of a community depends of discreteness of observation (p275-276) • If community is between organism and landscape then “the difficulty (in defining the community) is in the deep intangibility of community structure and the richness of the dynamics associated with that structure” • If community is between population and biome then the difficulty in defining the community is in resolving the tension between the environmentally deterministic biome and the bio-feedback processes which define population * Loosely based on ideas from Beck, U., Bonss, W., & Lau, C. (2003). The Theory of Reflexive Modernization. Theory, Culture & Society, 20(2), 1-33. doi:10.1177/0263276403020002001 ES / ENVS4523 Systems Thinking Discussion Group, Antony Upward #211135423 12
  13. 13. Bibliography• Allen, T. F. H., Tainter, J. A., & Hoekstra, T. W. (1999). Supply-side sustainability. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 16(5), 403.• Allen, T. F. H. (2003). In Hoekstra T. W., Tainter J. A. (Eds.), Supply-side sustainability. New York: Columbia University Press.ES / ENVS4523 Systems Thinking Discussion Group, Antony Upward #211135423 13
  14. 14. Implications for Observation, Hence for Prediction and Problem SolvingIt is critical to understand the impact of observers choice of:• Type of discreetness of observation – aka determining significance of foreground vs. background (p168) – Compare: • Organism, Landscape, Population, Biome: all exist in the bio-physcial world at multiple scales as defined by the observer • Community: exists the bio-physical world at intersections of organism, landscape, population and biome selected by the observer (p278) • Biosphere: only exists in the bio-physical world at one scale • Eco-system: Intangible, “bounded by the spatiotemporal extent of the cyclical pathways of materials that flow around them” (p323) and hence can only be represented as models• Scale of observation – Scope / extent – upside – Fineness of distinction / grain – downside• Example: – As humans some types of discreteness and scales of observation are easier for us comprehend – e.g. landscape at the scale we can walk through • This reality will bias what we come to know, how we come to know it, and hence our ability to predict and problem solveES / ENVS4523 Systems Thinking Discussion Group, Antony Upward #211135423 14

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