The article about a steady-state economy by Mrs Nowhere in last week’s Echonetdaily was relevant to us because we happen to live on a finite planet. However, the concluding remarks incorrectly suggest that the second law of thermodynamics applies to industrial production and the Earth itself. That law of increasing entropy (disorder) only applies to closed systems with no inflow or outflow of energy or matter.
The factoid is that the Earth is continually receiving energy from the Sun and radiating energy out into space. This enables the reduction of entropy of matter on the Earth’s surface and that results in a process we call ‘evolution’, or on a more immediate timescale, ‘life’. But, hey, it gets just a little bit harder to maintain entropy reduction when the waste heat cannot be so easily radiated into space. That is happening because one of the lifeforms is burning heaps of carbon and the resulting carbon dioxide is blanketing the Earth.
If all the CO2 could be put into a layer at an altitude of, say, 10km, it would be a heat-reflecting layer of gas about four metres thick and growing at about 3cm per year.
The article recommended reducing the overall use of materials and energy. Well, that is bullshit because it ignores the option of recycling, and the more energy we have available the more thoroughly we can recycle. After all, that is what nature does! But we can extend that way beyond carbon chemistry. So really what we have is limited material resources and potentially enormous amounts of solar energy. So rather than a steady-state economy, we should be creating a recycling economy, a zero-waste economy, using the abundance of solar energy.
For an in-depth look at community self-help, don’t forget the Transition Forum on Tuesday 5 June at 6.30pm in the Mullum council chambers. Supper provided, all welcome.