ecology evolved

How does thermodynamics inform systems thinking and sustainability?

Often times it is said that we stand on the shoulder of giants; the information that we collect and process today is built on a foundation of knowledge from previous pioneers. In this scientific report we reviewed the scientific literature and conducted a meta-analysis of studies that focused on early foundational principles in systems ecology with relevance to sustainability. 

Believe it or not, sustainability — the scientific field that integrates the environment, society, and the economy — is built on early principles in thermodynamics. For example, life cycle assessments are commonly used in sustainability to assess the environment, economic, and societal impact of a product from its creation to its destruction. Fundamentally, life cycle assessments track the embodied energy contained in something and this is what thermodynamics is all about.

Date: 2014 – 2016
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Organization: Arizona State University
Collaborators/Credits: This project was lead by Eric Chapman in collaboration with Dr. Dan Childers at Arizona State University and Dr. Joe Vallino at the Marine Biological Laboratory.