Friday, July 7, 2017

Fred Soddy vs the perpetual Motion Growth Machine

Does a Nobel Prize in Chemistry & Physics give someone a heads up over ordinary economists ?

In the case of long forgotten Frederick Soddy, who got his Nobel for work done at McGill University over 100 years ago, I rather think it does.

His insights, dating from over 100 years ago - this is , in the very heyday of the Age of Modernity - point the way to our currently emerging new Age of Global Commensality.

Global Commernsality says that natural science and human economics do not live on separate Universes but that human economics is but a subset of physical science , and must live by science's rules.

Humanity and nature are complexly intertwined and dine at a common table on a finite Earth.

Soddy said that our current model of human economics, a cycle of activities back and forth forever but at a faster and faster growth rate, took only matter as important - the first law of thermodynamics, that matter can not be created or destroyed but merely converted about.

but Soddy says that useful matter is highly organized, concentrated, ordered, of low entropy and for this one needed ever new amounts of energy.

Because the second law of thermodyamics said the flow of energy was always one way, from low entropy, concentrated to high entropy dis-ordered heat waste.

So there was no shortage of any element or mineral, only a shortage of the useful energy needed to find it, extract it, concentrate it, purify it, re-work it.

The only substitute of human capital for natural capital that is likely to make sense is human ingenuity finding ways to make the abundant but low intensity solar energy concentrated enough for human to use it to replace all of the energy sources that either create burn issues (wood,straw,coal, oil,gas) or destroy other valuable resources (hydro).

In terms of earthly matter, our unlimited ability to use up all the matter in the crust will destroy the biological safety net that keeps human alive.

There is thus a finite ability to re-cycle matter, the first law of thermodynamic not withstanding in strictly physical terms.

Soody, you may sense, is definitely one of my all time heroes....

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