Chapter IV, Section B: Original Sin

A life-form, a living system, maintains its order from its food energy, energy derived from its surrounding ecosystem, leaving the ecosystem more disordered. The carrying capacity of an ecosystem is the population of a given life-form that the ecosystem can support. By all measure, human population currently exceeds the natural carrying capacity of the whole Earth ecosystem, a condition possible only through its industry, in turn only possible through sources of energy other than the natural solar input. Ecologists have calculated the human percentage of the consumption of the world’s total biological productivity. The biological productivity is a calculation based mainly on the solar input to the Earth, and the various ecosystems’ ability to convert the energy into consumable biomass, and percentage is calculated by comparing the total human food consumption, the human take. According to studies cited by Richard Manning, our take is currently 40%. We are running into the natural limits of the planet to sustain us, even with our industry.

The bottom line is that life consumes energy and thus increases the entropy of its surroundings. Our human population is currently beyond the natural “carrying capacity” of the planet. This life out of balance is made possible only by energy-dependent “industrialization,” which in turn creates environmental imbalances that imperil our population. Though we can continue to assess an environmental balance sheet in terms of energy, the goal of a sustainable environment and economy is impossible without addressing the issue of population. At the very least, any asset or debit in the balance sheet must be in terms of per capita. We need to understand and account for ecological energy debits.

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