The mission of the Emergy Society is to work toward the general acceptance and broad application of the concepts of emergy and transformity for decision-making in the world. To this end we will promote the exchange of information on research related to emergy and take other actions that may facilitate the advancement of knowledge and understanding about emergy and transformity
Statement of the Need for the Emergy Society
Emergy and transformity are fundamental quantities of non-equilibrium thermodynamics that are derived from the 5th law of thermodynamics, otherwise know as the law of energy hierarchy (Odum 1996). The fifth law, in turn, follows from the fourth law or the maximum empower principle (Lotka 1922 a and b; Odum 1996). A progressive movement toward maximizing empower (emergy per unit time) was proposed by Odum (1996) as the decision criterion that guides the evolution of all systems. These ideas arose within the general framework of Energy Systems Theory (Odum 1994) and they have recently been placed on the strong mathematical footing (Giannantoni 2000) necessary for a general physical theory to be valid and widely accepted. Energy Systems thinking, in general, and the ideas of emergy and transformity, in particular, have the power to increase our understanding of systems on all scales of hierarchical organization. Emergy methods can be used to improve decision-making by employing a comprehensive, integrating criterion (emergy) to establish equivalences among disparate quantities, thereby providing an indispensable tool to help address the complex problems facing the world today.
Giannantoni, C., 2000. The Maximum Em-power Principle as the basis for Thermodynamics of Quality. SG Editoriali, Padova, Italy. 185 pp.
Lotka, A.J., 1922a. Contribution to the energetics of evolution. Proceedings, National Academy of Science. 8: p. 147 - 151.
Lotka, A.J., 1922b. Natural selection as a physical principle. Proceedings, National Academy of Science. 8: p. 151 - 154.
Odum, H.T. 1994. Ecological and General Systems. University Press of Colorado, Boulder, CO.
Odum, H.T., 1996. Environmental Accounting: Emergy and Environmental Decision Making. New York: John Wiley and Sons. 370 pp.
Emergy research is expanding and evolving rapidly...
President Simone Bastianoni's Plan to Advance the Emergy Society's Mission
It is an incredible honor to serve as president of ISAER. When I started studying Emergy in 1991, I would have never imagined how this would have changed my life and it has changed it in many ways, professionally and in the way I see the world in general. And Emergy, I believe, is still far from reaching its real capacity to analyze systems, synthesize information, use the “macroscope” to tell people about future developments. We really need to work more, better, in a larger number to improve Emergy theory and use.
But I strongly believe also that Emergy evaluation is already the most comprehensive approach for sustainability evaluation. In this moment results at the national level on Ecological Footprint, Material Flow Accounting, Environmental Performance Index and others are presented yearly or biennially (with good coverage in newspapers and websites, as it will happen on August 2 for the “Overshoot Day”). Results on Emergy evaluations are not. Do we think Emergy has something less than these other methods?
While in the 1990’s Emergy was quite well known, at least around the scientific community, nowadays I feel that knowledge about Emergy is declining, except perhaps in China. We need to invert this trend all over the world acting at four different levels:
- Within the Emergy field:
- Within the general scientific arena;
- With respect to policy makers;
- With respect to the public.
1. and 2. are the easiest points: we should just do our best to develop new things (without exaggerating…) and publish relevant and convincing papers; the number of papers on Emergy has actually increased year by year and this is scientifically a good sign. But I think that working on level 3 and 4 would reinforce our abilities in improving 1 and 2.
As for 3. One example of how to attract the attention of policy makers on Emergy could be that the evaluations made at National and Regional levels are communicated not only as scientific results but also as at least biannual reports (one way to accomplish this could be realizing the NEAD update regularly). These results should be released officially by the University of Florida and all the other possible Universities and research centers involved in ISAER using their press offices: the same content should be presented in all press releases in the first part, with a focus on single countries performances for each university.
4. Emergy is not impossible to communicate, especially if Emergy is not presented “per se” but by means of a subject that is interesting “per se”: books like “The stories of the sun cookbook” or other similar material can do the work. We will have to study even “easier” ways to reach the public, including kids.
One important and critical issue is how much emergy is taught in universities. We need to have a survey on where and in what context emergy is taught. The worrying aspect is that the first generation of Odum’s pupils will be teaching Emergy only for a few more years and several scientists of the second generation have diverted their attention (at least partially) from Emergy. We need to attract especially younger researchers but also those that want to study sustainability and are looking for a satisfactory method to integrate their backgrounds. We need to send the message that Emergy is cool, strong and important. Schools are very important to attract those that can make use of Emergy, including those studying agriculture and breeding, energy and all the environment based sciences, but also social sciences, statistics, economics that look for an environmental complement to what they already handle.
“Science is not democratic!” said Mark Brown in one of our ISAER meetings and in general I agree when we deal with level 1 and 2 previously described. But if we want to increase the credibility of Emergy (and especially at level 3 and 4) we need to raise the level of “standardization”. With this I do not mean that we have to agree on everything but that there must be a few things on which we all agree for the “common good” of Emergy. I gave an example with the baseline issue. The agreement on NEAD can be a perfect step. A more complete and transparent set of UEVs (especially those of natural phenomena) another. We have to include the database in the website giving all the reference that are necessary for their use by others (baseline, tables and notes, diagram should be provided, always).
Newsletter and Facebook Page
A few practical things that I would like ISAER to accomplish (after a couple of emails with Mark Brown) are a periodic (monthly or bi monthly or even trimonthly) newsletter to be sent via email to ISAER members telling of current and future events. In these emails, a call for news and current events could be a constant reminder for members to send in information for the next newsletter. A Facebook site in which all the Emergy-related events are announced and reported could complement this. When we give one of the Emergy short courses, we should provide the students with a “diploma” that states they have completed the course.
We need to be sure about the minimum level of money flow that is assured by memberships. For this reason the Society needs to remind members to pay dues at the beginning of the calendar year and ask people to be strict on this. The Secretary and the Treasurer of the Society could work together on this.
I can say that, if we want Emergy to get the attention and relevance that it deserves, ISAER should pursue in the near future the following aims:
- To make Emergy more understood by policy makers and the public;
- To make Emergy more appealing, scientifically stronger and more “respected”.
I know that this can be a lot of work to do, but I am ready to do my part as President and to involve my group in this effort. I hope that, for the common good of Emergy, many others will volunteer to reach these ambitious goals.