Monday, November 30, 2015

Sustainability Is Not Possible – Minimal Impact Is Possible

The word Sustainability is the most overused hackneyed phrase of the day.  If we believe the planet is not affected by the passage of time let alone human activity we are simply dreaming.   Entropy increases in time as we measure time in the direction that entropy increases.  This was said by Stephen Hawking. 

Hence we cannot leave the world as the same place we were born into even if we did zero burning of fossil fuels or zero cutting down of forests.  Even photosynthesis increases entropy.  Some argue that photosynthesis lowers entropy but it simply does not.

My book Hydrogen – Hope or Hype? explains all of this much further and is an easy read and very inexpensive  EBook linked below

National Geographic asked me to answer the following question:

Do you think that by tapping into the new alternative energy sources we can reverse most of the damage we have done to our environment?

Of course the answer is No.  Entropy happens and we cannot ever reverse that.  What we can do is move forward in a manner that brings progress with minimal impact.  This includes a major modification in behavior to reverse population growth.  It requires a social change in our mindset to live very differently.  We cannot blame the fuel we must blame the lifestyle.  Getting rid of the Brady Bunch lifestyle is needed to slow down the rate of damage to the planet.  Some damage will occur no matter what simply because Entropy increases.

National Geographic is airing a series titled "Breakthrough:   Energy on the Edge” that premieres December 6 at 9 pm ET on National Geographic Channel.   This series is well worth you all watching.  

I would expand the title from Energy on the Edge to Planet Earth on the Edge.  We do have the choice of how much Entropy we add and the rate at which we add it but folks forget the misguided dream that alternative energy can reverse entropy.  Even the impingement of photons on solar cells adds to our collective entropy.

Lindsay Leveen The Green Machine AKA The Thermonator writes at and he is an award winning Chemical Engineer as well as an award winning Journalist.  He is quoted as saying “you can fuel some of the people some of the time but you cannot fuel all of the people all of the time.”


  1. Thanks for the posting. Naturally, National Geographic is posting a program on energy timed for the Congress of Parties-21 in Paris November 30-December 11.

    James H. Rust, professor

  2. Yes, boggles the mind how conservation/behavior change has been decoupled from technology/energy efficiency. The 'indifference of Mother Nature will have her way with (wo)man, probably sooner rather than later...

  3. Incredible how spammers spewed their graffiti on this post. Alas. Anyway, this was on my mind again. Eschew futile dichotomies.

    People often pit the economy against the environment, making us choose between one or the other, but that's a futile dichotomy.