Myth of Sustainable Development

Thanks to the Brundtland Commission book Our Common Future. From One Earth to One World, the concept of sustain-ability has become rather 'fashionable' today. Unfortunately, the sustainable development runs counter the second law of thermodynamics. What kind of arguments could be used to prove this thesis.?

Our technological civilization: (a) uses nonbiospheric, nonrenewable sources of energy (fossil fuels and nuclear energy); (b) applies technological processes, which increase concentrations of chemical elements in comparison with their concentrations in the biosphere (metallurgy, chemical industry, etc.); (c) disperses chemical elements decreasing their concentrations in comparison with their biotic concentrations. All these processes produce redundant entropy, which is not sucked out by the biosphere's entropy pump, which is tuned in natural conditions. Thus, degradation of the environment is the only way to compensate for the entropy overproduction. Ofcourse, we can avoid the degradation by applying ecological technologies, but they are rather expensive. Therefore, another way is often used by TNC. What is this way?

Since the overproduction is spatially heterogeneous, the redundant entropy naturally overflows from one site with high entropy to others with lower entropy, or it is artificially transported. If in the first case the process manifests as spreading of different pollutants by natural agents (wind, rivers, etc.), then in the second case this is either a purposeful export of industrial waste and polluting technologies to other regions, or import of low-entropy energy (e.g., fossil fuels) from other regions. Finally, we formulate the following thesis: sustainable development is possible only locally, in selective areas of the planet, and only at the expense of creating 'entropy dumps' elsewhere.

Note that in order to 'save' the sustainability concept, in the sustainability literature one talks about the so-called 'strong' sustainability, which is impossible due to the second law, and then 'weak' sustainability where losses are replaced by other gains. For instance, our technological civilization is generally using nonrenewable energy resources and materials that inevitably will lead to a loss of sustainability, but if we develop new technologies based on renewable sources of energy and materials, we are still doing well with respect to weak sustainability. However, in this case we shall deal with some slow movement of the biosphere from its contemporary equilibrium to some new unknown one. Certainly, the equilibrium might either be more suitable and comfortable for Homo sapiens, or might not be - that we do not know. There is one more rock in this slow movement: the small changes are accumulated without some visible effect, but sooner or later it could result in a disaster. This behavior is typical for nonlinear system such as the biosphere.

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