THE ENTROPOCENE

Jeffrey H. Robbins

Abstract


According to Eric Schneider and the late James Kay “nature abhors a gradient” as it seeks to degrade any and all differences that can make a difference. They also claim that life self-organized by creating a meta-order out of disordered orders, evolving as an increasingly efficient, effective, sustainable (order from order) means for degrading the huge sun to earth temperature gradient. They inject purpose into the scheme by claiming that life represents “order emerging from disorder in the service of more disorder.” Or, as Jeffrey Wicken succinctly put it in “Evolution and Thermodynamics: The New Paradigm,” “Organisms are remote-from-equilibrium systems that maintain their organizational structures by irreversibly degrading free energy through informed kinetic pathways acquired through evolution. Dissipation through structuring is the strategy of life.” In other words, life came about as an evolving means for giving the Second Law of Thermodynamics what it wants. Entropy. In my 2015 ISSS paper, “Anthropocene as Life’s State of the Art in Disorder Production: A Sustainability Conundrum,” I proposed that our species collectively is disorder producer summa cum laude. We are the most efficient, most effective, degrader of gradients, producer of entropy yet evolved. Calling our epoch, “the Anthropocene” doesn’t capture our essence. Our epoch is the Entropocene. We have turned the bio-geosphere from an accumulator of solar exergy (“free energy”, the measure of energy’s utility) as in fossil fuels, into a trapper of entropy a.k.a., global warming. Unfortunately, not only is our achievement as agent-of-entropy-in-chief not something to celebrate, our perch is being increasingly usurped by a new disorder churner on the block. Hyper-exponentially evolving technology is taking over where we leave off as it represents a far more effective, far more efficient means of degrading gradients, disordering orders including the gradients, including the orders that R us; our brains, our bodies, our face to face, family, community, societal bonds. This disorder, manifested as our increasing helplessness sans the escalating power of our technological props, our techno-prosthetics, spills over into the bio-geosphere and its ongoing degradation. My purpose in this paper is to continue exposing what’s really pulling the strings backstage of such global threats as climate change and by so doing set the stage for redress to ourselves, to our progeny, to our common, non-virtual, downstream future.

Keywords


Anthropocene; entropy; exergy; second law of thermodynamics; technology

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