Wednesday, February 19, 2014

CAUSES Professor, Dean collaborate on book "Physics and the New Economy"

Dr. Sabine O’Hara, CAUSES Dean and Environmental Science Professor Thomas Kakovitch, collaborated to publish Physics and the New Economy. The book explores the relationship between physics and economics, to address how our mindsets and models must change to ensure a sustainable path of economic development.

As described in the book, everything the economy produces is physical. While economists have warned of physical constraints that will limit the production of economic goods and services, Kakovitch and O’Hara argue that these constraints do not lie primarily on the resource side of the production process. The real constraint is on the “sink” side of the economic process where emissions must be absorbed and waste products must be processed. Until now, this focus on 'sinks' has been mainly overlooked.

“We have largely ignored the context systems within which all economic production take place," states Dr. O’Hara. "These systems are real whether we are talking about the physical context of our natural environment or the social context of our communities and societies. Economic production impacts both." 

“To have balance in nature, a source most have a sink. If sources are flooding in continuously, the sink can only take so much. We are running out of sinks,” explains Prof. Kakovitch. “But we did not only want to point to the problems we have created by overlooking the connections between economic production and nature's sinks. We offer solutions as well.” 

The production of goods and services create waste and emissions that accumulate when they have nowhere to go, or no sinks. The availability of these universal sinks to process these byproducts of the economic process is the crux of the matter. Once released, waste and emissions accumulate in the environment. Sinks including rivers, groundwater layers, oceans, soils, air and the earth’s atmosphere are becoming compromised over time and eventually, they lose the capacity to process emission and waste byproducts, resulting in growing systems disorder. The field of economics must therefore address how to sustain sinks as well as resources.

Physics and the New Economy describes a new model of production and new technologies that can alleviate pressures on environmental and social sink functions and move us in the direction of sustainable development. The book offers examples of economic production that use innovative new technologies that are consistent with the characteristics of the New Economy and illustrate how decentralized, relatively low-cost technologies can lead the way.

The co-authors propose a concept of economic production the meets the five characteristics of the new economy: 
  1. Sustaining sources
  2. Strengthening/supporting sinks
  3. Enhancing diversity
  4. Maintaining a temperature range that sustains life
  5. Reducing information disorder while increasing access to useful information.

Below, Prof. Kakovitch and Dr. O’Hara discuss Physics and the New Economy in detail on the television program UDC Forum

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