Symbolic of civilization – human equilibrium.
Civilization is no more than an accelerator of gradient reduction. Unfortunately, because everything is seen as a gradient to be reduced and armed with our new arsenal of technological tools, we are consuming most everything in our omnivorous metabolism. Energy has flowed, but mostly through fossil fuel gradient reduction which will soon be over. The matter in the nutrient cycle of civilization never has flowed, it has been dispersed in an entropic manner. Soils and phosphorus have ended-up in the oceans while most everything else has ended-up in a landfill. Mature ecosystems have been consumed and replaced with monocultures whose days are limited. Your average farmland has had the life squeezed out of it and depends upon technologically produced additives to be productive. Additionally there’s no way to render harmless most of the technology relatedl pollution which accumulates in the biosphere. Each city is building a waste mountain, like giant cellular waste vacuoles that will fester long after the technological organism dies.
Some say the answer is to filter the oceans for uranium or capture CO2 from the air. This is ridiculous when we don’t even have enough net energy to maintain the existing infrastructure and human populations. And by the way, world governments want more growth, obviously a well-considered plan for the future. Dissipative structures require a cold-sink so that high grade energy may flow through them and be exhausted into that sink. The two largest sinks on the planet apart from the cold blackness of space above our atmospheric blanket, are the Arctic and Antarctic and they are rapidly losing ice mass. The difference in temperature between the tropics and poles are what create the dissipative structures of our weather, the winds and currents. When they’re gone and the heat doesn’t move as effectively, then many ecosystem and technological structures will be unable to adequately exhaust their metabolic waste heat and will perish as when nearly 15,000 people died in a heat wave in France in 2003. It’s a small step from near-equillibrum to equillibrium when things get too hot.
Dissipative structures require energy to continue living. If, during famine, parents are willing to eat their own children, and it has happened many times, what is a technological dissipative structure willing to do? I would be willing to guess it might do anything to stay alive, including stealing and murdering other technological organizations, like cities or nations.
You may think that more energy simply awaits evolution’s process of discovery with new information resulting in new tools that can crack open a new cornucopia. That’s the exception, not the rule. We’ve already tapped into so many gradients, how many more can exist? In truth, those dissipative structures that can’t find a new gradient as conditions change or cannot acclimate to biospheric changes end up like the trilobite, a dissipative structure left in the sands of time.
I really can’t say much for our leadership, captured by their evolved passion for the accumulation of power and wealth. They’re basically running on evolution’s auto-pilot with a compass that always points them in the direction of more power and wealth, damn the consequences. And there will be consequences. What more could you expect from a dissipative structure? In my opinion, don’t expect much, they’re captured and don’t know it.
We’ll continue working on the gradients until there’s nothing remaining and then, if not already, the middle-class will become the gradient of choice to be consumed by those able to manipulate the energy and resource flows in their favor.
A complex machine working on a coal gradient in Wyoming. The small human RNA pulling levers inside machine cannot be seen. Coal bond energy will be released in combustion with oxygen to run giant electrical turbines to animate parts of civilization. Human civilizations it’s a one way street to nowhere as waste heat flows into space and technology’s nutrients do not recycle.
Two human RNA miners hold a machine that works away at a coal gradient. Most of the extracted fuel has already been converted into infrastructure and/or been reduced to waste heat. The growth has truly been phenomenal, occurring almost instantly like Rayleigh-Benard cells in a fluid medium with a source of heat at the bottom and a cold sink at the top. The reduction of non-living gradients has allowed the emergence of structures (civilization) that, because they have a human RNA component, feed like a cancer on the ecosystem. But even if humans were replaced by mechanical equivalents, the ecosystem would still be consumed or succumb to pollutants and/or heat.