Abstract: This presentation reviews key concepts in sustainability and asks deep questions about why there are so many symptoms of environmental crises present in the world today (climate disruption, mass species extinctions, nitrogen cycle disruption, ocean acidification, crises with food, energy, and water, and many more). These symptoms relate to the prevailing approach, in which we use reductionist mental models and treat living and environmental systems as if they are mechanisms. However, contrary to machines, ecological systems show much resilience and capacity to self-organize, regenerate, increase their organization and complexity, and improve their environment over time. We propose that achieving a sustainable world will require a shift in the way we approach life and life sciences. The good news is that such a shift is possible now, without the need of waiting for new technologies, and is limited only by our willingness.
The concept of resilience has become popular in international development circles in recent years, but it is only one of many factors in a larger, integrated, empirical understanding of systemic health and development emerging from the study of energy-flow networks. This article explores how the Energy Network Sciences (ENS) can provide a robust theoretical foundation and effective quantitative measures for resilience and other characteristics that undergird systemic health and development in socio-economic networks. Einstein once said that “theory makes measurement possible.” We believe ENS can provide a more effective theory of economic health, which will open the door to surprisingly precise measures. Our goal is to outline the basic reasoning behind both theory and measures.