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Ecology, engineering, and economics

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3 Author(s)
H. E. Koenig ; Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich. ; T. C. Edens ; W. E. Cooper

There appears to be increasing evidence that contemporary social and environmental problems and energy shortage are symptomatic of prebreakdown stresses inherent in the technical and socioeconomic organization of our system of production and consumption processes as it evolved under the "explosive" force of the industrial revolution. In an effort to understand these stresses and evaluate alternatives for relieving them, we have abstracted our life-support system as three interdependent substrates: The natural environment, the man-made production and consumption system, and the institutional system of sociocybernetic regulation. The disciplines of ecology, engineering, and economics have developed a high degree of competency in dealing with narrowly defined problem sets within the separate substrates. However, a careful overview of the entire system illuminates startling functional and structural inconsistencies between the subcomponents. Specific examples are provided in order to elucidate some of the more obvious intersubstrate inconsistencies. Classes of ecological tolerances combined with systems-theoretic and economic considerations requisite for the resolution of these inconsistencies are examined and illustrated.

Published in:

Proceedings of the IEEE  (Volume:63 ,  Issue: 3 )