August 26, 2012

Nature seeks chaos, energy creates order

I received quite a bit of push-back on my column from a couple weeks ago about how global warming will change geopolitics and geoeconomics in ways we have yet to imagine. Some readers challenged my claim that we are all concerned about the footprint we leave on the earth. I began thinking about how we affect our surroundings.

The earth was formed through the convolution of great energy and forces. As the energy of our sun inevitably declines over billions of years, the order of the earth, in its stark and grand scenery and in life itself, gradually decays. Physicists call this entropy. It takes energy to create and maintain order. And, without adding energy to the system, our world becomes more random.

Almost everything we do is designed to maintain order. We seek it when we tidy our yard or clean our kitchen. We constantly move stuff from one place to another, file stuff in one place or another, build stuff out of random sticks or steel, and sometimes break down stuff so that something else can be created. Our education allows us to understand and create order out of what we observe.

Our songs and poetry attempt to give us greater insights into the purpose around us. Even those who live as close to nature as possible may still try to preserve their properties from floods, keep their food from decaying or their garden from becoming wrought with weeds. We are creatures of order.

The acts of creation and production are our attempts to create and thrive on order. When forces of nature destroy our order, we feel violated. Our economy is an entropy-denying machine, extracting and building, moving, transforming, selling and consuming our products and those produced by nature long ago or those produced today. Our lives are defined by our roles in balancing our need for organization and order with nature’s tendency to decay and rebuild.

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