1st Edition

Ecological Sustainability Understanding Complex Issues

By Robert B. Northrop, Anne N. Connor Copyright 2013
    548 Pages 14 Color & 98 B/W Illustrations
    by CRC Press

    548 Pages 14 Color & 98 B/W Illustrations
    by CRC Press

    Complex Systems is a new field of science studying how parts of a system give rise to the collective behaviors of the system, and how the system interacts with its environment. This book examines the complex systems involved in environmental sustainability, and examines the technologies involved to help mitigate human impacts, such as renewable energy, desalination, carbon capture, recycling, etc. It considers the relationships and balance between environmental engineering and science, economics, and human activity, with regard to sustainability.

    Human Ecological Sustainability


    Is It Possible to Model Human Ecological Sustainability?

    Why Human Sustainability Is a Complex Issue

    Chapter Summary

    Review of Complexity and Complex Systems

    Introduction to Complexity

    Human Responses to Complexity

    Signal Flow Graphs and Mason’s Rule


    Chapter Summary

    Multidimensional Challenges to Human Sustainability


    The Challenge of Population Growth

    Global Warming

    Water and Sustainability

    Bees, Pollination, and Food Crops

    Species Size Reduction Due to Habitat Warming: Another Challenge to Our Food Supply

    FF Energy and Sustainability

    Chapter Summary

    Mitigations of Human Impacts through Technology




    Carbon-Free Energy Sources

    Carbon-Neutral Energy Sources

    Energy Storage Means

    Fusion Power

    Nuclear Energy

    Carbon Capture and Storage

    Water Vapor

    Engineering Energy Efficiency

    Chapter Summary

    Sustainable Agriculture


    Animal Husbandry: Concentrated Animal Feeding


    Industrial Agriculture

    Loss of Genetic Diversity

    Genetically Modified Organisms

    Sustainable Agriculture

    Can Sustainable Agriculture Feed the World?

    Competition for Cropland

    Chapter Summary

    Unconventional Foods: Insects, Plankton, Fungi, and In Vitro Meat


    Nutritional Value of Insects

    Can Insects Be Farmed?

    Plankton as a Source of Human Food

    Fungi: Food and More

    Food from Tissue Culture Using Animal Stem Cells

    Chapter Summary

    Complex Economic Systems and Sustainability

    Introduction to Economic Systems

    Basic Economics; Steady-State S&D

    Introduction to ABMs and Simulations of Economic and Other Complex Systems

    Economic Challenges to Human Sustainability

    Chapter Summary

    Application of Complex Systems Thinking to Solve Ecological Sustainability Problems


    Dörner’s Approaches to Tackling Complex Problems

    Frederic Vester’s "Paper Computer"

    Sensitivity Model of Vester

    Can We Learn From Our Mistakes?

    Chapter Summary

    What Will Happen to Us? FAQs on Sustainability


    Will Technology Sustain Us?

    FAQs Concerning Sustainability

    Chapter Summary


    Bibliography and Recommended Reading



    Robert B. Northrop, majored in electrical engineering (EE) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), graduating with a bachelor’s degree. At the University of Connecticut (UCONN), he received a master’s degree in systems engineering. He entered a PhD program at UCONN in physiology, and received his PhD in 1964. Dr. Northrop’s research interests have been broad, interdisciplinary, and centered on biomedical engineering and physiology. His current interest lies in complex systems. Dr. Northrop was on the electrical and computer engineering faculty at UCONN until his retirement in June 1997. As emeritus professor, he still teaches graduate courses in biomedical engineering.

    Anne N. Connor, MA, is currently working as the director of community grants for Methodist Healthcare Ministries, a medical nonprofit organization in San Antonio, TX. Her educational background includes a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College, where she received honor citations in chemistry and sociology. Her master’s degree in communications is from the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque. She is the coauthor of Introduction to Molecular Biology, Genomics and Proteomics for Biomedical Engineers (Taylor & Francis/CRC Press, ISBN # 1420061194). She has received numerous awards for her work, most recently a humanitarian award from the San Antonio health care community.

    "In this time of narrow specialization, the authors have provided a remarkably broad synthesis of the biophysical factors that support human sustainability."
    ––Joseph A. Tainter, Department of Environment and Society, Utah State University