Inderscience Publishers

Is sustainability a thermodynamic concept?

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When calculating the 'degree of sustainability', socio-economic parameters and 'natural capital' are not easily quantified, and the question of the physical meaning of 'sustainability' in Thermodynamics remains relevant. On the basis of one single axiom: resource consumption of any kind can be quantified solely in terms of exergy flows, we demonstrate that for sufficiently complex systems certain thresholds – in terms of system's parameters – appear, below or beyond which the system exhibits an ability to remain in a self-preserving (sustainable) state. The analysis leads to non-trivial solutions in phase space, and some schematic examples are discussed in the paper: the results show a trend that seems to deserve further consideration.

Keywords: sustainability, population dynamics, extended exergy accounting, logistic equation, thermodynamics, sustainable development, resource consumption, exergy flows

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