Charles Hall: 50 Years of EROI: A Unifying Principle for Ecology, Economics and Sustainability
Most earlier civilizations, and many today, attributed their existence, well-being and rules for proper behavior to a powerful God or gods. Our civilization, and indeed earlier ones, has a new god, energy, rarely acknowledged but increasingly understood by a relative few, that allows our existence and determines many aspects of our material well-being. Energy is the master determinant of most that happens on Earth. As such it has determined, and will continue to determine, directly and indirectly, the major events of civilization. But this view is not well understood, principally because most analysts, economists and prognosticators, not to mention college freshmen, have not been taught the fundamentals of energy, which is too often presented, if at all, in a dispersed highly technical way that cannot reach most of the potential readers. I have spent my adult life studying energy and systems science, first as an ecologist and subsequently as something like an economist. I was trained by many but especially my Ph.D. advisor, Howard Odum, who opened a world of understanding and explanation to me that allowed me to understand nature as much more systems and process rather than the disparate hodgepodge of differing activities and species that I had been previously trained to see. This talk will discuss the evolution of Energy Return On Investment (EROI) to the present and its future applications as we embark on the next energy transition.
Dr. Charles Hall is a systems ecologist and an Emeritus Professor at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF). Charlie has focused his academic career on applying energy analysis to ecoystems both natural and human-dominated economies. Back in the early 1970s, Charlie developed the concept of energy return on energy investment while investigating migrating fish for his dissertation research under pioneer systems ecologist Howard Odum.
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