Humans beings have significant problems in being human. The difficulties are manifest in many ways but generally begin with the way in which humans relate to their environment. The potentials for improvements in these relations are great but so too are the difficulties. This is in part because of serious shortcomings in how the resources essential to human existence are conceptualized and managed. These shortcomings are similar to those raised by General Systems Theorists fifty years ago. Noteworthy successes were limited, therefore the problems continue. Herein it will be argued that the problems in humans relating to their environment lies more in their attitude about resources than their methods for managing them. The key evidence for this thesis is the manner in which we chose to interpret the entropy construct. Alternative interpretations of entropy are available, and should be experimented with. They would support radically different ideas on relationships between using resources and realizing human potentiality. It is argued that how a nation, group or individual chooses to interpret entropy is a clue to how well they will manage relations between humans and their environments. A dominant attitude is that it doesn't matter, and where it matters the consequence can be recycled. This attitude stems from an interpretation of entropy that derives from the historical ideas set by James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) and Ludwig Boltzmann (1844-1906). Each, in their own way, felt that entropic processes might be reversible through the input of human intellect. This humanistic scenario is consistent with the principles used since for design and construction of systems that separate humans from the reality of their surroundings, including other people. This attitude towards entropy is overtly optimistic, tends towards arrogance and is generally ignorant of processes of change, decay, time, reversibility, environmental order, and other realities of the entropic process. Systems theorists have a brief opportunity to experiment with alternative "attitudes" towards entropy, especially those coming from a more holistic vision. This allows access to a deeper interpretation of problems with how humans relate to their environment than those currently labeled under the topic of "sustainability."
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David Hawk, "Sustainable Technology as a Revisitation of the Entropy Argument & Related Dreams of Reason", Proceedings of the 42th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the System Sciences, Janet K. Allen and Jennifer Wilby, editors, at Atlanta, Georgia, July 18-25, 1998.
[click here for the ISSS 1998 conference]
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