Thermodynamic Footprints

May 21, 2013 • Daily Email Recap

Thermodynamic Footprints

This article introduces the concept of the human Thermodynamic Footprint.

In 1975 the Canadian ecologist and population activist Dr. Jack Vallentyne introduced to the world a concept he called the “Demotechnic Index”.  It is the ratio of the amount of all technological energy a person uses in a day (energy from oil, gas, coal, hydro and nuclear power) over the average amount of energy they get in a day from the food they eat.

This article examines the state of the world in terms of that index, which I have taken the liberty of renaming the Thermodynamic Footprint or TF.   I did that to make the term a little more accessible, and also in the spirit of the times – many of the people who read this will already be familiar with concepts like the Carbon Footprint and the Ecological Footprint.

The TF is  intended to measure the impact we are having on the planet as the result of our use of technological energy.  It also allows us to measure the change in our impact over time.

The TF is really a measure of human activity.  All human activity is made possible though our use of energy, and our energy-driven activity is what alters the planet’s physical, biological and chemical makeup – through mining, manufacturing, construction, habitat alterations, and the generation of wastes such as carbon dioxide, garbage and other pollution.

Because of this, our energy use is the best available proxy or representative for our overall impact on the planet.  TF should therefore be understood as a measure of the impact we are having on (or damage we are doing to) our planet’s life-support systems.

To read the full paper, please click here:

Current World Population


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