Emergy synthesis

Emergy synthesis

Emergy synthesis is a method employing emergy algebra for combining the constituent elements of separate materials or abstract entities into a single or unified entity or system. The conception of synthesis is formally analogous to the concept used by electronic engineers (see for example Chan p. 2), but is primarily used by ecological engineers at an extended scale and applied not only to electronic energetics but also ecological energetics and economic energetics.

The term 'emergy synthesis' was originally coined by Dr. David M. Scienceman, and later developed by Howard T. Odum and colleagues at the University of Florida - most notably Dr. Mark Brown, the University of Maryland with Dr. David Tilley and Dr. Patrick Kangas, the United States EPA with Dr. Dan Campbell, UNICAMP in Brazil overseen by Dr. Enrique Ortega, and the University of Siena with Dr. Sergio Ulgiati. These institutions continue to evolve and propagate the emergy algebra and methodology.

Synthetic psychology, religion and unified science

One outstanding feature of emergy synthesis is in terms of psychology, and the unification of religion and science. In the work of Scienceman, Emergy Synthesis applies not only to ecological systems, but also to our epistemology, language and way of inquiry. At heart is not only an attempt to include everyone in the discussion, but also every subdiscipline of social, spiritual biological and physical science. From this perspective, Scienceman has written, "The concept of GOD is merely a 'personification' of emergy" (1995, p.1). Underlying this approach is a commitment to the ideal of the unification of science.

H.T.Odum's epic 1994 text, is a classic demonstration of this attitude. Odum attempts to demonstrate how the nomenclatures and languages of many different traditions in the arts, and sciences can all be unified through a universal language, which he later called the Energy Systems Language.

Philosophical connections

The result of this synthetic, inclusive approach has established direct connections with many foundational traditions in philosophy. Including the work of Leibniz, Schelling, Marx, Habermas, Gramsci, Podolinsky, Woodford, Frank, von Bertalanffy, Eckersley. It is intimately connected with the philosophy of rational empiricism, also known as logical positivism, which was occupied with the unification of science, and the enlargement of Ecological humanities. In natural philosophy (science), it is connected to the Cybernetics of Ashby and Wiener, the rational physiology of W.S.McCulloch, Chinese medicine, Life cycle analysis, Embodied Energy analysis, and Ecological Footprint analysis. However the task of synthesis is to see, and extend, the connections into all fields, explaining differences through historical Energy Systems modeling. It also has very strong connections with systems ecology (also known as 'field physiology'), which might be considered it's parent, and the study of Gaia, or the noosphere.

See also


  • Chan, S. 1997, in R.C. Dorf (Ed.) The Electrical Engineering Handbook, Second Edition (Hardcover), CRC Press.
  • EMERGY SYNTHESIS: Biennial Conferences on the Theory and Applications of the Emergy Methodology
  • C.S.Hall 1995, Maximum Power: The Ideas and Applications of H.T.Odum, Colorado University Press, Colorado.
  • H.T.Odum 1994, Ecological and General Systems: An Introduction to Systems Ecology, Colorado University Press, Colorado.
  • H.T. Odum. 1996 Environmental Accounting: Emergy and Environmental Decision Making,John Wiley and Sons Inc. New York.
  • D.M.Scienceman 1987, "Energy and Emergy." In G. Pillet and T. Murota (eds), Environmental Economics: The Analysis of a Major Interface. Geneva: R. Leimgruber. pp. 257-276. (CFW-86-26)
  • D.M.Scienceman 1995, "The Emergy Synthesis of Religion and Science", Center for Environmental Policy, University of Florida.

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