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  • esd-6-689-2015

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Resource acquisition, distribution and end-use efficiencies and the growth of industrial society

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>13/10/2015
<mark>Journal</mark>Earth System Dynamics
Volume6
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)689-702
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

A key feature of the growth of industrial society is the acquisition of increasing quantities of resources from the environment and their distribution for end use. With respect to energy, growth has been near exponential for the last 160 years. We attempt to show that the global distribution of resources that underpins this growth may be facilitated by the continual development and expansion of near optimal directed networks. If so, the distribution efficiencies of these networks must decline as they expand due to path lengths becoming longer and more tortuous. To maintain long-term exponential growth the physical limits placed on the distribution networks appear to be counteracted by innovations deployed elsewhere in the system: namely at the points of acquisition and end use. We postulate that the maintenance of growth at the specific rate of ~2.4% yr−1 stems from an implicit desire to optimise patterns of energy use over human working lifetimes.