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Sustainability: The Water and Energy Problem, and the Natural Design Solution

  • Adrian Bejan (a1)

People like to say that energy and water are two problems, two vital commodities in short supply. Here I draw attention to the emerging literature and physics principle (constructal law) that provide the scientific foundation for sustainability. I show that the sustainability need is about flow: the flow of energy and the flow of water through the inhabited space. All the flows needed for human life (transportation, heating, cooling, water) are driven by the purposeful consumption of fuels. This is why the wealth of a country (the GDP) is directly proportional to the annual consumption of fuel in that country. This hierarchical organization happens; it is natural and efficient. Sustainability is the one-word need that covers all the specific needs. Sustainability comes from greater freedom in changing the organization – the flow architecture – that sustains life. Greater freedom to change the design (from water and power to laws and government) leads to greater flow, wealth, life and staying power, i.e. sustainability.

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1.Bejan, A. and Zane, J. P. (2012) Design in Nature: How the Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology, Physics, Technology and Social Organization (New York: Doubleday).
2.Bejan, A. and Lorente, S. (2011) The constructal law and the evolution of design in nature. Physics of Life Reviews, 8, pp. 209240.
3.Basak, T. (2011) The law of life: the bridge between physics and biology. Physics of Life Reviews, 8, pp. 249252.
4.Reis, A. H. (2006) Constructal theory: from engineering to physics, and how flow systems develop shape and structure. Applied Mechanics Reviews, 59, pp. 269282.
5.Chen, L. (2012) Progress in study on constructal theory and its applications. Science China Technological Sciences, 55, pp. 802820.
6.Gierens, K., Sausen, R. and Schumann, U. (1999) A diagnostic study of the global distribution of contrails, Part 2: Future air traffic scenarios. Theoretical and Applied Climatology, 63, pp. 19.
7.Ledu, S. and Frattini, S. (2009) Atlas des inégalités (Toulouse: Milan Jeunesse)
8.Bejan, A. (2006) Advanced Engineering Thermodynamics, 3rd edn (Hoboken: Wiley).
9.Bornmann, L. and Leydesdorff, L. (2011) Which cities produce worldwide more excellent papers than can be expected? Journal of American Society for Information Science and Technology, 62, 19541962.
10.Bejan, A. (2014) Maxwell’s demons everywhere: evolving design as the arrow of time. Scientific Reports, 4, no. 4017, DOI: 10.1038/srep04017.
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European Review
  • ISSN: 1062-7987
  • EISSN: 1474-0575
  • URL: /core/journals/european-review
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