In the 17th century, the German polymath Liebniz first lent expression, both mathematically and otherwise, to the idea that would be called energy a couple of centuries later. His vis viva, or living force of the system, was the quantity that was conserved within the motion of mechanical systems, with a couple of stipulations. But this is not a history lesson.
It is, rather, an introduction into the laws of Thermodynamics. For as long as one might wish to define the present epoch, society has left itself and its fate in the hands of engineers, and as many of my colleagues will and do admit, it has brought us this far. The previous statement has, obviously, both positive and negative facets equally worthy of consideration.
Since the age of Leibniz and Newton, which continues through today, many have followed in their footsteps to flesh out the concepts that have come to define our world. Who was Sadi Carnot or James Prescott Joule and what were their contributions to our understanding of the physical world are not merely questions for the few, but for all of us. Without knowing about them, the contributions of Ilya Prigogine have little meaning. This is to say that without a proper understanding of entropy and irreversibility there will be difficulty grappling with complex systems, the precautionary principle, and ultimately, sustainability itself.
The discussion is over before it begins, in a very fundamental way, and green IS just another fad if there is not a more general awakening connected to a it. Time to nail a ladder up to that ol’ tree of knowledge. More to come.