This talk by Denis White (Oregon State University) centres on Energy Systems Theory which postulates that the transformation of energy underlies all phenomena and that the available energy previously used up directly and indirectly to make any item can be accounted for as energy of one kind (e.g., solar energy), which can then be used as a universal accounting unit. In the energy budget for nations, expressed in terms of available solar energy (“emergy”), we define the sum of the local and imported renewable emergy as an index of sustainability and we define the sum of the local renewable and non-renewable emergy as an index of self-sufficiency.
Denis White is a geographer recently retired from the US Environmental Protection Agency in Corvallis, Oregon, where he worked from 1988 until 2011. He currently holds a courtesy appointment in the geography program in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University. While at the EPA he worked on designing global grid systems for environmental monitoring and other applications, developing methods for and analysing biodiversity data, programming fish assemblage simulation models, developing a modeling framework for ecosystem services, developing alternative futures projects for EPA, and visualising energy system analyses.
Before moving to Corvallis Denis worked at the Harvard University Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis for 13 years. He worked in a small group in his early years there developing one of the first vector-based geographic information systems including contributions to overlay analysis, topological encoding, memory management and map projection utilities, and a functional language for analysis of attributes of spatial objects. In later years at Harvard he continued software development work but also taught computer graphics and GIS, and worked extensively with landscape planners on alternative futures projects in US national parks. Before Harvard Denis had research positions at the Department of Earth and Planetary Science at MIT and at the Department of Computer Science at the University of Wisconsin.