Pulsing Paradigm

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Note: author not clear, but most citations are from Odum.

Contextual Citation

Henry Odum:

"all systems on all scales pulse. Gradual accumulation of one storage is followed by a short period of frenzied consumer use and development which disperses materials, setting up the next growth period. Pulses cause oscillations in emergy, empower, and transformity. Inputs from pulses on smaller scale than the window of interest look like noise and can be averaged as if there was a steady state. The infrequent pulses from the larger scale than the window of interest are catastrophic with high transformity and effect (hurricanes, earthquakes, economic pulses, information storms, etc.) (Odum, Porto Venere, 1998)." (http://www.upcolorado.com/book/A_Prosperous _Way_Down_Paper (Odum & Odum, 2001, p. 78))


"Systems maximize power on each scale over time by pulsing consumption of mature structures that resets succession to begin again. Systems that pulse prevail. Nearly all ecosystems are hierarchical and pulsing. Growth and pulsing over a longer period can generate repeating patterns of pulsing pairs of producers and consumers such as the classic predator prey model portrayed in the video below. The first systems priority to maximize energy intake reinforces competitive exclusion during growth; the second systems priority to maximize efficiency in energy processing reinforces cooperation during contraction. Pulsing cycles are called oscillation, succession, and evolution, depending on the scale. Succession viewed at a smaller scale of time may only present part of the cycle, as illustrated above." (http://prosperouswaydown.com/principles-of-self-organization/energy-hierarchy/pulsing-paradigm/?)


"The cycle of assets, or growth cycle, has four stages: growth, climax-transition, descent, and low-energy restoration. Phases of system pulsing/cycling are:

Systems change through stages of growth called succession

  • Colonization is the first stage of succession
  • Next, growth develops complex assets
  • Later, systems grow until all available resources are in use to maintain existing assets and growth stops
  • Then systems downturn or collapse and go through a period of reset for the next cycle of pulsing

Succession is a time span within the pulsing cycle; over the long run there is no steady state

Landscapes can have areas producing assets next to areas with accelerated consumption. The diversified landscape increases performance and power (from Odum & Odum, 1987 draft PWD) Over time:

“diversity and complexity increase. Species with symbiotic, co-operative relationships develop. There is more organization. Organisms divide their tasks rather than compete. A mature urban economy is similar to a mature eco system with many kinds of occupations, specialties and organizations. Regulations helps eliminate destructive competition. . . [At Stage 3,] assets decrease, either because the pulse of growth has used up the storage of available resources or because there is a surge of destruction by the pulse of a larger scale. By one means or another, the developed system has to adapt to coming down. (Odum)." (http://prosperouswaydown.com/principles-of-self-organization/energy-hierarchy/pulsing-paradigm/?)