Pulsing Paradigm

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

Contextual Citation

Howard T. 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)." (https://upcolorado.com/university-press-of-colorado/item/1845-a-prosperous-way-down (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/?)


by Dave McLeod: Henry Nelson Wieman's take on the Pulsing Paradigm, from 1949:

“…In short, civilizations break and fail because they require a fuller release of creative interchange between all participants than any civilization has yet provided. To achieve this fuller release, religion, education, social constitution and government must all be shaped to serve this kind of interchange and equip people to live in its power and keeping.

“Civilizations might be viewed as surges of history that rise toward this level of abundant living, but always fall back because social institutions are not appropriately modified at that time of crisis when accumulated resources – material, social and spiritual, open the way to it. Yet it is just at the same time when the surge of history breaks and fails that most wisdom is attained concerning the conduct of life. Failure is always the supreme teacher, if accompanied by faith and courage. In China, India, Egypt, Israel and the Roman Empire, a more noble and penetrating religious faith arose when the surge of history began to break. Also, the arts and principles of government were then matured, and moral principles were more clearly discerned, more profoundly interpreted. Thus, as civilizations rise and fall like waves, so to speak – each failing to reach the greater good that might be – they leave a deposit of wisdom that increases. In time this growing wisdom and truer religious faith might enable a surge of history to pass over and beyond the obstacle we have noted. Our own time offers just such an opportunity. But the opportunity will pass us by if we do not have a better interpretation of justice and freedom than is now prevalent.”

- Henry Nelson Wieman, The Directive in History*, pp. 107-108, 1949

  • In this book Wieman notes (page 6), “My indebtedness to, and any difference from, the following will be apparent to many: C.I. Lewis, An Analysis of Knowledge and Evolution and Mind and the World Order; Stephen C. Pepper, Aesthetic Quality and World Hypothesis; F.S.C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West and The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities; R.B. Perry, General Theory of Value and The Moral Economy; A.N. Whitehead, Process and Reality and The Concept of Nature; G.E. Moore, Principia Ethica; Nicolai Hartmann, Ethics; W.M Urban, Valuation, Its Nature and Laws; Morris Cohen, Reason and Nature; John Dewey, Logic, the Theory of Inquiry."
  • In another note (p. 100): "For this account of the breakdown of civilizations see Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History; Alfred Weber, Kulturgeschichte als Kultursoziologie and Farewell to European History; Gordon Childe, Man Makes Himself and What Happened in History. Oswald Spengler's The Decline and Fall of the West could be interpreted in this way, although he would deny that the ceiling of power could ever be passed."

My "brief history of Henry Nelson Wieman" is cued up here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qbgduN5Hzw&t=3851s

Source: https://www.facebook.com/groups/p2p.open/posts/4479296958781115/?comment_id=4501331693244308


"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/?)