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Keywords:

  • complex systems analysis;
  • exergy;
  • hierarchy;
  • non-equilibrium systems;
  • self-organizing systems;
  • thermodynamics

Summary

Industrial ecology is a school of thought based, in part, upon a simple analogy between industrial systems and ecological systems in terms of their material and energy flows. This article argues for a more sophisticated connection between these diverse systems based on the fact that they are all complex self-organizing systems, operating far from thermodynamic equilibrium. As such, industrial and ecological systems have in common certain constraints and dynamic properties that move beyond the central metaphor of industrial ecology and could align these systems under a more comprehensive analytical framework. If incorporated at a fundamental level, the complex systems framework could add depth and sophistication to the field of industrial ecology.