forced to sleep on people’s sofas for a couple of
weeks or take rooms in houses that are up to an hour drive every morning. The
expansion of UCC demonstrates Wessels first law perfectly. In 2000 UCC had
11,545 students and by 2017 this figure had risen to over 21,000 students
however in those 17 years maybe one or two campus accommodation complexes were
built. This shows that the student increase is not sustainable with the
accommodation resources that are available. If change doesn’t occur students
will be forced to look elsewhere for colleges where they will be able to avail
of accommodation resources. Another example of growth exceeding resources that
has effected me was the increase in the intake of students in process and
chemical engineering when I started the course in 1st year. Up to
September 2015 the average class size was 25 students however the year I
started there was approx. 63 students studying my course. The growth in the
intake of students wasn’t matched to the resources available. The process and
chemical computer labs by no means had enough computers to facilitate all the
students as well as over the 3 years many parts of our continuous assessment
were reduced due to large class size and limited staff resources. While the
change and increase in intake on the course does suggest progress and
development in fact like Wessels has stated it is a myth. Without consulting
the law of the limits to growth our degree has been demoted to BEng opposed to
the MEng students used to receive when the class size was sustainable and in
line with the facilities.

 

Wessels’ second law is the second law of
thermodynamics which he also describes as “the law of entropy, that states
that although energy can’t be created or destroyed, it can be transformed from
one form to another”8
Since the creation of
the world the same amount of energy has been present. Following the law of
entropy showing that new energy can’t be created the same energy is used over
and over in different transformations. However Wessels points out that none of
the transformations are 100% efficient so all the time energy is being lost
with no way of increasing the diminishing supply. Wessels describes entropy as “a
process where things naturally move from a state of order toward disorder”9  This disorder is not intentionally created
it just happens as a result of the second law. Given that the world we live in
is made of complex linked systems, these systems are not closed and so unlike
when a battery runs out of energy and is no longer of use complex systems can
receive energy from other reactions. However according to Wessels we are
currently “using more energy than is being replaced by photosynthesis” and
“every environmental problem we witness today is the result of entropy within
the biosphere. If there is a foundation on which all environmental degradation
rests, it is entropy generated by the ever-increasing transformation of energy
by humans” 10. 
Again continuation down this unsustainable path is not going to lead to
long-term progress.

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Reading and understanding the effect of this law on
the world we live in really angered me. I spent the past summer in California
with my friends on our J1. For most of the time we were based in San Diego
however many weekends we took road trips up to Santa Barbara and Santa Monica.

The feeling of rage, looking on line and on the television in the past 2 weeks
first at the deadly bush fires and only in the past few days the deadly
flooding that has completely buried the 101 Freeway that we drove on so many times
only a couple of months ago, is something that has been heightened from reading
Wessels’ book. To think that 44 people have died, 192 people have been injured,
over 260,000 people have had to evacuate their homes and over 2,063 structures
and buildings have been damaged all which could have been avoided if the second
law of thermodynamics had been understood and implemented many years ago.

 

I
think many people including myself sometimes live in a state of disbelief and
denial however if you are to really think about the fact that we as the
population of the world are consuming more energy than our trees are able to
reproduce through photosynthesis it is very scary. I often find myself getting
caught up and stressed about the small day to day problems in my life when
really there are a lot bigger issues going on in the world. About 10 years ago fields
full of trees and shrubs dominated the road where my house is currently located.

Now the 10 km stretch of road is consumed with houses and the fields of photosynthesising
trees no longer remain. This is a very small scale example of tree removal that
I have personally witnessed however on a daily basis I read articles about
deforestation taking place in order to make room for new housing sites and
offices in order to accommodate the growing population. To me it seems like we
have landed ourselves in a viscous cycle and huge efforts are going to be
needed in order to make a sustainable future. I think while a huge
responsibility lies with governments and world leaders we as individuals also
have a big role to play and as Rosa Parks once famously said “One person can
change the world”11.

Tom Wessels has really opened my eyes to the greater issues in the world and he
has truly inspired me to start to make small changes. If we all made small
changes such as not driving and walking instead or reusing our plastic bottles
instead of getting a new one every time we finish. All these little changes
would have a very large ripple effect and instead of just sitting and acknowledging
that the world is facing a crisis we could all take an active role to actually
making a difference that would leave us with a sustainable world. Probably one
of my favourite and

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