Revised 24 May 2019

Energy is involved in the transformation of all physical systems, including the growth and maintenance of different forms of life. Energy flows in ecosystems had been studied for many years by biologists before the 1970s and the discipline of Ecological Energetics was documented by John Phillipson (1966) in his book of the same title. Human settlements also form ecosystems through which energy and materials flow. The organisational patterns of human settlements are interrelated with these flows of energy and materials. An understanding of these flows within human settlements is essential to enable better planning for a transition from growth to steady state. Energetics provides the necessary tools to enable better understanding.   

Energetics, as promoted by Howard Odum of Florida University, is a general systems development and extension of Ecological Energetics as applied to both ecosystems and human settlements. Energetics became a discipline in its own right when Howard Odum pointed out that "industrial man no longer eats potatoes made from solar energy; now he eats potatoes partly made of oil" in his book Environment, Power, and Society (1971). A full development of Energetics was published in Howard Odum’s book Ecological and General Systems: An Introduction to Systems Ecology (1983).