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Emergy Evaluation of Formal Education in the United States: 1870 to 2011
Campbell, Daniel E. AND H. Lu. Emergy Evaluation of Formal Education in the United States: 1870 to 2011. Systems. MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland, 2(3):328-365, (2014).
We evaluated the education system of the United States from 1870 to 2011 using emergy methods. The system was partitioned into three subsystems (elementary, secondary and college education) and the emergy inputs required to support each subsystem were determined for every year over the period of analysis. We calculated the emergy required to produce an individual with a given level of education by summing over the years of support needed to attain that level of knowledge. In 1983, the emergy per individual ranged from 8.87E+16 semj/ind for a pre-school student to 170.3E+16 semj/ind for a PhD with 2 years of postdoctoral experience. The emergy of teaching and learning per hour spent in these processes was calculated as the sum of the emergy delivered by the education and experience of the teachers and the emergy brought to the process of learning by the students. The emergy of teaching and learning was an order of magnitude larger than the annual emergy supporting the U.S. education system (i.e., the annual inflows of emergy from the environment, energy and materials, teachers, entering students, goods and services). The implication is that teaching and learning is a higher order social process related to the development and maintenance of the national information cycle. The results imply that there is a ten-fold return on the emergy invested in operating the education system of the United States.
This paper calculates the emergy required to educate individuals from preschool to the post-doctoral level in the United States from 1870 to 2011. A table to transformities for individuals with various years of education is given for use in future studies. This paper establishes a means for quantifying the emergy contributed to an economy in human work that is quasi-independent from the emergy to money ratio of the U.S. Thus, for the first time we have the means to determine both the human and environmental contributions to an economy on an equal basis. This breakthrough opens the way to the development of comprehensive environmental accounting methods with combined emergy-money balance sheets on which the bottom line is the true sustainability of any enterprise.
Record Details:Record Type: DOCUMENT (JOURNAL/PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL)
Organization:U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
NATIONAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS RESEARCH LAB
ATLANTIC ECOLOGY DIVISION
MONITORING AND ASSESSMENT BRANCH