|A 1936 sustainability themed cartoon, by Jay N. ‘Ding’ Darling, from the 2013 book State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible?, with chapters by Eric Zencey, among others, about how, supposedly, mother nature’s resources are running out. |
See main: Sustainability thermodynamicsIn 1865, Stanley Jevons, in his The Coal Question, starting with James Watt’s improvements to the steam engine, first defines coal as “material energy”, and then goes on to argue that supplies of coal will eventually run out: 
"Coal in truth stands not beside but entirely above all other commodities. It is the material energy of the country — the universal aid — the factor in everything we do. With coal almost any feat is possible or easy; without it we are thrown back into the laborious poverty of early times. With such facts familiarly before us, it can be no matter of surprise that year by year we make larger draughts upon a material of such myriad qualities — of such miraculous powers."
In 1987, Swedish physician Karl-Henrik Robèrt who in 1987 proposed to develop a theory of society towards sustainability based on thermodynamics.
Thermodynamic arguments, typically involving the second law, are frequently involved in discussions on sustainability issues.
A recent promoter of efforts to develop a sustainability science based on thermodynamics is American mechanical engineer Timothy Gutowski. 
The 1999 “supply side sustainability” model, by Timothy Allen, Thomas Hoekstra, and Joseph Tainter, supposedly, is based on the ecological thermodynamics work of Eric Schneider and James Kay. 
In the 2006 book The Myth of Progress, American terrestrial ecologist Tom Wessels argues how society’s current path toward progress, based on continual economic expansion and inefficient use of resources, runs absolutely contrary to what he calls the three laws of sustainability: (1) the law of limits to growth, (2) the second law of thermodynamics, which he argues exposes the dangers of increased energy consumption, and (3) the law of self-organization, which he sees as that behind the resulting diversity of such highly evolved systems as the human body and complex ecosystems. 
1. (a) Gutowski, Timothy G., Sekulic, Dusan P., and bakshi, Bhavik R. (2009). “Some Preliminary Thoughts on the Application of Thermodynamics to the Development of Sustainability.” IEEE, May.
(b) Bakshi, Bhavik R., Gutowski, Timothy, and Sekulic, Dusan. (2011). Thermodynamics and the Destruction of Resources. Cambridge University Press.
2. (a) Allen, T. F. H. (2003). In Hoekstra T. W., Tainter J. A. (Eds.), Supply-side sustainability (thermodynamics, 12+ pgs). New York: Columbia University Press.
(b) Allen, T. F. H., Tainter, J. A., & Hoekstra, T. W. (1999). “Supply-side sustainability”. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 16(5), 403.
3. Wessels, Tom. (2006). The Myth of Progress: Toward a Sustainable Future (§: The Myth of Energy: the Second Law of Thermodynamics, pgs. 40-63). Vermont.
4. Zencey, Eric. (2013). “Energy as a Master Resource”, in: State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? (§7:##-; image, figure 1-2). Island Press, 2013.
● Toxopeus, Sewalt, M.E. (2001). “Thermodynamics Based Sustainability Concept”, Int. J. Applied Thermodynamics, Vol. 4: 35-41.
● Mapelli, F., Pulselli, F. M., and Tiezzi, E. B. P. (2002). “Thermodynamic Concepts for Sustainability Studies” (abs), Design and Nature, 3: 185-90.
● Hammond, Geoffrey P. (2004). “Energineering Sustaiability: Thermodynamics, Energy Systems, and the Environment” (abs), International Journal of Energy Research, 28: 613-39.
● Campanella, L. (2008). “Thermodynamics and Sustainability”, CMA4CH Mediterranean Meeting, Multivariate Analysis and Chemometry Applied to Environmental and Cultural Heritage 2nd ed, Ventotene Island, Italy, Europe, 1-4 June.
● Sustainability – Wikipedia.