introduction of the same nutrients into a system that is adapted to them (i.e., marshes and swamps) would be a positive input. We can minimize pollution by finding the places in the system where it represents a positive input and placing it there.
Toxic chemicals represent a form of pollution because there are no existing natural systems that have ever experienced them, so there are no existing systems to which they represent a positive input. The places where toxic chemicals can most readily find a productive use are probably in other industrial processes, not in natural ecosystems. The solution in this case is to encourage the evolution of industrial processes that can use toxic wastes as productive inputs, or, if these cannot be found, to eliminate their production and replace them with alternatives that do have positive uses.
One strategy that natural systems have evolved to cope with pollution is diversity. The most disruptive pollutants are relatively low entropy. Low-entropy matter and energy also represent a potential resource. Given enough time, a species will evolve to take advantage of this potential. Thus, diversity may be linked to efficiency at the system level. A higher diversity system wastes fewer potentially productive resources by taking advantage of all the "pollution." Early successional systems with low diversity are wasteful of resources in the name of rapid growth and colonization. Later successional systems recycle more, close more of the loops, and require higher diversity to do this. A possible analogy in economic systems is competitive markets. To be "competitive" and efficient, markets must have a large and diverse set of participants. Monopolies can get the big jobs done,. but without diversity the system does not satisfy all the smaller product niches and is less efficient at producing what it does produce.
But it is not simply the diversity of species that is important to minimizing pollution, it is how that diversity is organized into a coherent whole system. The degree of organization of a system is contained in the network of interactions between the component parts (Ulanowicz, 1980, 1986). This means that diversity is a necessary component for minimizing pollution, but it is not sufficient. The parts must also be organized so that the waste products from one process are productive inputs to other processes (Allenby and Richards, 1994).
Economists often think of energy as a commodity (i.e., oil, gas, coal) rather than as a property (the ability to do work), which is a characteristic of all commodities. Discussing the substitutability of energy for other factors of production makes sense if energy is a commodity, but not if it is a property of all commodities.