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Published on Nov 29, 2008
Part 5 of an engaging and informative talk by Al Bartlett.
Professor Bartlett has given this celebrated one-hour lecture, "Arithmetic, Population and Energy: Sustainability 101" over 1,600 times to audiences with an average attendance of 80 in the United States and world-wide. His audiences have ranged from junior high school and college students to corporate executives and scientists, and to congressional staffs.
Professor Al Bartlett begins his one-hour talk with the statement, "The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function."
He then gives a basic introduction to the arithmetic of steady growth, including an explanation of the concept of doubling time. He explains the impact of unending steady growth on the population of Boulder, of Colorado, and of the world. He then examines the consequences steady growth in a finite environment and observes this growth as applied to fossil fuel consumption, the lifetimes of which are much shorter than the optimistic figures most often quoted.
He proceeds to examine oddly reassuring statements from "experts", the media and political leaders - statements that are dramatically inconsistent with the facts. He discusses the widespread worship of economic growth and population growth in western society. Professor Bartlett explains "sustainability" in the context of the First Law of Sustainability:
"You cannot sustain population growth and / or growth in the rates of consumption of resources."
The talk brings the listener to understand and appreciate the implications of unending growth on a finite planet, and closes noting the crucial need for education topic.