Shuck and Jive

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Greatest Shortcoming of the Human Race... its inability to understand the exponential function.

First of all,
Dr. Albert Bartlett reminds me of my dad. They are of the same generation and they are both no nonsense science professors.

So I immediately liked Dr. Bartlett when I saw this video of a lecture he had given at the University of Colorado, Arithmetic, Population, and Energy. He covers the big stuff in an easy to understand and easy to follow lecture.

I showed it to my Thursdays with Jesus group this morning. Thumbs up from that group. You can order the dvd from his website. I am going to show it to our college students as well.

Why? Because it is their future we are threatening.

He has given this lecture over 1600 times. This particular lecture was delivered in 1998. The fact that it is dated makes it even more urgent today.

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.

Enjoy your midnight movie and share it with someone you love.

Watch parts 1-4.
Watch parts 5-9.

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