Arithmetic, Population and Energy (Lecture)

2005, Science  -   69 Comments
Ratings: 9.08/10from 313 users.

Professor Bartlett has given his 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.

He first gave the talk in September, 1969, and subsequently has presented it an average of once every 8.5 days for 36 years. His talk is based on his paper, Forgotten Fundamentals of the Energy Crisis, originally published in the American Journal of Physics, and revised in the Journal of Geological Education.

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.

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69 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Tashi

    While the equation is rather interesting, I find it application rather too simplified and quite misleading. I can recommend the statistical projections of Hans Rosling for world population which gives a rather broader perspective

  2. DustUp

    Just because a math equation may be correct doesn't mean it was correctly applied. One would think people would be multiplying and falling off into space by now, since 1969.

    All those who seriously believe population is a serious problem in the usa should be good stewards of the land and resources. Please demonstrate your seriousness to this issue and lead the way in reducing the population by tossing yourself into the soylent green pit fast before its too late.

  3. Gary McSpadden

    Overpopulation is always self correcting. It's not something we get to choose. It's just our turn. It is also something we will not control. Bad news for anyone who lives on the earth.

  4. Tobias MacRobie

    The math assumes no carrying capacity. It also assumes normal distribution. Sorry, too many variables for this. The basic math is just a convincing tool, but don't take it all to heart. Yes, we need people to be aware of the problem of continuous growth. So, for marketing, this video has an okay projection model that most people should be able to understand, or at least get a grasp of the concepts. On the other hand, this dude is HIGHLY mistaken to address individual or national consumption rates as a solution. You can't go saying "If the USA reduced individual consumption, that the problem is fixed". That's equally stupid as continuous growth, because reduced consumption only increases the carrying capacity for population while deteriorating quality of life. The author was right to bring the right side of that chart to bear (from the beginning of the video), my consumption or anyone else's be damned. If there ain't enough for people, they shoulda stopped breeding a long time ago. Breeding is the problem. Don't let societal traditions of "appreciating youth for their potential" delude you. An untrained undeveloped child likely has less value than an educated and practiced adult. Most people (likely to include myself and many of you who are reading this) likely won't accomplish much in life, but don't throw it away on some nonsense notion that giving some kid a chance to do better with their life is actually going to work. No, they're going to grow up, make mistakes, suffer heartbreak, get a job, go to school, basically do all the same we do, and not be any greater a person for it. Neat, huh? Stop breeding.. Don't let your endocrine system trick you into one moment of weakness. Be more than your pathetic biology, resit that impulse to reproduce. That alone will save this planet as a habitat for humanity. Anything short of relinquishing our appreciation for babies is the harbinger of doom. Your baby ain't special, precious, or wanted. The resources consumed by that kid, and every kid that kid has, will be massively greater than any "excessive" amount that I will consume in my lifetime, without kids. Consider: sustainability is a legacy, it must account for generations, not individuals. One lifetime of consumption with zero offspring is negligible compared to the expanding offspring into any projected future of a growing family. Anyway, there's the soapbox. Your turn.

    1. coryn

      Hear, hear.... Tobias, I think you've hit the nail squarely on the head. Evolution has no foresight, but consciousness does. Way back in the 1970's there was an organization called 'Zero Population Growth' that tried to educate the world, but had little impact, and faded away. Today what have we got?

  5. mike jarvis

    who really understands the concept of growth whether it is 123456 or 7%...¿ everyone races headlong into growth. The analogy of bacterial growth in a flask is the highlight of the video.if the mass populations can only convert this into long can you suck world resources before the tit is dry..

    1. Tobias MacRobie

      inorite? he didn't even get started on factorial series! Then there is all that nonsense about "consuming more than our fair share" right aftersame dude was saying "You can't have equality". Laf

  6. jillzzzz

    Excellent video, I was not taught this in school.

  7. Azmodan

    There are 2 basic issues: life and capital interest. Both expressed in percentage per year.
    Any living organism (from bacteria, insects, animals to humans), if necesary resources are available and no external factors are present, will grow exponentially until it ocupies all the space available / consume all the resources available. Only humans are able to foresee this.
    But the problem is: any system (biological or otherwise) will either grow or shrink. There is no zero growth (stagnation) over longer periods of time. And i cannot say i know of a system with linear (or other type ..less than exponential) growth.
    So it;s either grow or die - in the long term.
    Maybe this is "the great filter" from the Fermi paradox.

    1. Tobias MacRobie

      Technology is one limiter on growth. Tech advances linearly, which growth depends upon. Tech is therefore the slow step in the reaction. There's one example of non-logarithmic growth for ya. (I say logarithmic, rather than exponential because it sounds cooler to me). Basically, what we want to define is the geometric series that collapses about the carrying capacity. The greater the amplitude, the more tolerance for classism and inequality we'll have in society. The greater the frequency, the more often power will change hands. Except.. now we have to consider this all in 4 dimensional aspects. x,y,z, and time. You're right about one thing though - zero (nothingness) doesn't exist. It's all relative aspects of equal to something and inequal to something, aka - the center of our mathematics is the number "1", not zero. Take that, cartesians! Hahah. /googley_eyes

  8. Irish Sweetness

    Hmmm. HIs exp function has the population of Boulder at about 98K in 2000? Doubling every ten years? The population of Boulder is now about 106K. Flaw in his theory regarding population there.

    1. jusme

      Maybe his logic got through to people. At least in Boulder. Population IS still growing though, so logic not yet completely accepted. Probably because of the industry lobbyists making unsubstantiated claims often enough, or colluding shallow MSM distracting with reality tv and such.

    2. KevinSchulz

      His function was not showing what the population would be, it was showing what the population would be IF the current growth rate was sustained. However, remember that one of the key points is that sustainable growth is not possible. So what is happening is the growth rate in Boulder is declining. It basically proved his point that those city council members had no idea what growth actually meant when they wanted to have sustainable growth rates of 7% or whatever they wanted.

  9. swissjoe

    This inclusion in your documentary list is appreciated. In 2014 it is pleasing to discover ten years after first seeing it, I have a good url to post instead of a youtube playlist.

  10. BiznatchRuler

    I love how he explained all of this in the most simple way possible and there are still so many who are ignorant to the implications. Birth control and education will only look like a little bump in the bell curve of human population. The forces of nature will always be stronger then the forces of man. Most people think that the purpose of life is to reproduce/multiply/grow. in reality it doesn't matter what the purpose of life is.I personally don't believe there is one. If there is then all signs are pointing towards destruction and consumption (which is just how it is not "good" or "bad"). The essence of this video is either go back to being indigenous or ride this planet until we kill it and everyone on it. Those who ignore the importance of death ultimately hasten the end.

    1. Irish Sweetness

      We don't need to worry about population. The NWO has a plan for us that will drop the figures bigstyle. Watch for pandemics of new 'flu strains' and vital vaccine campaigns. Rises in cancers due to processed food .....

    2. joey

      I once sounded just like you. I have grown in awareness and have been chipping away at my ignorance, and I have come to find this:
      1. The forces of nature will always be stronger than 'one' man... physically. But! Man is the only "creature" we know of that can WILLFULLY work with nature and create better conditions for growth of population and resources. Mankind can effect weather patterns in a positive manner and use that to our advantage.
      2. The (perceived) purpose of life often changes as we grow in awareness. Whats more important right now is to consider the beliefs or ideas we choose to give our minds and lives to. For example; If people choose to believe that life is pointless and the only thing certain is death/destruction/consumption, then their personal lives will reflect this and things will really suck.
      IF on the other hand people choose to believe that the universe is governed by a creative physical principle where abundance and life is in accordance with nature, then people will have lives in which the abundance of that life will reflect the positive belief in ones identity and destiny in our universe.

  11. Less_Coffee

    The data on the oil left might be off, but this is still worth watching.

    Thanks for posting it.

  12. Guest

    This vid is cool. And the dude is right. Shhh... keep quiet and rest.

  13. SonofPlato

    There are always forces that reign in exponential growth when resources are limited. Question is will we retain our dignity on the way down?

  14. FadedGarden

    It is a well documented fact that giving women education and birth control slashes the birth rate. We will have lots of elderly for a time, but basically problem solved by spending less than a trillion dollars to educate and give health care to EVERYONE in the world.

  15. Guest

    Oh! No one say a word of all this to Lulu, Huh?
    -Who'z still climbing the phone pole to reach her phone! Being an Hillbilly, she'll sure claim not being concerned:-) Corn is the solution!

    That docu was a real pleasure to view.
    The old man had all his tool at hand and he sure knows how to use it. Calculus included!
    Very well documented.
    Up to a point where as one lay back, put the whole in perpective, it becomes disturbing, worrying.

    The maths in there are no barrier to understand what that teacher expose. Not at all.
    The teacher doesn't even ask the students to calculate any of his equations.
    One of the best that can be found on TDF, I think.
    After the history of religions if it's still there.

    Just as a closing comment: - Good! In those days, I'm will not be here anymore, so good luck!


  16. Sven Croon

    Hard to believe that this message is being ignored on so many levels...
    Allow me to try and make a case for the non-believers, or at least try to understand why...

    About the energy theme :
    The rich and mighty are not so stupid that they don't understand this problem. And who has more to lose than they do ?
    The problem is, it takes time to capitalize on a flourishing business in decline, and shift one's money (investments) into something which is sustainable in the long run (although that doesn't even matter, it might also be mid-long term). AND it's not so easy to make sure that this new business or technology will cough up the same profit as the old one (lol, a profit with a steady growth rate !)
    The more profitable sustainable energy becomes, the more mainstream it will become because entrepeneurs will become interrested.
    The percentage of businesses providing renewable or sustainable energy resources in the global energy market, will likely grow exponentially until it reaches nearly 100%, and mainstream consumption of fossil fuels will be a thing of the past.

    As for the overpopulation :
    I couldn't agree more.
    But there's one side note I want to add: the earth will not be the boundary of our habitat much longer. I'm sure that Mars will know some form of human colonisation before this century is over. Who's to say where humans will walk by the time we reach 2200 ?
    I'm not saying this will compensate for the disastrous effects of exponential growth, that surely cannot continue on a global/universal scale, but our inquisitive/explorative nature will surely allow for some population growth for centuries to come.
    As long as we don't find means to extend our lives greatly, or find ways to achieve quasi-immortality through genetic breakthroughs.

    I'm just saying: the situation looks dire, but we are on a crossroads here, at the start of a new technological fast-track that might change the look and feel of our societies in a more fundamental way than we could ever imagine.
    Look at Einstein's relativity theory, quantum physics, elektro-magnetism, etc... those theories date from roughly a century ago. And look at how they changed the face of our societies over these past 100 years.
    Then look at what we have just found out, or in what fields scientists are on the brink of major breakthroughs (this site is a great way to do just that !).
    I for one would LOVE to take a peak at our world a hundred years from now. But I'm sure that if I were dropped in it now, it would feel as strange and alien to me as a visit to the opera :-)

    That said, I do believe that the danger is very real. The math is very simpel, and very beautiful. It is this beauty that may blind us.
    "We've been growing steadily for 59 minutes, and the jar is only half full. And you're telling me that in the next minute or so, we're gonna run out of space ???"

    1. David Foster

      "The rich and mighty are not so stupid that they don't understand this problem."

      The "rich and mighty" care about one thing, and one thing only.. ***How much they can get for themselves, right here, right now; F@C# the planet, and F@C# anyone who doesn't like it!***

      I know this firsthand, because disagreeing with this philosophy is what has had me living in poverty for the last thirty years, even though my parents have more money than GOD. And you won't change their minds about what's right or wrong, no matter how much science to throw at them, or how loudly you go beating your drum.. Because: #1) They don't give a s#it.. AND: #2) They've got all the guns!

  17. Chris Thorpe

    Easter Island all over again but on a globle scale.

  18. Chris Thorpe

    mayday mayday mayday. Know where to land?

  19. Jo McKay

    Loved this when I first watched - wonder if facts are any more palatable now that a few more years have gone by. (surprising how human this ability to seemingly ignore 'the math' - the professor demonstrates that perhaps an even bigger problem is those who do not 'understand the math'). Clearly the Industries who prefer to keep a population confused or debating have contributed to abuse of the numbers games played out on dumbed down entertainment style, so called, News (tv & print).

  20. KsDevil

    As the world becomes more corporatized and coroprations continue to force growth on the world as a minimum requirement for existance, it is clear by this mathematics model, a more bleak future will reach us sooner than later. Fortunatly we are cleaver little primates who are working on extending the downward spiral of available conventional energy sources. There is always the possibility we will land on a soft pillow. However, we are still trapped on this planet..unable to access the energy reserves of the Universe. We may yet fail as a species for the same reason stated in this lecture.

  21. CapnCanard

    I watched this on YouTube and the whole exponential growth of all aspects of human activity has had me wringing my hands with anticipation, both dreaded and welcomed. The major problem is not the capacity of the land, but the greed of those in power. If the land/energy/technology were distributed evenly then there wouldn't be much difficulty. But that is a big "IF". Many people have been killed over far less.

  22. Rich

    Amazing that even some even debate the simple math here. Oh wait, that was kinda the point of it. "The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function."

    The beauty of Al Bartlett's talk is that everything is in front of one's face to see and find for themselves. Yet many ignore that fact over their predetermined ignorant beliefs.

  23. aaroncalgary

    426...HEMI. yeah.

    1. Guest


      Yeah! Had one in 1973...
      Better, much better thrill than the Kawa 750, water cooled.
      No second thoughts in these days.


  24. wald0

    Cool, I have seen many people request this video be placed on this site, myself being one of them. Very informative video about how exponential growth is never sustainable. This has been proven over and over again, no matter what you are talking about if it grows exponentially it will eventually break down, change fundamentally, no longer possess the same internal properties. It is true for the nucleus of an atom, any organic system, economies, population stability, etc., etc. To be honest I think other factors will intervene as far as population growth goes, but the concept of exponential growth is still very important to understand.

  25. PaulGloor

    @Cliff Thomas: I think the worlds population could sustain a negative growth factor for a few years. :P

    I think the right hand column provides us with all the solutions we need to control the population. IE contraception/abortion, abstinence, small and later families. As long as the population and resources continue as they are, War and communicable disease will always be controlling factors.

    As for energy and oil, I believe the world as a whole should be looking at alternatives quite seriously and putting the gears in motion NOW while we still have the resources to do so.

    1. CapnCanard

      I believe that many of these potential problems could be avoided but MONEY, wealth, greed, and control are the major obstacles. One little blip and, rest assured there will be catastrophic 'pole-shifts' felt across world markets. Population is the least of our worries... economic growth may be the most dangerous. Environmental pollution is a problem, but technological instability is minor unless it effects economic stability, and it would. Energy, in my radical view, has evolved to a simple economic 'game'. We are told that we've hit peak oil. Of course we have! If we haven't then oil would be cheap and there would be no good economic reason to use it. Professor Jerry Woodall of Purdue University found a method of extracting Hydrogen from water using common Aluminum/Gallium Alloy(Alumina) dropped in any water. And the Alumina can be reused ad infinitum after polishing the oxidization off the alumina. But this is not economically viable because profits wouldn't be as high since water, ANY WATER, isn't scare. So the problems we face are very surmountable because they can be manipulated, though rich people are very likely to lose their wealth in the process. So to protect the filthy rich, our leaders will sacrifice us all. At least that's my view from the cheap seats.

  26. Marek Zelechowski


    1. Yavanna

      So what if what you call globalists consider this the correct equation. It clearly is. Have you considered "they" might be right? It's called common sense. If the maths isn't simple enough for you then the common sense equation should be.

    2. Marek Zelechowski

      There is always a way:)

    3. PaulGloor

      "3. Room or living space - this is ridiculous - we can fit 15 billion on the space of the US and give everyone a garden and a house and still drive around for hours without meeting anyone just within the USA! It is just a simple matter of calculation and intelligent planning. "

      Do those calculations include space for utility transmission services, roadways, public transit, food production, commercial, industrial, education and recreational property, space between homes and a place to park your SUV, RV, boat, ATV and motorcycle as per the 'American dream' ?
      And, don't forget that every solution has a consequence. In this aspect, the air we breathe is recirculated by plants, which support a food chain that supports them. Where is their place in that 15 billion estimate ?

    4. Marek Zelechowski

      Recalculated some figures given from the overpopulationmyth-guys: meaning: calculate the size of texas almost 700.000 km2 with the need: simplyfying it by assuming everyone being in a family of 4. meaning a need for space for 1,75 billion families. So you fit 1,75 billion families into Texas by giving each 400m2 living space! Of course that does not include any roads, commercial areas etc., but the simple fact that you can give the whole current human population - every family 400m2 - living space just within Texas which is a miniscule part of the world shows you how much space there really is. Of course in reality some people would not want or need gardens and high level skyscrapers surrounded by huge green areas like proposed by Frank Lloyd Wright could be an option too and would minimize needed space. The point is that no one in his right mind would try to fit 7 or 15 billion in the area of the USA. But just the fact that you can shows you the myth of overpopulation. All we know is that in every country after having achieved a relativily high standard of living like in the Western World and Japan - those people have for whatever reason chosen to not even reproduce at the reproduction rate of 2,1. Sure - muslims have more children, but not much more even in most strict muslim countries barely reaching 2,4 and with even higher emancipation of women this is inevitably due to fall even in countries like Saudi Arabia. So the safest way to depopulize is to make everyone reach the Western level of living. Look - all I am saying is that all calculations are based on current usage of resources and some illogical manical fears connected with that. Mankind if it really wanted could probably almost within 5 years or faster get rid of most oil-based machinery and replace it with electric energy run (we just need to dig out inventions which do not fit into the current capitalist system since the most logical energy generation would be connected with the continuous magnetic field of earth itself and that in itself would be very detrimental to all profits), turn into local organic food production (just check out some plans of architects - there are many many ideas) and reach an equilibrium with the environment. There is enough for every man on earth, but unfortunately there is never enough for every man's ambition on earth as there will be always those who will lust after power or the desire to have much much more than their fellow man in order to feel superior to your fellow man.

    5. Jack1952

      @ Marek

      You pretend to use a secular intellectual argument to cover what is, in reality, a Christian fundamentalist agenda. The website that you refer to, speaks of the Divine and how he has planned for an infinite population to live on this planet. The phrase "be fruitful and multiply" is seen as a commandment and not as a blessing or expression of goodwill towards the people of the times.

      Tesla may well have been working on many of the principals of cheap and sustaining energies. How successful he was is unknown. Why is it that after 100 years his work has not been duplicated? He may have been a brilliant man but eventually someone would have followed up successfully on what he has allegedly discovered. Except we have no details about the things that he was supposed to have invented. If we cannot see, use or test these inventions how do we know how viable they really are? Unless these tests are duplicated, you are just repeating the myths surrounding Tesla.

      Docile vaccination routine? Polio has been wiped out in all the countries that have a comprehensive polio vaccination program. Polio still exists in places where the people refuse vaccinations due to scare tactics encouraged by the anti-vaccination types. The victims of polio in these countries thank you very much.

      My grandfather sired 23 children. My father had 7 which was quite normal for the fifties and sixties. This type of growth means that even at conservative estimates more than a doubling of the population every 30 years will take place. This would mean at that rate our present pop. of 7 billion people would be approaching 1 trillion people in 200 years. Calculate the living space for this population and then you will see what is truly ridiculous.

      Of course your optimism is predicated on the benevolence of a Divine creator. I wish that you had used some integrity when posting your comments and mentioned this important detail.

    6. Marek Zelechowski

      Very funny indeed.

    7. Jack1952

      @ Marek

      If I am mistaken in my assumption of a religious agenda on your part, I apologize. In my defense I do have to say that the only reference that you mentioned is a religious site. This type of back door evangelism is a well known tactic of those currying favor with their Creator.

      The industrialized west has shown that when child mortality rates are low and a high level of economic security is realized, population numbers will start to decrease dramatically unless there is an open door policy to allow immigration from third world countries. Therein lies the problem. If these countries do not improve economic stability, universal education and the child mortality rates, population numbers will rise and the west will be the safety valve for those third world population refugees. This cycle cannot be sustainable in the long term. Something has to give. That is when overpopulation is no longer a myth and will affect all of us.

      I used the 1 trillion number to show that there is a limit to how many people can live on this planet. You seem to be saying that overpopulation is a myth but even you concede that there is a limit. Where that bar lies is where you have your problem. A more equitable worldwide economic system would be to the benefit of us all and would indirectly stabilize population growth...a desirable stabilization since there has to be a limit to what we can carry on this earth.

      It is understood that there have been questionable and even illegal behavior on the parts of pharmaceutical research. That does not imply that all medical research is wrong and that none of it should be trusted. That would assume that the rotten apple does spoil all. Long and healthy lives in the industrialized world due to medical advancement would indicate that they are also involved in research that is to the benefit of us all. That doesn't mean that everything they do is good either. Each case is different and stands on its own merit.

    8. Marek Zelechowski

      I agree with you on most and would encourage you to sift through the multitudes of alternative information starting maybe with health by Dr. Andrew Saul., Dr. Mercola, Dr. Linus Pauling - nobel laureate, Dr. Klenner or Dr. Hoffer - most of them are a far stretch from conspiracy theorists and they offer a huge amount of information especially regarding high-dosage vitamins which work better as natural antibiotics and are by far superior than drugs. I wonder why despite of millions of people being treated like this and thousands of research test results - it does not penetrate into university teachings. Well - cost of 200.000 mg vitamin C without any side effects - couple dollars and no patents - profits of any drugs ensuring sales of other drugs - well - those profits go into billions - here billions - there maybe hundreds of thousends at the most.

      Anyway - as far for those sites - overpopulationmyth is an evangelical amateurish site - overpopulationisamyth seems a site created by some small-business Catholic IT-guy(s) who make websites as well as sell some books - the latter site-creators are by far more sophisticated and their motivations are as mentioned irrelevant as long as their stated facts are verifiable and sound. I have nothing against rational Catholics - have been one too :) and nothing against not so rational Evangelics (at least those from the first site) with their very similar site :)

      Alas - despite the multitude of sound research out there, it takes so little to discredit or silence research that goes against the current already highly monopolized or at least oligopolized capitalist structure. Trust me - I was a perfect capitalist. It only eluded me how concentrated the business and unfortunately government and education structure is already. That is the only surprise - information that is unfortunately completely left out in the mainstream media, mainstream education and unfortunately mainstream science.

    9. J4zonian

      Most of the extended lifespan in the developed world is because of engineering (safe water treatment and supply, basic sanitation, and the like) and better, fresher food because of refrigeration, transportation and farming reliability and quantity. (It's counterbalanced somewhat by increased death from toxic substances, and in the US, by poverty leading to lack of the above, mostly for minorities.) "Medicine" as we know it plays only a small part, although medical research is behind much of the motivation for the engineering advances.

  27. Yavanna

    Thanks for posting this Vlatko.

    I`ve seen it a few times and everyone should take this in. Whilst maths might not be your "thing" the concepts are very simple and very powerful. Don't miss this people! Whilst on initial impression it might be seen as a dry old man lecturing a class; it is truly a life changing talk which might change the way you think.

    The sad thing is since 1969 he has been ignored.

  28. ZarathustraSpeaks

    • "All environmental problems are ultimately population problems. Less people mean less pollution and more people mean more pollution. We cannot advance anti-pollution technology and other measures fast enough to keep up with current population trends, especially when most of the increase is in places where there is little or no pollution control. "
    Laird Wilcox

    1. J4zonian

      Almost all the increase is also in places where people have almost no impact on the Earth compared to the places where there is little or no population growth. In other words, only the numbers of poor people are growing and the rich, though small in numbers and hardly growing at all, cause the vast overwhelming majority of the damage to the Earth. Population growth is a problem, but it is not the problem. The consumption by the rich is.

    2. ZarathustraSpeaks

      The problem is the human desire for consumption(by the rich or poor) we all want a "better life" for our selves and our families.(We all want "more" than what we have no matter where we are on the economic scale) This is caused by "slash and burn" farming practices by those just trying to "scratch out a living" in the Amazon region as well as the "evil" rich trying make maximum profits. Trying to make this a rich/poor issue only creates a distraction which will insure nothing happens. Whether a 39" HDTV is the 10th TV purchased for the rich guys garage workshop or the first TV ever purchased by someone that has to sell his soul to the Walmart credit card to get it does not matter. They both end up in the same landfill at some point. The fact that the rich guy will end up putting 10 in the landfill at some point is a result of economic sucess whether "ill gotten" or not. Your premise is that all the poor will retain their "low consumption" ways if their economic means increase is counter to everything we have seen in countries like China where the economic pie expands. So the only choices available are a world goverment(individual countries will always march to the local politics of the moment) that forces enviromental restrictions on individuals or somehow restricting population growth. Personally I just think "we're screwed" either way but "keep hope alive".

    3. J4zonian

      I agree the idea of eternal growth either in population or economics or resource use is insane. The idea of continuing fossil fuel use at all is insane, let alone increasing it. It must stop and that has nothing to do with his math. I read his bacteria thing in Not Man Apart, the Friends of the Earth Bulletin, in the 1970s, and learned about Hubbert's peak in 1973. The lessons in this video aren't all wrong (though some are--look again at the chess board and listen to what he says. 8 is not more than 11.) We have to absorb these lessons and immediately realize how limited they are and go beyond them.

      Bartlett talks about population as the problem in all kinds of ways. But it's not. The psychological disturbance of the rich is the problem. That is, civilization is both cause and symptom. The Wetiko disease is the problem; the Emotional Plague; species autism, collective PTSD. Whatever you want to call it. It's not the numbers of us. Congressional representation is not a problem because there are more people per Congressmember now, it's a problem because corporations and rich people spend billions of dollars a year buying Congresspeoples' votes and skewing the law so they "benefit" and we lose (Actually they lose too, it's just not clear to us because we've abandoned wisdom). The bathroom is not a problem because there are 20 people in the apartment, the problem is that 2 people each spend 7 hours a day in there and won't respond to pounding and shouting.

      Population is not growing exponentially. It peaked in the 1960s and the growth rate has halved since and is continuing to drop. The developed world, where most of the damage is done, is essentially at replacement rate. In 10 years half the countries in the world will be there. Population itself is expected to stabilize at about 10 billion. We could and should do what we can to slow growth faster and make that eventual total smaller but population is not the problem. There's enough food, water, energy, space and everything else for all of us. Population itself is mainly growing now almost entirely among the poorest, who have the least effect on ecological problems including climate. Most of the growth is because of increasing lifespan (mostly post-childbearing years which does not increase compound interest) and because of young age structures of developing countries. Population is a problem. It is not THE problem.

      The income, wealth and therefore impact of the rich is so enormously larger per capita than the impact of the poor that the richest 3 people on Earth own more than the poorest 48 countries. The richest 20% of people have contributed 80% of the greenhouse gases while the poorest half of humanity, 3 1/2 billion people, have emitted 7% of the GHGs. Yes, the semi-middle class in China are eating more meat and driving more etc. Clearly the world can't live the way the theoretical average person in the US lives. (In itself that average is also a misleading figure because the poor people in the US have a tinier impact, even in total, than the tiny number of very rich people there.) But the truth is, even the people in the US can't live the way people in the US are living Just the 5 or 6% of the richest people alone, even if the other 94% died off tomorrow, would continue to destroy the Earth at a phenomenal rate--in fact, at almost the same rate at which we're destroying it now. We have to equalize at a very much lower level than the US average, although all 10 billion of us expected can live decent lives, IF we equalize, power it all with renewable energy, permaculture and benign biomimicing closed-loop craft industry...reforest the world... and live ecological lives that prioritize what's really physiologically and psychologically important for humans and the biosphere. Our main problem by far is not growth of any kind but the already astounding impact of the rich on the biosphere. That's what we have to change. We have to replace all fossil fuel use with efficiency, wind, solar and smaller, locally-important other renewables. We have to transform agriculture to local, organic low-meat permaculture. We have to reforest the Earth. Bartlett's math is good to the extent that it helps people realize all that, but it's not enough alone and is misleading in many ways.

    4. J4zonian

      Sorry, I wandered quite a bit in that last post. More to the point:
      Actually, what you called my premise is not my premise at all. My premise is not that stupid; it recognizes reality and the Wetiko Disease. My premise is that to survive we must build a sustainable society using the tools I mentioned, and that we can accomplish that if we do it right.
      That means reducing the impact of the human race in total by paying much, much more attention to the impact of the rich (implementing the technological fixes I mentioned, rapidly and massively, for everyone) and political fixes (equality, education, empowerment of all especially women, security in age, sickness and hard times and access to birth control) also for everyone, as well as both immediate and longer-term psychological healing for virtually everyone. Population growth can be brought to zero very quickly if we do all those, that is, if we elect progressives in the US and everywhere else and abandon hierarchical/patriarchal religious and philosophical behavior and social structures of all kinds (warlord military, warlord business and warlord religion to name the big 3). Population itself must be lowered very much more slowly; we are at least the numbers we are now for the duration of this crisis and well beyond, and anything that changes that or tries to--genocide, war, disease, starvation/thirst... will doom us.
      Wanting more (except those who really don't have enough to live decent lives--a very, very much lower cutoff of material goods than most of us realize--) is an artifact of our psychological problems which is essentially the same as civilization. It's curable. Over the course of however many generations that takes beyond the techno-political crisis we now face that's our main task. But we have to survive to be able to work on it.

    5. ZarathustraSpeaks

      I dont doubt the means exist for solving these problems. I do doubt the the political mechanisms exist to implement them in a world where different countries and people cant even agree on the most basic problems and solutions.
      Secondly, and perhaps more importantly these "psychological problems" as you call them involve value judgements made by someone with complete moral authority to decide who is "ill" and what constitutes a "decent" standard of living. In either case, the possible solutions seems as bad as the problem. The underlying assumption in all this is that complex problems have a reasonable solution which we just have look hard enough to discover them. Without authoritarian rule to implement such solutions I see nothing in history that indicates a "Kumbaya moment" will change this. I would love to think otherwise if someone could convince me. It may be in end we are subject to the same forces that control the herd populations in all other species...we just have a marginally better brain to see whats coming. ;)

    6. J4zonian

      It certainly is a long shot. Whether we even have any time left at all is a question, or whether with the melting of ice and the beginning of the melting of tundra and methane clathrates we've already passed tipping points that lead inevitably to runaway warming beyond a point at which human civilization can survive and mass extinction on the order of the 5 others are unavoidable... We don't know. I remember 4 things:
      We don't know what's coming. Humans used to live in harmony; some do even today, in remote places, having survived the onslaught of civilization's diseases and rage. Some people have recovered from civilization; not many and never completely but enough, enough, to think we can all at least go in the right direction. That direction is the direction of being more attuned to the Earth, and renewables, with their rhythms and complementarities, are a way to begin that.

    7. jolly old camper

      your quote is nice an eloquent but i feel it isn't completely accurate The most important factor or multiple to consider is the level of consumption or better still the model or system that generates and allows it. you can have 7 billions people living harmlessly if certain principles are observed but you cannot have even half of that if they are not. a society like our own which is underpinned by greed and waste for many reasons obviously cannot sustain anywhere near the numbers we currently have. however, that being said if we were to become more sensible in the structures and and systems we create then it may be possible to live comfortably with many more. it is all a trade off between total numbers of people and other (more important) factors of multiplication.

  29. Billy Bradford

    Been sayin' it for years.

  30. SFXkilla

    Very disturbing and well laid out for the veiwer. I can find no fault with what he said. Although I had a sense of the impact of exponatial growth. I was still shocked when you follow the numbers to their conclusion. I'm proud to say my family is a zero growth family. Just one to replace each of us. And i hope my grandchildren are onlychilds. But doesent it sound wrong for some reason to say that? I think people with have to change their thinking whether they want to or not

    1. Cliff Thomas

      Actually, zero growth is 2.1 children per family, any less is a decline.

    2. SFXkilla

      : ) yeah we were think about trying for .1 this year

    3. Yavanna

      Which accounts for deaths etc.

  31. Matt Kukowski

    Entertaining old man... THe ZeitGeisters need to watch this and add it to their lectures.

  32. Philip Rodrigues Singer

    This talk is brilliant!

    1. jurica

      you're right
      but it is - at the end of the day - all statistics
      having said that - history will repeat
      so we can - on that assumption look forward to a decline
      as in the Roman Empire who thought they had it nailed.
      question is how soon??
      within our children's lifetime?