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The scary mathematics behind energy depletion and population growth

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Posted by GreenLifeInnovators on November 16, 2009, 5:00 pm

Dear fellow "greenies"

Recently I came across a series of 8 video-clips on YouTube showing a
lecture with Dr Albert Bartlett, Professor Emeritus in physics at the
University of Boulder, Colorado about arithmetic, population growth
and energy depletion. Usually a lecture by an old professor in front
of a group of students is not something one would consider to be a
terrifying experience. But this perspective, that he is communicating,
really is.

Not only does Dr Bartlett explain why we are in much bigger trouble
than most people think. He also explains why the nature of exponential
growth is such, that we will not see the problems until a very short
time until we run into them. This lecture goes to the very core of our
challenges ahead.

You don't have to possess university level skills in mathematics to
follow his lines of reasoning, but below high school level you would
probably not get too much out of it.

For your convenience, we have embedded all of the 8 video clips on one
page on our blog. You can find them here:


If you, like we do, find the message that Dr Bartlett delivers in this
video of the utmost importance to the human race, then please do not
keep it to yourself, but share the information about this lecture with
friends and acquaintances, through email, online forums and social
media. Yea, and write to your politicians and the media about it

Kind regards
Vidar Kristiansen
Green Life Innovators - Green tech the Open Source way

Posted by Curbie on November 16, 2009, 7:10 pm

A friend emailed me the YouTube links a while ago, very simple math
and explanation. I don't know how "green" the notion of negative
population growth is, but it's the ONE solution that greatly reduces
energy, hunger, and poverty issues. Solving energy, hunger, and
poverty issues without negative population growth is mathematically
impossible, but politicians seem to base tax policy on positive
population growth. So catch 22.

In my view, a good explanation though.


Posted by Josepi on November 17, 2009, 12:22 am

So the Chinese have it all over the Americans then.

Posted by Maury Markowitz on November 20, 2009, 6:34 pm

Yeah, that's what Malthus said too. It basically goes like this: the
human population is growing exponentially (it isn't) and our food
resources grow geometrically (they don't). Therefore we will be
subject to massive starvation in the very near future - around the
middle to late 1800s. At that point there would be more humans than
all the land in the world could support.

As you are no doubt aware, we did not suffer the starvation event that
he predicted, although we came close. In the late 1800s our
agricultural output started outpacing human needs through a series of
improvements in methods, equipment, fertilizers (a major one) and
pesticides and insecticides. In the 1960s the introduction of the high-
yield crops resulted in another massive improvement in food output. As
a result, we are practically drowning in food, to the point where
there are more obese people than starving ones, even in Africa and
other "poster children" for food problems. In fact, the amount of land
under cultivation in industrialized societies has decreased
dramatically over time.

The problem with Malthus' claim, or any one like it, is that it
discounts the creative power of the human mind. More people means more
minds, and more minds means more invention. But -- and this is key --
the collective IQ of the planet is a factor of the number of brains
times the number of connections between them, times the efficiency of
those communications links. One major output of the inventive process
are the tools that better communications between us -- like the
internet channel we are using right now -- the constant multiplier has
increased by leaps and bounds. A million people's collective inventive
capability is many times greater today than it was 100 years ago.

As a result, human ingenuity increases more quickly than the human
population. Perhaps you have noticed the ever increasing rate of
invention over time? Just over a decade ago we developed the physics
for GMR, which was productized and in your computer in about a year.
This rate of improvement has never before been seen in human history,
and appears to be accelerating. As a result, many futurists have
written of an era where change is so pervasive and rapid that our
current predictive tools are simply useless, a time they call "the

Simply put, applying math to problems with humanity like these is like
trying to come up with a formula for why you like your lover. You
might be able to do it, but it will confuse the issue more than it
will help.


Posted by harry on November 22, 2009, 3:15 pm

Well, regardless of all the curves, at some point they will cross and
there will be starvation/wars/mass population migration.   It's just a
question of which curve(s) you pick.
Also addtional factors keep on creeping in.
Like global warming & sea levels rising (if true)
Also to have/not have  global wars.
Pestilence. (AIDS/flu)
Human ingenuity tends to increase population rather than the reverse.
I suppose all this is what the futurists mean by chaos.
Aid to foreign countries is counter-productive unless they control
their populations.

Personally I think the "tipping point" is near.  There's nowhere left
to export surplus population.  We just have to keep the starving
masses from our own countries or they will destroy us.
The end of the world is nigh.     Tee Hee!

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