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Arithmetic, Population, and Energy.

Published 21st April 2010 - 2 comments - 3259 views -

I currently don't have time for a longer post on the issue of 'overpopulation' as was raised by Jodi and followed by Giedre, so I decided to just introduce you (in case you 'haven't met' yet) to Professor Emeritus Albert A. Bartlett, from the Colorado University at Boulder. I 'got to know' him through Youtube-guru and climate-activist Wonderingmind42 aka Greg Craven, famous for his common-sense reasoning Youtube-videos combining High-School physics lab effects with arguments for tackling climate change out of pragmatism reaching an audience of millions, as well as author of the book "What's the worst that could happen?". Wonderingmind42 posted Professor Bartletts lecture "Arithmetic, Population, and Energy" under the granted, quite pompous title "The Most IMPORTANT Video You'll Ever See". If this is so is of course up to you, I found his argumentation interesting and at least noteworthy for everybody that wants to have an informed opinion on the matter, so please see for yourself:


Another professor at the University at Boulder, Dr James B. Calvert thus formulated the predictions of Bartlett's law:

Thomas Malthus predicted disaster from increasing population when he observed that population increased exponentially (using figures from the early United States census), while arable land could be brought into production only arithmetically (at a constant rate). When the curves crossed, famine would ensue. These observations were made before 1800. It is easy to see why they were not borne out, except locally and temporarily, but this does not invalidate his analysis. Now we have exponential growth versus a fixed resource, not an arithmetically increasing one.

Petroleum is not simply a source of gasoline. It is essential to the low- cost production of food, in the form of Diesel fuel and as a chemical feedstock for the manufacture of fertilizers. The rise in price of oil will deny it to the poorest of the human population, depriving it of the food that has been forced from the ground by the use of cheap energy and chemicals. This is only one aspect of the problem of the exhaustion of resources that will become worse and worse as the world population increases. Human population cannot increase forever at an exponential rate; it will level off -- but the Earth cannot support indefinitely even its current population. The pain does not come gradually, but all at once, in these cases.

Category: Crisis | Tags: energy, food, oil, thomas malthus,


  • Bill Hinchberger on 03rd May 2010:

    Thank you, Stefan, for calling attention to the Bartlett lecture.

  • Johan Knols on 05th August 2010:

    Hello Stefan,

    I have to confess that I missed your post when it got published but due to a comment from Bill Hinchberger I watched all the videos today. Bartlett is absolutely right and should not be ignored. The question remains though: what are we going to do about the situation?
    The one trillion dollar question…...

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