CU's Al Bartlett To Give Renowned Talk On Exponential Growth Feb. 26

Article about Al Bartlett

Due to popular demand, CU-Boulder Professor Emeritus Al Bartlett will give his celebrated talk, "Arithmetic, Population and Energy: Sustainability 101" on Saturday, Feb. 26.

Bartlett, of the University of Colorado at Boulder physics department, has given the lecture over 1,540 times since 1969. The talk warns of the perilous effects of population growth and of growth in rates of consumption of nonrenewable resources. The talk will begin at 10 a.m. in room G1B30 in the east wing of the Duane Physics building on the CU-Boulder campus.

Bartlett first delivered the lecture in 1969 to explain the arithmetic of steady growth and to alert the public to the consequences of rising human population and of rising rates of consumption of nonrenewable resources. Since his first presentation in 1969, he has given the talk an average of about once every nine days.

The importance of the topic led to the recently published book of reprints of Bartlett's papers, "The Essential Exponential!: For the Future of Our Planet," available through the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. The book was assembled by UNL physicists and features articles from Bartlett and other scholars focusing on the message that the exponential growth of the human population and a rising rate of natural-resource consumption cannot continue unchecked.

Bartlett begins his talk with a striking observation: "The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." He cites the first law of sustainability, which states that population growth and/or growth in the rates of consumption cannot be sustained.

"The world is full of well-meaning people who work diligently on topics of sustainability without ever getting down to telling people this most obvious and fundamental fact about sustainability," he said.

His lecture includes examples of how the steady growth of the human population erodes everything from natural resources to democracy. Since Bartlett moved to Boulder in 1950, he said the city's population has grown by a factor of five but the city council still consists of nine representatives. "Because of this population growth, democracy in Boulder is a fifth of what it was in 1950."

During the presentation he describes the steady growth in consumption of finite resources such as fossil fuels. He shows that when such steady growth occurs, these resources are exhausted at an alarming rate.

Bartlett believes people have missed the warning signs of overpopulation, and if humans don't move quickly to solve the problem, nature will. Steady growth won't continue because at some point nature will solve the problem through famine, disease and war, he said.

Bartlett's presentation on "Arithmetic, Population and Energy: Sustainability 101" also is available for purchase on videotape through For information call 303 492-3445 or e-mail tradebooks at cubookstore dott com. You can also find the book CU Bookstore, Campus Box 36, Boulder, Colorado, 80309-0036 Phone 303 492-3445. The book is also available online at the CU Bookstore.

The Feb. 26 talk is part of the programming available through the CU-Boulder Speakers Bureau, which is coordinated through the CU-Boulder Community Relations Office.

Copyright 2005 University of Colorado at Boulder
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