Arithmetic, Population and Energy - a talk by Al Bartlett

You can watch a video of this important and engaging presentation in ten-minute segments (click here).

You can also watch the entire one-hour streaming video from Global Public Media.

Professor Bartlett has given his celebrated one-hour lecture, "Arithmetic, Population and Energy: Sustainability 101" over 1,742 times 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 began his one-hour talk with the statement, "The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function."

Audio Audio of presentation:
Global Public Media
(If not available, you can listen to our archive)
Audio transcripts:
Franšais - French
Espa˝ol - Spanish
Courtesy Global Public Media

He then gave a basic introduction to the arithmetic of steady growth, including an explanation of the concept of doubling time. He explained the impact of unending steady growth on the population of Boulder, of Colorado, and of the world. He then examined the consequences steady growth in a finite environment and observed this growth as applied to fossil fuel consumption, the lifetime of which is much shorter than the optimistic figures most often quoted.

He proceeded to examine oddly reassuring statements from "experts", the media and political leaders - statements that are dramatically inconsistent with the facts. He discussed the widespread worship of economic growth and population growth in western society. Professor Bartlett explaind "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 brought the listener to understand and appreciate the implications of unending growth on a finite planet, and closed noting the crucial need for education on the topic.

See these articles about Prof. Bartlett's lecture:


You can order a DVD video of Prof. Bartlett's talk, "Arithmetic, Population and Energy", from:

The University of Colorado bookstore, Boulder, Colorado (order DVD: $12 plus shipping and handling). (Please call 1-800-255-9168 to order VHS copies.)

You can also order his book, The Essential Exponential! (order book: $18 plus shipping and handling).

CU Bookstore, Campus Box 36, Boulder, Colorado, 80309-0036 Phone 303 492-3445. The book is also available online at the CU Bookstore.

You can also order from the University of Nebraska, Center for Science, Mathematics & Computer Education, Lincoln, Nebraska. (Book and DVD: $30 plus shipping and handling).

(Prof. Bartlett accepts no royalties from the sales of these DVDs and books.)

Watch the video

You can watch a video of this important and engaging presentation in ten-minute segments (click here).

Fair Use: This site contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of issues related to exponential growth. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information, see:
In order to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.