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A mathematics professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder explains clearly and simply what the compounding the exponent means means to every day Americans.


Common Sense?

Upon a thorough examination of the factual growth numbers, it is clear that if we don’t consider the realities of our addiction to growth, we may actually be setting our system up for a forced reduction in growth.

Ludwig von Mises

The Austrian School of Economics

“There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The option is only whether the crisis should come sooner as a result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.”

Dr. Albert Bartlett

The Greatest Shortcoming of the Human Race is our Inability to Understand the Exponential Function


Part I

Education: Actually, it belongs in both columns.


Part II

Growth = resource use, increased waste. Without more recycling of waste and prudent resource use, the fact remains that there are limits to growth in a finite environment.


Part III

Life Expectency of the Reserve base of U.S. Coal

In the 1970’s the American Electric company stated: “We’re sitting on half of the worlds supply of coal – enough for over 500 years.”

When you combine that with a report to the US senate at the time you can see that it presents a pretty rosy picture

“At current levels of output and recovery, these reserves can be expected to last more than 500 years.”

Just one problem. The ad from the energy company was based on a mistake. The senate report said “At current levels”. That means no growth of energy use. But we a ll know and the EPA tracks and measure the growth of energy use? Following the exponent compounded, we find that we have much less time that we thought based on the mistake.

Part IV

When applying consumption to growth and use of the resource, we find that the many of assumptions. Dr. Bartlett believes we should be cautions when hearing statements of how long our energy fossil file energy supplies will last: “Don’t believe any prediction of the life expectancy of a non-renewable resource until you have confirmed the prediction by repeating the calculation.” and “The more optimistic the prediction the greater is the probability that it is based on faulty arithmetic or on no arithmetic at all.”

The more rapidly we consume our resources the more self sufficient we will be. In other words by exhausting our resources we will be better off? Said another way the faster we get the oil out of the ground, then better we will be. But that only means the faster we will be out of fossil energy. Common sense?

Part V

Material consumption to the point of resource exhaustion does not equate to the rhetorical suppositions provided to us by business and politicians saying we need growth.

Our economy is riding on the favor of cheap fossil fuels and the abundance of those fuels. Based on supply estimates, peak oil will occur sometime between now and 2030. The cost of oil extraction has gone up recently and that is at least a portion of the price increase with some of these increases based on artificial inflation components courtesy of speculation.

Part VI

Our addiction to Growth

Dr. M. King Hubbert: “The exponential phase of the industrial growth which has dominated human activities during the last couple of centuries is now drawing to a close.” and, “Yet during the last two centuries of unbroken industrial growth, we have evolved what amounts to an exponential-growth culture.”

Winston Churchill

“Sometimes we have to do what is required”

We must educate all of our people to an understanding of the arithmetic and consequences of growth, especially in terms of populations adn in terms of the earth’s finite resources.

We must educate the people to recognize the fact that growth of populations and growth of rates of consumption of resources can not be sustained.

The First Law of Sustainability

“Population growth and/or growth in the rates of consumption of resources CANNONT BE SUSTAINED!”

We must educate people to see the need to examine carefully the allegations of the technological optimists who assure us that science and technology will always solve all of our problems of population growth, food, energy and resources.

Part VII

The average person in the United States consumes 30 times the resources as a person in a third world country.

Dr. Bartlett: “To be successful with this experiment of human life on earth we have to understand the laws of nature as they are encountered in the study of sciences and mathematics.


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