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.”
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.