ConsumerismEconomicsFood ShortagesPeak OilPopulation

The Mathematics that Contemporary Economics Ignores

With all the talk of a new carbon economy and dreams of new sources of energy so we can continue with our contemporary understanding of human ‘progress’ – continual economic growth – I wonder if a few facts may be getting overlooked. You might not have time to watch these clips in one sitting, but do bookmark it so you can come back and watch them through.

Here we have Dr. Albert Bartlett, Professor Emeritus of the Department of Physics, University of Boulder Colorado talking about Peak Oil and Population Growth from a mathematics perspective. Essentially, Limited Resources + Exponential Growth = Only a Matter of Time. As he says, it’s not rocket science, but nevertheless the consequences of these simple calculations are being almost universally ignored in our consumer-oriented economy – and by the politicians and industry that run them.

The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. – Dr. Albert Bartlett

Warning: Dry Sense of Humour Alert!

Part I

Part II


Part III


Part IV


Part V


Part VI


Part VII




  1. This is brilliant Craig, thanks for putting it here. I came across this youtube six months ago and I have been using the milk bottle story to really hit home for people about the seriousness of the growth culture we are trapped in. One interesting conversation I had was with a 17 year old science student, I asked him what he thought would happen at 12 o’clock when the bacteria run out of room, he said “they will simultaneously kill each other and starve to death”. That milk bottle sounds like somewhere we know, doesnt it?

  2. Yay! I was introduced to Dr. Bartlett’s video by my permaculture teacher. I use parts 1 and 5 in a presentation for university freshmen on sustainability. I think I need to add some more unpacking after showing the videos – It’s pretty mindblowing and I can’t really tell if the students get it or not.

    My only beef is that I would love a version with updated statistics. I’m currently working on replacing the video with slides of my own when I present.

  3. Absolutely brilliant! Finally someone with clout and saying what I have been saying for years. I kept saying to people – take an orange and start sticking cloves into it. What happens when there is no more space… Yep pretty simple math. I’ve been called crazy and the best comment “don’t worry about it…it will sort itself out” Yes it will and what will that be…?

    No one species should dominate the planet. To me it is like a large jigsaw puzzle and every piece has it role to play – understood or not! As soon as it is out of balance – problems arrise not neccessarily to be solved – but to alert us to the imbalance! Thank you for having these videos available :)

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