Sustaining Future

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Growth and Substainability

I was watching a video by Dr. Albert A. Bartlett, Professor Emeritus made in 1994. It seems to me that the message Prof Bartlett gave 13 years ago has gone unnoticed.

There are a few messages that strike me as so simple and wonder why we cannot understand.

1. We have been and are still, overly concerned about growth - which in fact will lead to the inevitable exhaustion of natural resources.

2. A bit of mathematics to help understand this. Roughly, the "doubling" time of any growth can be calculated by this formula 70/growth%. So, if the rate of growth is 7% per year, the quantity will double in about 10 years. That is if the world's population growth is 2.2%, we can expect the world population to double in 32 years. Assuming our average life span to be 70 years, we shall see the world population multiply by 4.

3. So is the rate of consumption. The current estimate is that world energy consumption will growth by 2.6%, which I believe is an under-estimation. (Population is growing at 2.2% already! What about the better living standard?) Energy consumption will double in 27 years.

4. Natural resources such as oil and coal are finite resources. How long do we have when we realised that we are running out of such resources before exhaustion of the resource? Suppose we have already used up almost half of ALL the world reserve in oil and coal, then we have about 27 years before exhaustion if we continue with the current rate of growth. That's 2034! How many countries are prepared to switch to completely renewable energy by 2034? Not much, I suppose.

[You may argue with the numbers such as the growth rate, the percentage we have already consumed, but the story is the same. The big question is "Is the human race prepared for energy shortage within our next 80 years - about the life span of our children?"]

Those with better source of the numbers, please leave your numbers in the comment (together with source please). Please also calculate how long before exhaustion we still have.

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