How we got where we are?


This overview is assembled by Nick Stanton :

I’ve been trying to figure out how we got where we are - to me there are two main reasons: 

  1. 1.We were lulled into a false sense of security by people who could have known better choosing self interest over the public interest and

  2. 2.We don’t understand the full effect of exponential growth, as in “constant” growth. 

The best source I have found so far that describes how the first happened is by Naomi Oreskes, a scientific historian, in The American Denial of Global Warming.  It is a one hour talk with slides but very thorough, so take it on when you have time to take in a work that long.  For another angle on this watch “The Story of Stuff” and pay close attention to the quote from Victor Lebow.  It astonishing to me that we are still following his suicidal edict.  Google “journal of retailing victor lebow” to see that, based on the number of google hits, we did in fact notice and yet we’re still rushing, like lemmings, towards the cliff!  Except in our case the rush is being led by our “leaders”.

The second is essentially fairly simple but requires clear thinking and attention to detail, so be prepared.  Actually, if you go to the bottom of this page you’ll see a video by Dr. Albert Bartlett.  He treats the subject in great detail so you can get the picture.  You might have to replay all or part of the videos to get the whole story.   

As Dr. Bartlett says, “The Greatest Shortcoming of the Human Race is it’s failure to Understand the Exponential Function.”
The video above is Part one of an eight part series.  
This is the link to part two on youtube.  
There are outcomes from exponential growth described in these videos that some may find disturbing, proceed beyond this page with caution.

The bottom line is that constant growth is inherently unstable,

and it is impossible in a finite system.

And here is a video about that from Dr. Albert Bartlett:

And Benjamin Franklin said:  “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”
I guess we fell asleep but now we can wake up and put out the fire!

Here’s my short version of the exponential function: 

The only new concept you might need to understand my “short form” is the idea of “doubling time”.  It’s the amount of time a constant rate of growth takes to double the amount of the item under consideration. 

Usually, exponential growth is described in terms of the rate of growth and the time period, for example “5% per year” which makes it sound as if the growth will be the same every year.  The only thing that is constant is the percentage rate of growth.   Because of compounding the growth increases exponentially, only the rate is constant.   

So let’s look at an example - inflation.  Over the last 100 years inflation has been relatively constant at around 4%, rising from about 2% in the early 20th century to about 6% in the early 21st century.  Here’s a graph from “The Big Picture” (I added the dark line to indicate the “average”.):

When you look at the cost of living that innocent graph conceals the fact that during those 100 years prices, on average, were doubling every 17 years.

So that an item that cost $1 in 1910 cost $64 in 2000 and now, in 2010, it costs over $100.  AND... that the inflation rate is about 6% the current doubling time is (70/6=12) 12 years, so in 2012 that $1 item will cost $128, in 2024 - $256, in 2036 - $512 and in 2048 - $1024!  It turns out that this is a rule of constant growth - the 10th doubling will be 1000 times the initial amount, the 20th a million times and so on.