He presented it over 1,600 times around the world. While the
world ignored his and many other top scientists in the world, other top experts join the
chorus such as Richard Heinberg, Dr. William Catton, Jared Diamond, William
Ryerson, Dave Paxson, Aldolpho Doring, Dr. Diana Hull and Amanda Zackem.
With all the environmental degradation swirling around the USA and
the planet, wouldn’t you think our leaders and common citizens would connect
the dots? Unfortunately, no one wants to connect the dots, and in fact,
they avoid connecting anything to human overpopulation—at any cost. That
emotional-religious-cultural phenomenon cannot continue much longer as
consequences build beyond ignoring and/or solution.
“Can you think of any problem in any area of
human endeavor on any scale, from microscopic to global, whose long-term
solution is in any demonstrable way aided, assisted, or advanced by further
increases of population, locally, nationally, or globally.” Dr. Albert
In this 12 part series, you will appreciate America’s accelerating
population, energy, water and resource predicament as few others in this
country. The goal: educate enough Americans to force the population issue
onto the front page of the media. As you know, America expects an added
100 million people within 25 years. That number cannot be sustained in
our country where water shortages already manifest in six states. It cannot be
sustained as to food production. That 100 million cannot begin to allow
quality of life for all citizens of America. Thankfully, we can
change course and move toward a sustainable future for all living creatures on
this finite planet.
“REFLECTIONS ON SUSTAINABILITY,
POPULATION GROWTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT” by Albert Bartlett.
I publish this interview with permission from my friend, Dr. Al Bartlett. Dr. Bartlett attempts to educate Americans with his simple
related terms, "sustainable" and "sustainability" have
become popular and are used to describe a wide variety of activities which are
generally ecologically laudable,” said Bartlett. “At the same time, the term
"compromise" is heard more frequently because the needs of the
environment often are in conflict with the needs of humans. A brief examination
of the question of compromise shows that a series of ten compromises, each of
which saves 70% of the remaining environment, results in the saving of only 3%
of the environment. Judging from the ways in which the terms
"sustainable" and "sustainability" are used, their
definitions are not very precise, especially when compromises are involved.
attempt is made here to give firm definition to these terms and to translate
the definition into a series of laws and hypotheses which, it is hoped, will
clarify the implications of their use. These are followed by a series of
observations and predictions that relate to "sustainability."
1980s it became apparent to thoughtful individuals that populations, poverty,
environmental degradation, and resource shortages were increasing at a rate
that could not long be continued,” said Bartlett. “Perhaps most prominent among
the publications that identified these problems in hard quantitative terms and
then provided extrapolations into the future as well as recommendations for
corrective actions, was the book Limits to Growth (Meadows,
et.al., 1972) which simultaneously evoked admiration and consternation. The
consternation came from traditional "Growth is Good" groups all over
rush to rebuttal was immediate and urgent, prompted perhaps by the thought that
the message of Limits was too terrible to be true. (Cole, et.al, 1973) As the
message of Limits faded, the concept of limits became an increasing reality
with which people had to deal. Perhaps, as an attempt to offset or deflect the
message of Limits, the word "sustainable" began to appear as an
adjective that modified common terms. It was drawn from the concept of
"sustained yield" which had been used to describe agriculture and
forestry when these enterprises were conducted in such a way that they could be
continued indefinitely, i.e., they could be sustained.
"The use of the term
"sustainable" provided comfort and reassurance to those who may momentarily
have wondered if possibly there were limits. So the word was soon applied in
many areas, and with less precise meaning, so that for example,
"development" became "sustainable development," etc. One
would see political leaders using the term "sustainable" to describe
their goals as they worked hard to create more jobs, to increase population,
and to increase rates of consumption of energy and resources. These terms seem
to have been redefined flexibly to suit a variety of objectives and conveniences.
“A sincere concern for the future is certainly the factor that motivates many
who make frequent use of the word, "sustainable." But there are cases
where one suspects that the word is used carelessly, perhaps as though the
belief existed that the use of the adjective "sustainable" is all
that is needed to create a sustainable society.
"Sustainability" has become big-time. University centers and
professional organizations have sprung up using the word
"Sustainable" as a prominent part of their names. In some cases,
these may be illustrative of what might be called the "Willie Sutton
school of research management." (Sutton)
"For example, a governor recently
appointed a state advisory committee on global warming. The charge to the
committee was not to see what the state could do to reduce its contribution to
global warming, but rather the committee was to work to attract to the state,
companies and research grants dealing with the topic of global warming.
“For many years, studies had been conducted on ways of improving the efficiency
with which energy is used in our society. These studies have been given new
luster by referring to them now as studies in the "sustainable use of
In the extreme case, one reads about "sustainable growth."
discussions have centered around the factors that will determine [a] level of
sustainable growth of agricultural production." (Abelson, 1990)
accept the idea that "sustainable" means for long indefinite periods
of time, then we can see that "sustainable growth" implies
"increasing endlessly," which means that the growing quantity will
tend to become infinite in size. The finite size of resources, ecosystems, the
environment, and the Earth lead one to recognize that the term "sustainable
growth" is an oxymoron.
"Yet the term is used by our leaders. In a recent
report from the Environmental Protection Agency we read that “President
Clinton and Vice President Gore wrote in Putting People First, "We will
renew America's commitment to leave our children a better nation - - a nation
whose air, water, and land are unspoiled, whose natural beauty is undimmed, and
whose leadership for sustainable global growth is unsurpassed." (EPA,
we have a spectrum of uses of the term "sustainable." At one end of
the spectrum, the term is used with precision by people who are introducing new
concepts as a consequence of thinking profoundly about the long-term future of
the human race. In the middle of the spectrum, the term is simply added as a
modifier to the names and titles of very beneficial studies in efficiency, etc.
that have been in progress for years.
"Near the other end of the spectrum, the
term is used as a placebo. In some cases the term may be used mindlessly (or
possibly with the intent to deceive) in order to try to shed a favorable light
on continuing activities that may or may not be capable of continuing for long
periods of time. At the very far end of the spectrum, we see the term used in a
way that is internally contradictory.
“This wide spectrum of meanings is a source of confusion because people can
ask, "Just exactly what is meant when the word 'sustainable' is
used?" Is the use of the word "sustainable" sufficient to
identify the user as one who is widely literate, numerate, and ecolate, in matters
relating to the long-range problems of the human race?
“Let us examine the use of the term "sustainable" in one of the major
global reports to see if we can gain a better idea of the intended meaning of