“Arithmetic, population and energy” by Dr Albert A Bartlett

This is one of those videos I keep coming back to. Each time I watch it, I find that it’s easier to understand.

Greg Craven (of manpollo.org and gregcraven.org) uploaded the playlist of all eight short videos comprising in total 1 hour and 15 minutes. Possibly the most illuminating hour and a quarter of anybody’s life — certainly of mine. It inspired me to write ‘ten doublings‘ a couple of years ago.

My recommendation: don’t think about it, go watch it (even if that means watching it again). As Greg says:

“This needs to be required listening for every person on the planet. Nothing else will matter if we don’t understand this.”

I’m intrigued by the ‘watched’ totals shown in the playlist. As at today’s date, these read as follows for each part:Graph of views of the 8 parts of Arithmetic, population and energy documentary

  1. 2,652,091
  2. 0,710,034
  3. 0,527,704
  4. 0,433,272
  5. 0,181,444
  6. 0,310,453
  7. 0,307,805
  8. 0,420,410

Questions, questions… 1) Does the >2.5 million views for part one represent (roughly) that number of unique viewers? 2) If so: how to get more people to watch more than just the first part? 3) What is it that causes that dip in the middle? 4) Why are humans so weird?

[update 23Apr2013]

Thanks and a hat tip to uknowispeaksense for pointing out that the full lecture is available in one chunk.


[update 04Jun2014]

Hmm… the ‘one chunk’ video that uknowispeaksense offered me last year seems to have gone missing. But, serendipitously, Learning from Dogs introduced me to TDF today — and lo, and behold: listed in their ‘highest rated’ section is another one-chunk copy of Arithmetic, Population and Energy by Dr Albert Bartlett.


About peNdantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
This entry was posted in ... wait, what?, Business, Capitalism, Climate, Communication, Core thought, Culture, Economics, Education, Energy, Environment, GCD: Global climate disruption, Health, People, Phlyarology, Science, Strategy, Water and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to “Arithmetic, population and energy” by Dr Albert A Bartlett

  1. Pingback: Risk Creep + Peak Oil = Big Trouble | Wibble

  2. Pingback: Peer pressure and the blind spot | Wibble

  3. Having posted stuff on youtube the viewing figures make sense. We switch on – switch off it we don’t become interested or jump forward or go to the last few minutes for the conclusion. If only all the world’s information was in twitter format: we could all be experts.


  4. Martin Lack says:

    I see that Jules has got here first! I thought I understood the exponential function but, when Bartlett starts deconstructing the statement “at current levels of output we have enough coal to last 500 years…” (i.e. in video #4), things really start to get interesting…


    • pendantry says:

      I see that Jules has got here first!
      I wasn’t aware there was a race. If there is, you’re both two years late ;)

      You’re right that it gets interesting; but I feel that quote needs qualifying, to point out that the most important part of it is the (wholly incorrect) assumption of ‘current levels of output‘. Now, anyone who watches the full lecture will (should) appreciate this point, since Professor Bartlett makes it well; but I wouldn’t want those people who won’t watch it to go away from here with misleading twitter-fodder perpetuating a dangerous myth.


    • One thing that is not covered by video 4 [and do watch it all] is the best goes first. US coal in the last decade has increased in tonnage production but the energy content has remained the same -all coal is not equal- so they are mining the low energy stuff yet the price per ton has quadrupled in the same period. So get your heads round that- mining has doubled in output- halved in energy- and quadrupled in price.

      Peak Coal looks quite different from a black swan point of view.


  5. As for the video I have seen it and it is pretty amazing stuff yet blindingly obvious, it did stimulate me to do so practical research. I’m doing the complete planning and building of a supergreen home although it will be a retrofit [unfortunately of grade2 listed building which means most of it will be hush hush]- So the biggest question is how much should be spent to economical and green?

    Lots of things need doing and are budgeted for like a new roof, new floors, new wiring- the list goes on. So following the principles in the video I looked at 2 time periods 10 years and 25 years- the kind of things for gas boilers or solar. And here is the math.

    The average UK house spends £1400 on energy/ pa
    average means a house above band D- this house is band G and is currently on oil.
    over 10 years and with the current high level of fuel inflation [7% which is higher than the current average inflation of 3%- and that energy prices have doubled in 7 years and look to be even more rapid in coming years]- total expenditure over 10 years would be £24,000 for the average household.

    Over 25 years [and at today’s prices] the total expense is $150,000- with annual bills 10 times of those today [at todays prices]

    It would be impossible to have a ‘passive house’ designed to German standards in a retrofit but there are two things which are good. Microgeneration and building work [like a new roof] needs to be done.

    A solar PV system could yield half of the average electricity bill with an out lay of £5-8K now and with cheap insulation as part of the rebuild I’m looking to reduce consumption by 2/3rds.

    A new heating system [gas] and a little insulation = £10,000 but still spending around £20,000 in fuel over 10 years

    A green system with solar thermal- PV- insulation and heat exchanger. using electric floor, a wood burning stove etc.
    £15,000 + £0 fuel costs

    and over 25 years – the life time of solar pv/thermal the savings are around £100,000 or more and the PV will contribute money back to the house..

    All because of a video of a lecture from a decade ago.



    • pendantry says:

      A few of your numbers (and units) threw me, but I get the gist that you’re thinking the way that (I think) more people should :) I recently bought ‘Permaculture’ by David Holmgren, and am working my way through that book. I think he covers some of the things you’re talking about…


      • I hit the $ and not the £- but when I did the math of 7% inflation on £1400 and then added year 1 to year 2 to year 3- in that compound way that no one ever seems to do when they get a mortgage all the way up to 25 years it all gets a bit much.

        But in easy terms £1400 for average energy bills now will be ten times more in 25 years times. Look at beer- 25 years ago it was 30p and is now £3.00


  6. “The time will come when diligent research over long periods will bring to light things which now lie hidden. A single lifetime, even though entirely devoted to the sky, would not be enough for the investigation of so vast a subject… And so this knowledge will be unfolded only through long successive ages. There will come a time when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them… Many discoveries are reserved for ages still to come, when memory of us will have been effaced. Our universe is a sorry little affair unless it has in it something for every age to investigate… Nature does not reveal her mysteries once and for all.”
    ― Seneca


    • pendantry says:

      “There will come a time when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them…”

      I would like to think that this would apply well into the future, too. I think it’s our belief in our almighty supremacy that leads us to the precipice. Perhaps this explains why we can’t find any other signs of intelligent life in the universe even though planets possible of bearing life appear to be more common than once thought: it’s ultimately self-destructive.

      (NASA discovered a ‘nearth’ — my made-up word for earthlike, ‘near Earth’ — in late 2013 just 500 light years away).


  7. Pingback: Arithmetic, Population and Energy | Lack of Environment

  8. Pingback: If I ruled the world | Wibble

  9. msjadeli says:

    Reblogged this on Tao Talk and commented:
    MUST WATCH if you want to understand the numbers of where we are with energy and population.

    Liked by 1 person

I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s