Arithmetic and global vision

This past couple of weeks I have been researching alternative currencies but I will save that topic for another post, when I have done more research. However the subject of today’s blog is a video I found on YouTube, which I highly recommend.

The title of it is Arithmetic, Population and Energy. On YouTube, its title is ‘The Most Important Video You Will Ever See’ but the person who put it on YouTube admits that he changed the name to get more attention. It’s a taped lecture by a professor emeritus of Physics at the Univ of Colorado-Boulder. I should note here that if I had not come across it accidentally, the way I did, I would probably not have paid any attention to it. I don’t see myself as being very good at physics but I found the lecture to be very well organized, extremely compelling and entirely understandable for someone like me with no physics background.

Essentially, he is saying that most of us don’t really appreciate what it means when we say that we would like to have X% growth a year. For instance, 7% growth a year, which doesn’t sound like very much at all, means that a population of 100,000 will have doubled in 10 years to 200,000, and then doubled again in another ten years to 400,000.

If that doesn’t sound too bad, think in terms of larger numbers… start with a large metropolitan area with a population of 1.5 million, conservative by world standards and with a 7% growth rate, doubling in ten years to 3 million, and then in another ten years to 6 million.

A ten-to-twenty-year projection is not an unreasonable planning horizon for urban planners and they are often the ones trying to get city governments to pay attention to what they see looming in the city’s future. Imagine a city such as I’ve just described, with an already groaning infrastructure, becoming a massive metropolis within 20 years and by then with a seriously inadequate infrastructure. The video’s professor explains how the math works, in a way that even I can follow, and then goes on to extrapolate what this means in terms of our current population projections and energy challenges.

I found that he explained, clearly and succinctly, what I have intuited for a very long time and not had the math skills to explain – specifically that we are heading into a global crisis for which we are unprepared. Our global population growth is simply unsustainable, as is our growing requirement for energy and the current lack of resources.

You might think that a topic such as this would be depressing but I didn’t find it so. For me it was both sobering and validating. I have always believed that if we could only see clearly what the problems are, we could set about using our collective creativity, intelligence and ingenuity do something about them. There is certainly enough talent on the planet to tackle whatever we determine to work on, the most pressing of which could be that we collectively have our heads in the sand about what we’re doing to the planet and therefore our selves.

I watched President Obama’s speech to Congress on Tuesday evening and was relieved to hear what he had to say about how egregious their/our historical short-term economic outlook has been. His comments were very much in keeping with what I saw on the video I’m recommending.

The more we can share videos such as this around, and let people come to their own conclusions about how this could inform our day-to-day behaviour, the more we can get on with finding collaborative solutions, from every sector of the economy, every profession and in every country of the world.

Isn’t it odd that, at the same time as it seems as though our economy is going to hell in a hand basket, there are so many people doing such positive and inspiring work?

Make some popcorn because the video comes in 8 sections! I’d love to hear your feedback.

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