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The Stark Truth 
Robert Stark Interviews Professor Albert Bartlett

34:34 / 200 words

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Albert Bartlett is Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder who is an internationally-known and widely-published expert on the economics of sustainability and growth. He is the author of The Essential Exponential and of

Topics discussed:

  • The dynamics of population growth and overpopulation
  • The necessity of addressing population in environmental policies
  • Boulder, Colorado’s tax to buy open lands to take them out of development
  • Sustainable growth as an oxymoron
  • Political motives for increased growth
  • Urban growth always outstrips revenues and promotes debt.
  • Immigration as a cause of population growth
  • Political motives for increasing immigration
  • You cannot sustain a country by importing labor.
  • Population growth dilutes democratic representation.
  • Population growth undermines freedom of action.
  • The necessity of making free family planning world-wide
  • The energy crisis requires addressing population growth.
  • Modern technology does not disprove Malthusianism.
  • Peak oil
  • The limits of alternative energies
  • The necessity of global solutions to environmental and population issues
  • Urban planning defines problem solving as removing impediments to growth which leads to new problems.
  • Bartlett’s “Arithmetic, Population, and Energy


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  1. rhondda
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    At last, some fundamentals. Thank you.

  2. uh
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Excellent, excellent; this is what I love to see. Ultimate thinking — the looming bounds of everything humans have wrought on earth.

    More bodies > less space per body > more friction > more control of how those bodies behave > functional totalitarianism.

    I give the urban planners a pass for denying Malthus: the only logical alternative is to advocate population die-off or active suppression. The growth-cultists have no excuse.

    Mr. Bartlett seems to have the same blind spot, at least publicly, as Garrett Hardin: that non-white populations will abide by an ethic of self-limitation as efficiently as white populations.

    Huge dilemma: the only ‘solution’ is greater urban density or opening up land i.e. contravening ownership law. Urban density will require more energic inputs, etc. Opening up land will be functional totalitarianism and forestall the energic depletion for a few more generations, exacerbating exponentiation.


    Good job finding this guy, Robert.

  3. uh
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Bartlett seems to be as rankled as I am by the insistence of official demographers that population will peak ~2100 at nine-ten billions. What news-recyclers leave out is that that is a low estimate: the high estimate is sixteen billions.

    Yours truly isn’t the only one saying the UN will be proven wrong:

    “Eyeing the future, conservationists have clung to the notion that population will peak and then start to decline later this century. Renowned evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson has propounded what he terms the bottleneck theory: that maximum pressure on the natural world will occur this century as human population peaks, after which a declining human population will supposedly ease that pressure. The goal of conservation is therefore to help as much of nature as possible squeeze through this population bottleneck. But what if there is no bottleneck, but rather a long tunnel where the human species continues to multiply?

    Population projections most often use a pattern of demographic change called the demographic transition. This model is based on the way in which high birth and death rates changed over the centuries in Europe, declining to the low birth and death rates of today. Thus, projections assume that the European experience will be replicated in developing countries. These projections take for granted three key things about fertility in developing countries. First, that it will continue to decline where it has begun to decline, and will begin to decline where it has not. Second, that the decline will be smooth and uninterrupted. And, finally, that it will decline to two children or less per woman.”

  4. Sutton Who?
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Robert, this is an EXCELLENT short interview. In this one and the last, I think I can hear a change in you: you are saying more, not merely asking questions. Has the move to CC helped you find your voice? Again, tremendous work and an upward trend in quality and confidence that bodes well for things to come.

    • uh
      Posted October 3, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

      Agreed. He’s developed his presence, and his choice of interviewees is very keen, eschewing mythologizing bozos in favor of men with real-world perspectives.

  5. Posted October 5, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    This is a problem that will take care of itself. Houses and shopping centers can be disassembled and the materials re-used.

    By the way, I recommend reading James Howard Kunstlers’ World Made by Hand novels. If there’s a breakdown, be the guy who gets a team of workers and take apart abandoned houses and become the local “hardware store.” Muscle out the competition and establish yourself early.

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