Albert Allen Bartlett

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For the electrical engineer, see Albert Charles Bartlett.
Albert A. Bartlett Los Alamos wartime security badge (c. 1944)

Albert Allen Bartlett (born March 21, 1923 in Shanghai,[1] died September 7, 2013 in Boulder, Colorado)[2] was an emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder, USA. As of July 2001 Professor Bartlett had lectured over 1,742 times since September, 1969 on Arithmetic, Population, and Energy.[3][4] Bartlett regarded the word combination "sustainable growth" as an oxymoron, since even modest annual percentage population increases will inevitably equate to huge exponential growth over sustained periods of time. He therefore regarded human overpopulation as "The Greatest Challenge" facing humanity.

Career[edit]

Bartlett received a B.A. in physics at Colgate University (1944), and an A.M. (1948) and Ph.D. (1951) in physics at Harvard University. Bartlett joined the faculty at the University of Colorado at Boulder in September 1950. In 1978 he was national president of the American Association of Physics Teachers. He was a fellow of the American Physical Society and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1969 and 1970 he served two terms as the elected chair of the four-campus faculty council at the university. He won the Robert A. Millikan award.[5]

Views on population growth[edit]

Thomas Malthus, pioneer of the study of demographics.
Human population curve showing the power of exponential growth
Chart showing change in oil prices since the 19th century. The top curve is inflation-adjusted
World population from 1800 to 2100, based on UN 2004 projections[6] (red, orange, green) and US Census Bureau historical estimates[7] (black).

Professor Bartlett often explained how sustainable growth is a contradiction. His view was based on the fact that a modest percentage growth can equate to huge escalations over relatively short periods of time.[8]

Bartlett argued that, over time, compound growth can yield enormous increases. For example, an investor earning a constant annual 7% return on their investment would find their capital doubling within 10 years. But the same exponential power, so advantageous to patient investors, may be potentially calamitous when applied to human population. A population of 10,000 individuals, if it were to grow at a constant rate of 7% per annum, would reach a population size of 10 million after 100 years.[9]

Bartlett regarded overpopulation as "The Greatest Challenge" facing humanity, and promoted sustainable living. He opposed the cornucopian school of thought (as advocated by people such as Julian Lincoln Simon), and referred to it as "The New Flat Earth Society"[10]

J. B. Calvert (1999) has proposed that Bartlett's law[11] will result in the exhaustion of petrochemical resources due to the exponential growth of the world population (in line with the Malthusian Growth Model).

Bartlett made two notable statements relating to sustainability:

"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function."

and his Great Challenge:

"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 in population, locally, nationally, or globally?"

Personal[edit]

Dr Bartlett passed away September 7, 2013. He was preceded in death by his wife, Eleanor, and is survived by their four daughters—Carol, Jane, Lois and Nancy.[5]

Books[edit]

Influence and Legacy[edit]

Bartlett's work has been highly influential. As one example, his work on exponential growth and population is referred to in depth in the Crash Course created by Chris Martenson and his organisation Peak Prosperity.[13]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Albert A. Bartlett Collection - GLMS 103 Retrieved July 2011
  2. ^ "Al Bartlett, retired CU-Boulder professor, dies at age 90 - Boulder Daily Camera". Dailycamera.com. Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  3. ^ Fred Elbel - Elbel Consulting Services, LLC. "Arithmetic, Population and Energy — a talk by Al Bartlett, Retrieved July 2011". Albartlett.org. Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  4. ^ Albert A. Bartlett (1994). Arithmetic, Population, and Energy (The Forgotten Fundamentals of the Energy Crisis). Academic Media Services, University of Colorado. Retrieved December 16, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "CU-Boulder campus mourns death of longtime, celebrated professor Al Bartlett". 9 Sep 2013. 
  6. ^ "World Population to 2300". United Nations. 2004. 
  7. ^ "International Programs - People and Households - U.S. Census Bureau". Census.gov. Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  8. ^ "Arithmetic, Population & Energy, Part I, at youtube, Retrieved July 2011". Youtube.com. 2007-06-16. Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  9. ^ Clark, Susan (2005-01-25). "Professor talks at an exponential rate, Energy Bulletin article by Todd Neff. Retrieved July 2011". Energybulletin.net. Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  10. ^ "Bartlett at hubberpeak.com, Retrieved July 2011". Hubbertpeak.com. Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  11. ^ "Bartlett". Du.edu. Retrieved July 2011. 
  12. ^ Fred Elbel - Elbel Consulting Services, LLC. (2001-07-01). "More information and how to order, Retrieved July 2011". Albartlett.org. Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  13. ^ "Crash Course". YouTube. Peak Prosperity. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]