Arithmetic, population and energy (Albert Bartlett)

Professor Al Bartlett begins his one-hour talk with the statement, “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” He then gives a basic introduction to the arithmetic of steady growth, including an explanation of the concept of doubling time. He explains the impact of unending steady growth on the population of Boulder, of Colorado, and of the world. He then examines the consequences steady growth in a finite environment and observes this growth as applied to fossil fuel consumption, the lifetimes of which are much shorter than the optimistic figures most often quoted. See also: Legend of the chessboard (IBM’s Mathematics Peepshow).


Industrial Ecology (Intelecom)

A documentary showing a chain of factories in Denmark that use waste from one industry as raw material for another (industrial ecology/symbiosis). The concept of Industrial Ecology has been criticised on the following issues:


Natural Capitalism (Amory Lovins)

An interview with Amory Lovins on the concept of Natural Capitalism. It has received the following critiques:

Waste equals food (Michael Braungart & William McDonough)

A documentary on the Cradle to Cradle (C2C) design concept of Michael Braungart and William McDonough. It present ideas about how to ‘close’ cycles in our production/consumption systems. They have received the following critiques:

Moving Forward (Zeitgeist)

Video clip on ‘intrinsic obsolescence’. See also Pyramids of Waste (Cosima Dannoritzer) on ‘planned obsolescence’.

Common arguments against the idea of intrinsic obsolescence:

  1. You won’t build a table using the best materials (just strong enough, with best materials you can afford, with the time you have).
  2. Consumers decide how long they want things to last, some consumers decide they want to buy a cheap watch that won’t last as long.
  1. Cost efficiency mechanism is ignored. Regardless of your intent, you can’t produce the best quality from an environmental perspective in the market system.
  2. For some products (disposable bags and cups) the inferior quality is clear, this is what you buy. Is there a strategic need for a cheap watch? What about the resources and waste?


Civil society, fragmentation and the role of universities (Manfred Max-Neef)

Manfred Max-Neef is a Chilean economist who focussed on ‘development alternatives’. After teaching economics at Berkeley in the 1960s, he served as a Visiting Professor at a number of US and Latin American universities. He has worked on development projects in Latin America for the Pan-American Union, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Labour Office. In 1981 he wrote the book for which he is best known, ‘From the Outside Looking In: Experiences in Barefoot Economics’, published by the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, Sweden. It is concerned with practising ‘economics as if people matter’ among the poor in South America. In the same year he set up in Chile the organisation CEPAUR (Centre for Development Alternatives). He was Rector of the Universidad Austral de Chile in Valdivia and currently teaches and lectures globally. He received the Right Livelihood Award in 1983.

The cat chasing its tail (Me)

There is evidence that economic growth in the last 50 years is positively correlated with:
– increasing inequity (based on UN and World Bank data)
– environmental degradation (based on Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center data)
Is attempting to solve these problems through further growth like the cat chasing and biting its own tail?