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Some more about Bartlett, and perhaps on to Martenson

April 9, 2009

Continuing my last post: there's a magic thing about doubling time, which in the tale of the emperor and his chess board is represented by hopping from square to square. Which is that it's really easy to calculate how much time it takes for something to double, if you know its growth percentage per year.

Logarithms aside, the rule of thumb is this: divide 70 by percentage of growth per year to know how many years it takes for a given quantity to double.

For example: if something grows one percent per year, its doubling time measured in years is 70 divided by one, which is 70 years. In 140 years, it will be four times as much. In 210 years, eight times as much. And so on. Other example: if something grows two percent per year, its doubling time is 70 divided by two, so 35 years. In 70 years the amount is a fourfold of the initial value. In 105 years its eight times as large. In 140 years: 16 times. In 205 years: 32 as much.

You may have become bored by this second example, but think again! A seemingly slight difference between one and two percent growth per year means a huge difference in numbers after just about 205 years!

This pattern is not complex. It is really, really simple. But it has some very ´complex´ consequences if you consider population, energy, food, and environmental effects.

The primary reason for these complex consequences is that growth of population, and of energy and food consumption, and of the environmental effects of all of these, take place on and in a world – our earth - that's limited. That, in my opinion, is the fundamental flaw of all growth ´philosophies´ which have dominated corporate and governmental thinking for so long. Growth as preached is not sustainable, and to understand that you don´t need a degree, just elementary school math.

Next time I´ll discuss Martenson´s views about our money system, and how it ties in to growth. Well, I'll make a start.

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