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The folly of exponential growth – Lionel Anet

The subject of the interview with Guy McPherson is what I have feared for the last two decades. Although many people know what exponential growth is, they don’t understand its practical implications, or have simply ignored it. It is incredible to get so close to our demise with so few of us being aware of it. That ignorance is due to an education that’s geared to a faulty competitive economy, where one must be highly focused and specialised to win. People therefore don’t see the combination of a multitude of factors that can escalate a progression in an exponential way, and that way leads to our extermination.

Water lily

French children are told a story in which they imagine having a pond with water lily leaves floating on the surface. The lily population doubles in size every day and if left unchecked will smother the pond in 30 days, killing all the other living things in the water. Day after day the plant seems small and so it is decided to leave it to grow until it half-covers the pond, before cutting it back. They are then asked on what day half-coverage will occur. This is revealed to be the 29th day, and then there will be just one day to save the pond. (From Meadows et al. 1972)

Estimates for how much time we have left are more uncertain due to many factors. The main and obvious one is the time lag due to the inertia that water has in changing its temperature. This gives us a faulty sense of security, as the increase due to heat trapping chemicals in the atmosphere may remain and be active for centuries. So we need to consider the effect of adding more of those chemicals, we must imagining what the planet might be like in a century. This means we are actually increasing the heat trapping on top of that high temperature. A sure way we can kill life without appearing to do so.

This video gives a vivid account of what to expect if we continue to burn fossil fuels.

Lionel Anet is a NSW member of ERA


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