Saturday, September 1, 2012

Exponential Growth

A scary passage from Jian Leng's Editor's Notes in the current issue of The Figure in the Carpet:

Human population shows a nearly perfect trend of exponential growth. And perhaps that concept is the key to understanding the danger of climate degradation, expanding human population, our growing need for more energy sources, and the demand for ever-increasing food production. It was not until I came across a quote by economist Chris Martenson that I understood the impact of exponential growth in human populations. Martenson notes that exponential growth is a complicated idea best understood by imagining the following scenario. Imagine someone drags you into Yankee Stadium and handcuffs you to the top bleacher row. You must also imagine that Yankee Stadium is watertight. Off in the distance down on the field you see someone with an eyedropper and that person drops one drop of water. Then imagine that amount doubling in the next minute and in every minute that follows. How long before the water gets up to your level and you drown? Only fifty minutes. But that short time period is not the most amazing thing. The most amazing thing is that the stadium is still 93% empty at 45 minutes. It is only in the last 5 minutes that the exponential growth kicks in, where the danger begins to overwhelm you and you are pulling frantically at the handcuffs on your wrists.

So it is with the dangers inherent in the Anthropocene Epoch. Are we in the last five minutes of the exponential growth of carbon dioxide buildup and climate change, the last five minutes of population growth and insufficient food production, the last five minutes of those fossil fuels we know so well and love to hate? I do not know the answers, but the questions are beginning to keep me up at night.

1 comment:

Steve Simmons said...

Reminds me of the Eames film: