Al Bartlett (Arithmetic, Population and Energy, on YouTube)

Compiled by Jane Jackson in August 2013.


Many of Al Bartlett’s articles, presentations, and interviews are at


*  Dr. Al  Bartlett has given his lecture, “Arithmetic, Population and Energy”, over 1,600 times.

*  Al Bartlett's work led to Paul Hewitt's discussion in his Conceptual Physics textbook.

*  Mark Schober, a Modeling Workshop leader in New York, adapted it for the energy unit in Modeling Instruction:

*  Some physics teachers, notably Cory Waxman at Bioscience High School in Phoenix, have their students watch and then discuss the 8 10-minute videos of “Arithmetic, Population, and Energy” on YouTube at

* Dr. Bartlett’s article, “The Meaning of Sustainability”, was an invited talk at the AAPT Meeting in August 2011.  You can download it at or directly at

*  Reprints of Prof. Bartlett's papers are in the book, "The Essential Exponential! For the Future of Our Planet."  You can order it at his website: .

* David Hestenes includes Al Bartlett’s work in the ASU summer graduate course for high school teachers, PHS 540: Integrated Math & Physics.



I excerpt this post by Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University, to an AERA listserv on July 25, 2013.  (Dick Hake did research on the Force Concept Inventory (FCI), and he popularized the normalized gain for the FCI.) 


In a disturbing discussion-list post on 23 Jul 2013 titled "My Cancer" Al Bartlett (2013a) <> wrote: "In 2008 I had six months of chemotherapy for a non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.  It has remained dormant until now.  A PET scan shows it has exploded and now I have many cancers in many places.  The doctors gave me 30 days, plus or minus."


Some discussion-list subscribers may not be aware of one of Al Bartlett's latest attempts to emphasize the crucial but under-appreciated importance of *overpopulation*. In his pungent "Population Press" letter "Close the Fire Department!" [bracketed by lines "BBBBBB. . . . . "] Al wrote:



In February of 2013 I attended the annual meeting of the American Association for the advancement of Science (AAAS). . . . . . . . . . Many symposia at the AAAS meeting seemed to be devoted to or related to the vital topic of sustainability. This interest in sustainability is understandable because it's clear that if humans can't make a transition to real sustainability then we as a society, face a very grim future.  The importance of "limits" and "sustainable living" was projected in the book "Limits to Growth" as early as 1972 . . . . . . .[["The Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome's Project on the Predicament of Mankind"(Meadows et al., 1972)]]. . . . . . . .The idea that there might be limits was rarely mentioned in the AAAS symposia even though real sustainability implies a society that depends solely on solar energy with no dependence on finite reserves of fossil fuels.


I attended as many of these symposia as I could and was struck by the common threads.  A frequent preface to these discussions was the fact that projections show that world population will continue its growth and increase by another two or three billion people by mid-century. For most speakers this projected population growth was taken as a given. To most of the speakers  it seemed to follow then that  our society has only to meet the food, water and resource challenge that this growth presents. . . . . . . . . . . . .




In the discussion period following one symposium I asked one of the panelists why the obvious benefits of reducing our present overpopulation were never mentioned.  One of the panelists responded with a "picture perfect" recitation of the standard answer that is so often given to annoying inquiries such as mine. With a smile and with suitable restraint, the respondent patiently explained that the United Nations figures show that the growth rate of world population is declining and world population growth is expected to stop on its own later in the century. So the population is under control and there is no need to worry ourselves about it at this time.


I responded by inviting the panelist to come with me to City Hall where we would seek to convince the city government that the city does not need a Fire Department.  It is an established fact that, if left to itself, all fires, residential, industrial or in the forest, will ultimately go out. Why rush to put out fires if all fires will ultimately go out on their own?


There was no response. In the meantime we fiddle while Rome continues to burn.



The editor of "Population Press" tells me that Al Bartlett's letter will be online at <> within a week, i.e. on or before 01 August 2013. Some previous Bartlett contributions to "Population Press" are at <> - see also Bartlett's website < for an extensive collection of his articles, presentations, and interviews.


[Four quotes by A.A. Bartlett]


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


" 'Sustainable growth' is an oxymoron."


"Smart growth destroys the environment. Dumb growth destroys the environment. The only difference is that 'smart growth' does it with good taste. It's like booking passage on the Titanic. Whether you go first-class or steerage, the result is the same."


"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?"


REFERENCE:  Bartlett, A.A. 2013a. "My Cancer," online on the CLOSED! Physoc archives at <>. Post of 23 Jul 2013 08:21:09-0600 to Physoc.  To access the archives of PHYSOC one needs to subscribe by clicking on <> and then clicking on "Subscribe or Unsubscribe" in the right-hand column.  If you're busy, then subscribe using the "NOMAIL" option under "Miscellaneous." Then, as a subscriber, you may access the archives and/or post messages at any time, while receiving NO MAIL from the list!