Exponential growth drives resource usage for a very simple reason:

Human population increases exponentially:

At the moment there seems to be very little that can be done about this and hence, this represents our fundamental problem. That is, you can't really stop it, only slow it down and plan accordingly.

Intelligent planning for exponential resource usage is directly related to environmental problem solving as follows:

- All resource usage and/or pollution will
grow exponentially but with different couplings to the population
growth this is extremely relevant to
greenhouse gas emissions
Run the Simulator
- In general, decision making is done at the self-interest level.
With exponential resource usage, such decision making is extremely
destructive. What we need is convergence on the least "bad" option.
## The ability to discern amoung the least bad alternatives is extremely difficult. Politics and pseudo-experts come into play. Science can help, but still the process is quite inexact. The New Carissa accident is a good example of this.

- The self-interest decision making is encouraged because we do
a very bad job at "training" and educating people to look at the data.
We do an even worse job at presenting the raw data for objective
analysis. Instead, we are a nation and community of SPIN doctors.
This causes people to argue from a position of belief rather than
a position of knowledge.

Now, of course, the problem is made worse by the perception that we are all afraid of math and that "formulas" don't apply to real life.

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"Math, formulas and other things that don't apply to real life"
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This again is a recipe for disaster as it means the public can be sold most anything

An example:

A survey of Boulder Colorado residents about the optimal size for growth returned a result that most residents thought that a growth in population at the rate of 10% per year was desirable.

Well 10% a year may not seem innocuous but let's see how these numbers would add up?

- Year 1 60,000
- Year 2 66,000

- year 3 72,600

- Year 4 79860

- Year 5 87846

- Year 6 96630

- year 7 106294

- Year 8 116923

So in 7 years (year 2--7) the population has doubled and by then 10,000 new residents per year are moving to Boulder!

Clearly, Exponential growth, in general, is not understood by the lay public. If exponential use of a resource is not accounted for in planning - disaster can happen.

The difference between linear growth and exponential growth is astonishing.

In this example, one can clearly see that no matter what the growth rate is, exponential growth stars out being in a period of slow growth and then quickly changes over to rapid growth with a characteristic doubling time of

70/n years; n =% growth rate

Its important to recognize that even in the slow growth period, the use of the resource is exponential. If you fail to realize that, you will run out of the resource pretty fast:

Material | Rate | Exhaustion Timescale |
---|---|---|

Aluminum | 6.4% | 2007 -- 2023 |

Coal | 4.1% | 2092 -- 2106 |

Cooper | 4.6% | 2001 -- 2020 |

Petroleum | 3.9% | 1997 -- 2017 |

Silver | 2.7% | 1989 -- 1997 |

Exponential growth means that some quantity grows by a fixed percentage rate from one year to the next. A handy formula for calculating the doubling time for exponential growth is:

## Doubling Time = 70/n years |

where n is the percentage growth rate. Thus, if the growth rate is say 5%, the doubling time would be 14 years.

Try the Salmon Sustainability Applet