Interdependence Day LO28816

From: Heidi and Dan Chay (
Date: 07/10/02

Responding to "Independence Day (US)" LO28783


On July 5, the day after Independence Day in the US, in response to Rick's
post, I also found myself thinking "Interdependence Day" would be more
appropriate. I penned the following notes.

Any quantity that grows at a fixed percentage per year grows

Exponential growth involves:
1) a growing quantity, one that
2) increases its size by a fixed fraction (for example, 2%, or 3%, 5.3%,
3) at a constant time interval (e.g., "per year").

Thus, a sustained growth of "3% per year" is exponential.

It follows mathematically that in any exponential growth situation, the
growing quantity also will double its size (increase by 100%) in a
constant time interval. This time is called "doubling time," (DT).

Doubling time (DT) is easy to estimate. It is approximately equal to 70
divided by the percentage growth per unit time (P): DT = 70/P. The
doubling time of 3% growth per year is slightly more than 23 years. The
doubling time of 5% growth per year is 14 years.

It is important to note that the increase in each doubling is
approximately equal to the sum of all preceding growth. Doublings of
large numbers quickly lead to enormous numbers. For example:







This is why our experience of growth (including both population and
capital production) during the 1900s is not a reliable indicator of our
future, because exponential growth involving physical quantities in our
finite world will never be sustainable. That is, exponential growth of
physical quantities can never be continued indefinitely. In addition, in
an exponential growth situation, experience gives a population little
opportunity to adapt to unprecedented future consequences of past impacts.

They are clichés, the modern capitalist assumptions that we will be able
to continue "growth" and increasing "profits" as we have known them, using
"high technology" and "new discoveries." Reliance on clichés are a sure
sign of not learning. These clichés are founded on two significant
handicaps: 1) people in industrialized capitalist society having grown up
almost exclusively in a climate of increasing abundance, and 2)
unwarranted faith in the cult of economics.

Our modern economist prophets rely hugely on mathematics divorced from
physical reality of the laws of thermodynamics. In my mind, the result is
the economic fallacy of perpetual capitalist growth.

Here is a quick snapshot of the modern experience:

1650 -- global population numbered about .5 billion.
1800 -- global population numbered about 1 billion.
1900 -- global population numbered about 1.6 billion.
1930 -- global population numbered about 2 billion.
1960 -- global population numbered about 3 billion.
1974 -- global population numbered about 4 billion.
1987 -- global population numbered about 5 billion.
1999 -- global population numbered about 6 billion.
2002 -- global population numbers about 6.2 billion.

Study the time intervals for each increase:
150yrs/.5billion (1650-1800);
130yrs/1billion (1800-1930);
30yrs/1billion (1930-1960);
14yrs/1billion (1960-1974);
13yrs/1billion (1974-1987);
12yrs/1billion (1987-1999).

I've seen estimates that it will take 14 years for the global human
population to arrive at 7 billion from 6 billion.

Global human population growth RATE now is beginning to slow although
total population currently CONTINUES to grow by huge numbers, some 75-85
million people per year, mostly in less-developed countries.

The last global population doubling on the chart given above was from 1960
to 1999. In other words, the growth of our global population in the 39
year doubling period from 1960 to 1999 was equal to all the world's growth
in population in the millions of years preceding!

The cumulative impact of this large human population on its environment,
as anyone can see, is unprecedented. The growing impact induces three huge
global, regional, and local challenges: 1) physical, minerals and
energy-in, 2) physical, excrement-out, and 3) social.

There are credible indicators globally, regionally, and locally that all
of these challenges are rapidly increasing: shortages, long-ages, and
tendencies for mass destruction.

"Dieoff" follows from population overshoot of an environment's carrying
capacity -- or from an organization's incapacity to deal constructively
with increasing entropy production. Obviously, it has happened in the

For a large part of my adult life, about 25 years, I made a living
alternately as a bush pilot in Alaska and a commercial fisherman on the
Bering Sea. In those environments doing those activities, there is one
thing that keeps a pilot or skipper alive: scenario planning that includes
every potential "dismal scenario." Planning simply for an optimistic
scenario, or even "business-as-usual" is a sure recipe for disastrous
results. I've lost many friends and acquaintances to "business-as-usual."

I would like to see in this world among those with the free energy to do
so, less "strategic planning" and more "scenario planning." I would like
to see our leaders explore and seek to understand a range of scenarios,
optimistic and pessimistic -- including the "dismal scenario." For a
primer on scenario planning, read "The Art of the Long View," by Peter
Swartz. For a primer on a relatively short-term global "energy in" dismal
scenario that has serious implications by way also of inducing
new/increasing "excrement out" challenges and "tendencies for mass
destruction," read and/or .

If yesterday was "Independence Day," today should be "Interdependence


Dan Chay


"Heidi and Dan Chay" <>

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