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{{TheFWD header}}{{DISPLAYTITLE:85. Collapsarithmetic - Chris Malins}}
 
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The exponential function is one of the basic building blocks of modern mathematics. In principle to understand it requires only the most basic arithmetic – if something is exponentially growing in time, it increases by a set factor every year. Tale a simple example – a species of bacteria that reproduces so that, unrestrained, its numbers double every minute. This is an exponentially growing population.  
 
The exponential function is one of the basic building blocks of modern mathematics. In principle to understand it requires only the most basic arithmetic – if something is exponentially growing in time, it increases by a set factor every year. Tale a simple example – a species of bacteria that reproduces so that, unrestrained, its numbers double every minute. This is an exponentially growing population.  
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If we were using nuclear power instead of solar, we’d never reach this point – in less than 300 years we’d be releasing so much energy we’d be causing global warming ''without needing the greenhouse effect''. In 500 years the average summer daytime temperature would be tending towards boiling point.  
 
If we were using nuclear power instead of solar, we’d never reach this point – in less than 300 years we’d be releasing so much energy we’d be causing global warming ''without needing the greenhouse effect''. In 500 years the average summer daytime temperature would be tending towards boiling point.  
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Clearly these scenarios cannot happen – natural limitations will kick in first. And that is the point – the social philosophy of growth, the idea that sustained 3% GDP growth (or growth in the use of any resource) could continue is absurd - economies built on this premise must fail. Nevertheless, this arithmetically ill-informed expectation is dominant – we rely on constant growth to afford services, pay pensions, stave off unemployment and so on.  
 
Clearly these scenarios cannot happen – natural limitations will kick in first. And that is the point – the social philosophy of growth, the idea that sustained 3% GDP growth (or growth in the use of any resource) could continue is absurd - economies built on this premise must fail. Nevertheless, this arithmetically ill-informed expectation is dominant – we rely on constant growth to afford services, pay pensions, stave off unemployment and so on.  
    
We need to get growth under control – population growth, energy growth, fertiliser use growth, water use growth. And we need an economy where no growth is ok, where zero annual GDP growth doesn’t mean a collapse in the standard of living. Any other long-term economic vision is absurd – because it’s past one minute to midnight, and I think I’m getting uncomfortably close to the top of the bottle.
 
We need to get growth under control – population growth, energy growth, fertiliser use growth, water use growth. And we need an economy where no growth is ok, where zero annual GDP growth doesn’t mean a collapse in the standard of living. Any other long-term economic vision is absurd – because it’s past one minute to midnight, and I think I’m getting uncomfortably close to the top of the bottle.
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