A Note from the Editor - Fall 2005

By Wayne Lutton
Volume 16, Number 1 (Fall 2005)
Issue theme: "Numbers, population and energy: Professor Albert Bartlett's public education campaign"

Numbers Count

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

This is how Albert Bartlett, Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, opens his popular lecture, "Arithmetic, Population, and Energy." Professor Bartlett first delivered a talk on this topic September 19, 1966. Over the past 36 years, he has given the continuously updated lecture 1500 times or more in 48 states, Canada, and overseas, to audiences including high school students, university graduate students, community groups, scientific assemblies, and Congressional staffers. Over a thousand copies of the video of his lecture have been sold by the University of Colorado's Department of Information Technology Services (303-492-1857)

In this issue of The Social Contract we are pleased to highlight the work of Professor Bartlett, who has been trying to educate the public about the arithmetic of steady growth, showing what population growth means in Boulder, in the state of Colorado, and to the world. He has long been a critic of the popular worship of economic growth and has focused attention to the impact of unending population expansion in a world of finite resources, especially petroleum and coal.

In addition to his efforts to heighten public awareness of numeracy, Professor Bartlett has been writing on the real meaning of "sustainability" a popular term he feels is widely misused. The editors and publisher wish to thank Dr. Paul Nachman for conducting the interview of Professor Bartlett included in this issue.

A Threat to the Republic...

Apologists for mass immigration are always warning of the dangers of a labor shortage, whether farm laborers, nurses, nannies, or high tech workers. When Congress was debating whether to extend immigration restrictions in 1923, Augustine Davis, president of Davis Automatic Equipment Corporation, noted the critical need for "more of the domestic class" of immigrants, warning that

The mothers in our own country generally find it next to impossible to obtain the aid necessary to care for their families properly.

The extreme difficulty in securing such assistance results in imperfect home sanitation, neglect of children, ill health and despondency in overworked mothers, unsatisfactory food preparation, lessens desire for home ownership, discourages marriage, increases unhealthy hotel and boarding-house life, tends to the disruption of families, leads to divorce, and is no small factor in "race suicide," all of which has a most detrimental effect on the morals and progress of our people.

Despite this alarm, both Houses of Congress passed and President Coolidge signed into law the 1924 Immigration Act, which limited legal immigration to 168,000 annually. Would that we had people of like wisdom in office today.

About the author

Wayne Lutton, Ph.D. is editor of The Social Contract