Bartlett’s Laws of Sustainablity

Bartlett‘s “[21] Laws of Sustainability” 

First Law: Population growth and / or growth in the rates of consumption of resources cannot be sustained.

Second: In a society with a growing population and / or growing rates of consumption of resources, the larger the population, and / or the larger the rates of consumption of resources, the more difficult it will be make society sustainable.

Third: The response time of populations to changes in the human fertility rate is the average length of a human life, or approximately 70 years.

Fourth: The size of population that can be sustained (the carrying capacity) and the standard of living of the population, are inversely related to one another.

Fifth: One cannot sustain a world in which some regions have high standards of living while others have low standards of living.

Sixth: All countries cannot simultaneously be net importers of carrying capacity.

Seventh: A society that has to import people to do its daily work is not sustainable.

Eighth: Sustainability requires that the size of the population be less than or equal to the carrying capacity of the ecosystem for the desired standard of living.

Ninth: The benefits of population growth and of growth in the rates of consumption of resources accrue to a few; the costs of population growth and growth in the rates of consumption of resources are borne by all of society.

Tenth: Growth in the rate of consumption of a non-renewable resource, such as a fossil fuel, causes a dramatic decrease in the life-expectancy of the resource.

Eleventh: The time of expiration of non-renewable resources can be postponed, possibly for a very long time

Twelfth: Improvements the efficiency with which resources are used, are easily and completely wiped out by the added resources that are consumed as a consequence of modest increases in population.

Thirteenth: Large efforts to preserve the environment are easily cancelled by the added demands on the environment from small increases in human population.

Fourteenth: When rates of pollution exceed the natural cleansing capacity of the environment, it is easier to pollute than it is to clean up the environment.

Fifteenth: The chief cause of problems is solutions.

Sixteenth: Humans will always be dependent on agriculture.

Seventeenth: If humans fail to stop population growth and growth in the rates of consumption of resources, Nature will stop these growths.

Eighteenth: In local situations within the U.S., creating jobs increases the number of people locally who are out of work.

Nineteenth: Starving people don’t care about sustainability.

Twentieth Law: The addition of the word “sustainable” to our reports, programs, and papers, the names of our academic institutes and research programs, and community initiatives, will not ensure that our society becomes sustainable.

Twenty-First Law: Extinction is forever.

[see also Bartlett, A (2006) Arithmetic, Population and Energy – “The  most important Video You Will Ever Watch” – a stunning lecture on the nature of exponential growth by an old Emeritus Professor, University of Colorado]


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