The exponential function is a very surprising (and potentially dangerous) thing. An exponential growth curve looks like this:
Steady for ages, then – whoosh! It means that huge changes happen very quickly.
Here’s a question to show you what we mean.
Q: A pond has one leaf of duckweed on it. Every day, the number of leaves doubles, until after exactly one year, the entire pond is covered in duckweed. How long did it take for the duckweed to cover half the pond?
Here’s the answer. Were you close?
Now here’s the scary thing. Any percentage growth at all is exponential and will go ‘whoosh’ in time. Things are beginning to go ‘whoosh’ for humans. Here’s the curve for extinctions of species on this planet:
We’re entering a mass extinction event. If it doesn’t stop, there will be a point where so many species are lost, that the network of species won’t hold together any more, and there will be ecological collapse. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for humans to survive ecological collapse – we rely on it too much. Plus there’s bound to be radioactivity around as well, knowing humans.
Exponential growth in human activity is causing the exponential growth in extinctions. Here’s the curve for global per capita GDP growth:
And here’s the curve for global population growth up to the year 2000:
But – the global birth rate is falling. Here’s the curve for projected population growth:
The population curve is flattening, and who knows, with a bit of luck it might start to fall at some point – let the planet take a breather for a while. The same has to happen for the economic curve. See here for why.
It will be difficult. Interest is at the heart of our economic system, and compound interest causes exponential growth – so we need a new system. Ultimate power today is economic, not political. Power is corporate, and corporations don’t want to talk about a new system, because this one has made them rich and powerful. It’s sociopathic. But only a tiny minority of us are sociopaths. Most of us are quite nice, really. It’s just that sociopaths took power a long time ago, and we haven’t been able to get it back yet.
As an individual, there are things that you can do. Here, we have 200 different ideas that you can incorporate into your life that will help. Some are easier than others.
Also as an individual, you can decide where the truth lies – in the corporate media, in conspiracy theories or somewhere in between. For that you need to think critically.
That’s as far as we can go as individuals. To change the system, we need to come together to have open discussions about what’s best for all of us.
The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's