Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

Special guest lecture: 'Is a sustainable global economy possible?'

By Malcolm Potts

Chris Martenson

Like every university, UC Berkeley is home to an intellectual chasm that makes the Grand Canyon look like Strawberry Creek. Classical economists teach a world where economic growth is sacred, perpetual and always good. Those in the life sciences and some physical sciences, such as energy and astronomy, understand that our world is small and finite. Faculty and students often worry about the way human activity and human numbers are degrading the fragile biosphere on which all life depends.

Chris Martenson

I suspect we often overlook the intellectual divide because the life sciences and classical economists, like most of us, rarely have reason to cross it. One person who has is Chris Martenson, who is speaking on "Is A Sustainable Global Economy Possible?" on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2-3:30 p.m. in 150 University Hall.

Chris has a Ph.D. in infectious diseases, but followed it with a business degree. He rose to be a senior manager in a Fortune 300 company. He was a typical "one percenter" -- a large house, several autos, and a boat. Perhaps because of his biological background, he knew economies cannot grow forever. He saw the housing bubble before most economists. He preserved his investments and he changed his life. A smaller house. Less conspicuous consumption and waste.

Chris founded Peak Prosperity and wrote The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future of Our Economy, Energy, and Environment , a book I am using a lot in a new undergrad course that Federico Castillo, from the College of Natural Resources, and I are developing. The lecture on Sept. 3 will also be the formal launch of the new course.

book cover We call the new course "Survival 101: Taking control of your Future." Berkeley has world-class faculty in energy, climate, agriculture, population, gender equity, peace and conflict and much else. These experts will present a one -our lecture on problems such as loss of biodiversity or global warming. Student teams will summarize the perspectives they have put together in discussion groups following the previous week's lecture. In a sentence, my generation has done a pretty good job screwing up the world; can the next generation suggest ways to a more sustainable, equitable, and  peaceful world?

My goal is to make Survival 101 a partnership between students and faculty. I ran a pilot course this Spring and we plan a bigger course in 2016. As Survival 101 grows, I want it to transition to a DeCal course, like the large, popular and magnificently successful  PH116 (last count 702 students) where I have the privilege to be the instructor of record.

We welcome students from the widest possible range of majors such as Integrative Biology, Goldman School, MCB, Haas, Blum Center, Engineering, Physics, Mathematics and, of course, School of Public Health and College of Natural Resources.

Oh, I almost forgot: to ensure a sustainable world, there will be refreshments after Chris Martenson's lecture. Please come.