'To Boldly Grow' is the third of five sequences from the film
Tomorrow' (34m), presented here by itself as a single work.
TBG works as a stand-alone, because it focuses on the central problem raised by
TNT: the impossibility of infinite growth on a finite planet (such a statement
should not be controversial, but for a great many people today, it is
Some time after the release of TNT in 2012, an interesting pattern emerged: many
viewers replied with comments about alternative energy of some form, as though
this was the focus of the film - and as if this would solve the plethora of
problems. This response was typical:
X being anything from Solar PV, Thorium, Solar Thermal, Fusion (hot or cold) or
some variety of technofix whizbang. These viewers had fallen asleep before the
third sequence began, or had stopped paying attention. Many of the advocates of
alt.energy panaceas (the Thorium people being particularly shrill) failed to
notice that TNT gives them their alt.energy! It happens at this point:
The movie waves a magic wand and covers the planet with every energy source you
can imagine. There's even a map with all the alt.energies deployed on it. For
reasons best known to cognitive psychologists, the 'Whatabout' viewers did not
'see' this part of the film.
Maybe it's because the film doesn't show the transition as being easy? At no
point does it say that the transition is impossible ... merely extremely
difficult. This statement should not be controversial, but for Growth worshipers
it is Blasphemy.
A large proportion of the audience by this point in the film had 'complexed out'
and/or tuned out. They reacted to the content emotionally, not analytically -
and in many cases, didn't even 'see' the content at all! (Freudian censorship).
An attentive viewer would have seen that the peaking of oil is a symptom of a
disease (GROWTH), not the disease itself. This is made perfectly clear in TNT,
A source of infinite energy would not invalidate the message of this short film:
a finite planet has finite water, finite soil, finite metals, finite air, finite
phosphorous, finite potassium...and at some point on an exponential growth path,
a limit or bottleneck is reached ... whether we talk about it or not, and
whether we like it or not.
Most of the content of 'To Boldly Grow' is taken from the well known lecture
'Arithmetic, Population and Energy', given by the late Prof. Al Bartlett. Al's
lecture is available in full
Regarding the inability of many viewers to get the point of the film (whether
they agree with it or not) - we live in an age of increasingly short attention
spans - and in a stressful and frightening world, it becomes harder to think
calmly. The emotional tone of TNT (and TBG) was deliberately kept as cool and
unemotional as possible, the content being unsettling enough.
Recent studies suggest that the brain
can't empathize and analyze
at the same time (emotion shutting down reason). This might explain why
perfectly intelligent people are able to watch a 34 minute film, and not see the
most important 7-8 minutes of it.
Some final notes:
Towards the end of TNT the word 'Collapse' is used. This word has so many
meanings to different people that it's almost worthless, and I'm sorry it was
used. I don't expect 'Collapse' to be a descent into Mad Max - I don't expect
cannibal overlords to send us marching into salt mines either.
Those of you caught up in Millenarian visions of fast crash hell-scapes should
take some time to read J.M. Greer's blog, which is an antidote to
such crypto-religious ideas:
I regret using the original title 'There's No Tomorrow'; it has been
misinterpreted as nihilistic; it is not. It's a call to action: there is no
tomorrow, only this moment, so stop procrastinating! I am not a supporter of the
'Inevitable Extinction' movement. The Syrian poet al ma'arri, writing
almost 1000 years ago in 'The Luzumiyat':
For this I say. Be watchful of the Cage
Of chance; it opes alike to fool and sage;
Spy on the moment, for to-morrow'll
Like yesterday, an obliterated page.
Yea, kiss the rosy cheeks of new-born Day,
And hail eternity in every ray
Forming a halo round its infant head.
Illumining thy labyrinthine way.