Friday, May 03, 2013


Exponential Curve Momentum and Global Threats

The exponential curve (a math idea) and its implications are important ideas to teach across all content areas. Small amounts of accumulation over long enough periods of time can have radical impact, as the evolution of digital thinking and digital tools (Trends) of the digital palette constantly remind us.

I had recently shared a quote from a book I had just finished reading about the race between our depletion of natural resources and our rate of innovation, a book published this year, 2013, and just last month in April. Naturally the data supporting the author’s points will be based on data from some earlier point in time. Here’s an example, “Before the industrial revolution, CO2 made up 280 parts per million in the atmosphere. In November 2011 it stood at around 390 parts per million (or ppm).” [Naam, Ramez (2013-04-09). The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet (Kindle Locations 1118-1119). UPNE. Kindle Edition.”]

In checking the morning weather forecast, May 3, I was stunned to see this story at based on sensors in the Pacific,, in which the field of science is reporting that Recently, carbon dioxide levels above 400 ppm have been recorded, but those are only hourly averages. The total used for records is the daily average, which climbed as high as 399.72 ppm last week, according to a Guardian report. In Hawaii, the Mauna Loa station that measures carbon dioxide levels every day is distant enough from large cities that it is a reliable area for studying the air. When the observatory began taking measurements in 1958, carbon dioxide levels were at 316 ppm.”

Last night, May 10, MSNBC news reported that planet Earth had pushed past 400 ppm. In the time from when the author could find reliable data to cite for his book to the time it was published and reached me, CO2 levels have risen 10 ppm. The acceleration of melting ice will continue to accelerate rising sea levels.

Now on to the physics of exponential curves. When you have accelerating momentum in your car but then slam on the brakes, the car still keeps on moving. Depending on how able you are in keeping your foot on the brakes, the distance is still considerable. But if you don’t see the problem and have your gas pedal pressed to the floor (our current situation with CO2 production), you can count on a major problem coming with some pigs in the road around the bend, if you make it around the bend.

Those that you teach will, in their lifetimes, need to build teams that use the composition tools of the digital palette to communicate about and solve such problems. Significant developments on the digital palette occur every few months. So, we know our capability and our rate of innovation is high. But is our national team effort (a social studies issue) focused on our significant global problems?

I have two grandchildren born in November of last year. Teachers will need to help put them on a trajectory where they and their classmates can solve some significant issues. Let me give you just a tiny example of the social implications that are visible today.

“In the United States, nearly all of New Orleans, and large chunks of Miami, Tampa, Virginia Beach, and New York City are three feet above sea level or less. London, Bangkok, Tijuana, Lima, Buenos Aires, and Rio de Janeiro all have large chunks below three feet above sea level. On present course and speed, a child born this year is likely to live to see the day when some of those cities are just memories.”  [Naam, Ramez (2013-04-09). The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet.]

The French Quarter, the heart of New Orleans life, where I stayed for a conference in March of 2013, along with much of New Orleans, will be gone without any hurricane needed to force water ashore.

And yet, the author, Naam, and I, believe that we can recognize the pigs in the road in time to do something about them, if we begin to act now to set incentives in place for encouraging innovation and a mindset to put on the brakes. We’ll need more authors communicating eloquently (language arts) in a wide range of media to convince others to find those brakes.

Naam’s book and its ideas for solutions to this problem and to a wide range of other pressing problems are an easy read that I hope you might get through soon, using the Kindle reader, or the Kindle software on your smart phone, touch tablet or laptop (or maybe even paper)! If you have a passion for actually solving real problems, encourage students to participate in Quest 2 Matter and explore the Choose2Matter site.

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