Population and Environment

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 503–522 | Cite as

World Energy Production, Population Growth, and the Road to the Olduvai Gorge

  • Richard C. Duncan


The Olduvai theory is defined by the ratio of world energy production and population. It states that the life expectancy of Industrial Civilization is less than or equal to 100 years: 1930–2030. After more than a century of strong growth—energy production per capita peaked in 1979. The Olduvai theory explains the 1979 peak and the subsequent decline. Moreover, it says that energy production per capita will fall to its 1930 value by 2030, thus giving Industrial Civilization a lifetime of less than or equal to 100 years. This analysis predicts that the collapse will be strongly correlated with an ‘epidemic’ of permanent blackouts of high-voltage electric power networks—worldwide.

Olduvai theory energy population Industrial Civilization overshoot electricity collapse 


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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard C. Duncan
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute on Energy and ManSeattle

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