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Al Bartlett Week – In Remembrance

A Week-Long Marathon of All Things Al Bartlett

Al Bartlett left this Earth on September 7, 2013. If you had asked him, I’m afraid he would have said he didn’t leave it better than he found it. Still, Al made a big difference in this world.

BartlettWeek In the Fall of 2005 I filmed the very first interview for my documentary, GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth. I sat down with Al Bartlett, professor emeritus of physics, in a cluttered office the size of a janitor’s closet, and began a conversation I never wanted to end. He must have had another appointment, because 78 questions later I was trudging back across the University of Colorado campus with my video gear slung across shoulders and back.

The minute I acquired my first high-definition video camera, specifically to film GrowthBusters, my first act was to schedule that interview. Al Bartlett was no spring chicken, and it would be a crime if I didn’t get that interview because I dawdled. He turned out to be amazingly resilient, and lived another 9 years. I was lucky and honored to count him as a colleague in the true sustainability movement for that time. I dedicated the GrowthBusters documentary to the great physics professor with a knack for hitting the nail on the head

Al Bartlett devoted much of his life to an heroic effort to protect his community, the state of Colorado, and the planet for future generations. He put his energy into addressing demographic, mathematical and scientific illiteracy. That failing has kept us from pulling the plug on a growth-obsessed system slowly killing our environment and quality of life. Al had the uncanny ability to detect nonsense and call it out with a style that was blunt, yet charming and inoffensive. It was simply factual.

Al Bartlett and Dave Gardner I visited with the professor at his home in Boulder twelve days before he passed. He was bedridden and expecting cancer to wrap up his life any day. He looked surprisingly good – definitely gaunt, but otherwise bright-eyed, alert and energetic. As he autographed a few GrowthBusters posters to offer as perks in my Conversation Earth crowdfunding campaign, I asked if he was ready, at 90, to retire his overhead projector and ride off into the sunset. I was a little surprised at his answer: “I wish I had more time.” This wasn’t a selfish desire to spend another day drinking whiskey or eating bon bons; he knew his work wasn’t finished. He talked about the world he was leaving for his grandchildren and great-grandkids. And he talked about a proposal in Boulder to raid open-space funding. There was work yet to be done.

But on September 7 it was time for Al Bartlett to retire from saving the planet and civilization. He leaves behind books, essays, letters and videos that will carry on even though he is now resting. To honor and remember Al, we at GrowthBusters thought it would be grand to have a marathon of Bartlett words and stories. So we’ve declared this Al Bartlett week. Every day this week we’ll post clips from that lengthy interview (I was able to include way too little of it in the film). We’ll also post links to some of his writing. Whether it was smart growth or unabashed growth profiteering, Al took them on. We’ll share his best efforts all week.

We encourage his many followers to jump in. Please feel free to post your stories and remembrances. This will be a week-long, round-the-clock, global, virtual wake. We’re doing it in two places, at the Al Bartlett Week event page on facebook, and (for those who avoid facebook) here at my GrowthBusters blog. Look for multiple posts daily.

To participate and avoid missing out, subscribe to this blog, join the event page, and/or follow us on Twitter. Add your comments. I look forward to reading and sharing your thoughts throughout the week!

Here’s to Al Bartlett.

Dave Gardner
Filmmaker & GrowthBuster

Dave Gardner directed the documentary, GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth. He blogs at and is a founder and contributor to

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