100 Million People For Canada ? : Say No To Hell !

100 Million People For Canada ? : Say No To Hell !

Irvin Studin, Assistant Professor in the School of Public Policy and Governance, University of Toronto, has recently acquired national media attention by proposing that Canada increase its population to 100 million. According to reports on his proposal, a population of 100 million will increase Canada's influence in the world. His proposal amounts to national chest-thumping at a time when world population growth is agreed to be a major environmental negative and when world food supplies are decreasing. Mr. Studin and others who agree with him are probably unaware that the former Science Council of Canada published a report on an optimum population for Canada. In it , the Science Council said that a large land base does not mean that a country has the ability to support a large population. The Science Council also stated that if Canada wanted to do good in the world, it could do most good (a) by using its agricultural land to produce food for itself and other countries, (b) by restricting immigration and (c) by stopping the loss of more farmland to immigration-driven housing developments.

Mr. Studin formerly worked for the Privy Council of Canada, a group of civil servants who provide non-partisan advice to the federal government and help it to implement legislation. Before writing his proposal, he should not only have become familiar with the Science Council of Canada report, but also should have read a very thoughtful and well-researched report done in 1991 by his former employer, the Privy Council. For years, that 60-page report was classified as “Confidential–Canadian Eyes Only”, but was obtained in almost complete form in 2000. It looks at the state of the environment in 9 parts of the planet.

Its title : “The Environment: Marriage Between Earth and Mankind” is significant. The word “marriage” was obviously chosen to express a relationship that should be respectful, but has clearly been abusive. In fact, the abuse has created hell for humanity's marriage partner, the partner's other species and its many eco-systems.

Among the Privy Council's more important statements for Mr. Studin (and those who agree with his 100 million suggestion) is the following: “Controlling population growth is crucial to addressing most environmental problems, including global warming.” In fact, it goes on to ask: “Population growth : The underlying cause?”, clearly implying that large populations are the major cause of most environmental problems. Mr. Studin should inhale long on that and on Canada's high immigration policy. The latter has caused our own population to grow significantly since 1990 —for no sensible reason—and precipitated many negative environmental effects.

The report applauds the international agreements that had been reached by that time : ozone-depletion treaties like The Vienna Ozone Convention and The Montreal Protocol ; those on acid rain; and one on banning the importing of hazardous wastes. It says that many more were necessary on such issues as dwindling forests, soil erosion/disappearance of agricultural land, and contamination/temperature increases in the Arctic and Antarctica. More comprehensive ones on acid rain, waste products and toxic substances were needed.

The Privy Council report then switches to looking at nine parts of the planet, starting with Brazil. The spousal abuse theme is continued with the title of this section : “Brazil : Assault on the Amazon”. According to the authors, the world has focused on Brazil because the Amazon is “the only remaining area of tropical rain forest large enough to have a significant stabilizing effect on world climate”. Initially, Brazil treated the Amazon as something to be exploited, but after being embarrassed internationally, it has tried to redeem itself. It co-operated with Argentina on nuclear issues, committed to protect the ozone layer, proposed establishing an Amazon authority with its Amazon Co-Operation Treaty partners and hosted the second UN conference on the Environment. Brazil has done these things partly to acquire “green points” internationally, but also to qualify for international loans which require environmental assessments before projects can proceed. And, like other countries, Brazil has been very sensitive to incursions on its sovereignty.

The EU is the second of the areas the Privy Council looks at. The member states of the EU were also guilty of environmental abuse, but as early as 1972, the member states agreed that environmental policies were important and should be co-ordinated by the EU government. All is still not well, but it has taken many steps within its borders to make itself greener and cleaner. Countries which want to trade with EU members are required to meet EU standards. In general, it has assumed a leadership role internationally.

The title of the section dealing with Africa is telling: “Africa : Environmental Degradation Tightens the Poverty Trap.” Mr. Studin and others like him should note that the Privy Council concluded that high populations caused many of Africa's problems. By 1991, Africa's per capita food production had fallen by 15%. “First and foremost among the factors behind this human tragedy is the high birth rate. Africa's population of 600 million in 1990 was increasing at a rate of 2.7% per annum, the fastest continental rate in the world.” Soil degradation is the single biggest environmental problem in Africa. The areas which are most severely affected are (a) the Sahel which borders the Sahara and (b) the savannah areas of Southern Africa. Deforestation for fuelwood and for agriculture is a major problem. Around 90% of the population uses fuelwood for cooking. The West has two reasons to promote good environmental policies in Africa: (a) to avoid “relief for the latest famine” syndrome and (b) to prevent the negative effect that Africa's environmental degradation has on the global environment. Because of financial constraints, environmental management has not become a major issue of public policy in most African countries. The outlook is bleak.

The authors move on to list a number of problems that climate change will cause in the Arctic. Snowfall at higher elevations on glaciers and icecaps would increase, resulting in a buildup of glaciers and the Greenland Icecap, and, in turn, an increase of 10 to 100 times the number of icebergs. Ice would thin. Boreal forests would diminish. The depth to which the ground would thaw would increase, creating instability for roads, airports and buildings. North-flowing rivers would experience negative effects. A great amount of agricultural chemical waste will continue to find its way into the Arctic. Eventually, this waste finds its way into the fatty tissues of northern wildlife and residents.

The title of the section on the Middle East expresses the intransigence of environmental problems there: “The Middle East: Damned If You Do”. Mr. Studin should take note that the Privy Council again states that large populations and their demands for basic resources such as water are urgent and at the heart of the environmental difficulties there. The Privy Council cites three river basins where competition for water will be intense: the Nile, the Tigris-Euphrates and the Yarmuk. The authors point out that Egypt, with its large population, relies on the Nile.Unfortunately for Egypt, the Nile is fed by rainfall in 8 other countries which want to have more of the Nile's water. Egypt is not alone. Around half “of all land lies within international river basins”, creating the potential for much future international conflict. More efficient use of water will help Egypt, but will not solve its problems entirely. Syria has a similar problem. It receives its water from the Euphrates which is fed by precipitation in Turkey which had plans to build 21 dams on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. For the Yarmuk River, which is a major water source for Syria, Jordan and Israel, the potential of conflict between these countries is high. If Mr. Studin wanted more evidence, the Privy Council says that “A demographic time bomb is ticking in the Middle East.” to predict that its population-growth problems will increase. A further burden is that the area has one of “the harshest climates in the world”. “Even re-inforced concrete corrodes at a rate three to four times faster than in the UK. As a result, Persian Gulf countries face maintenance and reconstruction expenditures totalling billions of dollars…every 20 to 30 years.”

The Privy Council's title for its section on China is dramatic : “China: Environmental Catastrophe”. Once again, Mr. Studin should note that as with most other areas on Earth, the report says that “Underlying China's environmental problems is its large and rapidly growing population” (15.5 million increase per year)–in spite of its successful birth control programme. China's cities are growing far beyond their ability to provide water. By around 2000, “450 of China's 644 cities will have chronic water shortages. The ground waters of Beijing and Tianjin are already exhausted.” China has nearly one-quarter of the world's population, but it is losing farmland at an alarming rate, reducing its ability to feed itself. Deforestation is speeding up the rate of desertification and erosion. Deserts cover one-sixth of the country and are increasing. Floods much more destructive than the 1988 Chiangjiang one are expected to occur. China produces 40 Billion tonnes of solid industrial waste each year, only 20% of which is treated. It depends on coal for 75% of its power generation. This causes enormous air pollution which will escalate because “much of China experiences cold and harsh winters”. The production in the late 1980's of CFC's for refrigerators and the huge population's demand for them will result in even more pollution.

The title of the section on the Indian Subcontinent is equally dramatic : “Economic Development In The Face Of Environmental Disaster”. Once again, Mr. Studin should note a large population's role in a degraded environment : “A large and rapidly growing population is at the heart of the Indian Subcontinent's environmental crisis.” The area has population growth rates of 2 to 3% per year, almost a guarantee of perpetual poverty for hundreds of millions. Government efforts to raise standards of living (from per capita income of $300 US per year around 1990) have failed to integrate conservation with development projects. This has worsened environmental problems. Deforestation continues, causing desertification and flooding. Deforestation in Pakistan has been compounded by 3 million Afghan refugees and their needs for fuelwood and rangeland. The subcontinent's growing population resulted in increased demand for foodgrains which in turn led to deforestation and the use of High Yielding Varieties of seeds, developed during the “Green Revolution”. These depended on large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides which have decreased soil fertility and contaminated water supplies. None of the countries in the Subcontinent had signed the ozone treaties. The area is earthquake-prone. This threatens large-scale projects which have displaced many people. Corruption is common. Most Subcontinent countries now recognize the importance of environmental protection legislation, but implementation varies. International lending institutions are exerting pressure for proper environmental assessments. “Projects which promote grassroots co-operation, which show sensitivity to sociological and physical conditions, and the clear definition of benefits to locals are more successful.” Regional so-operation between Subcontinent nations has not occurred because “India obstructs regional solutions.” It refuses to deal multilaterally because it does not want to give up its veto over many projects.

The last two sections deal with Eastern Europe and Russia. The report focuses on the legacy of communism and its emphasis on heavy industry, the large amounts of energy used, and the widespread pollution it caused. Wind and water carried Eastern Europe's pollution to its neighbours. “The worst culprit in Eastern Europe's pollution problems is its main fuel source, coal.” Access to financial aid has convinced most Eastern European countries to sign treaties that restrict pollution. The negative effects of pollution are significant on life expectancy and child health in most of these countries. A decline in heavy industry will probably help everyone, but Eastern Europe will probably come to depend more and more on nuclear energy.

A number of late 1980's events such as the Chernobyl disaster caused the former Soviet Union to look more closely at its environmental policies. “…scientists have estimated that 16% of the country's territory suffers from critical or catastrophic ecological problems.” More than half of all its major rivers are polluted to the maximum allowable under Soviet standards. The air over 107 Soviet cities had harmful substances 10 times greater than allowable. Nickel smelters in the Kola Peninsula have destroyed hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest. The health of citizens has been severely affected in many areas. The effects of two of the most serious disasters, the Chernobyl explosion and the desiccation of the Aral Sea, will be felt for years. Public opinion has caused politicians to take much more notice of environmental issues. Arguments for the sanctity of the economy (in the economy versus the environment debate) are no longer dominating the agenda. Conflicts similar to those between the provinces and Ottawa have grown in Russia. The military has been a powerful force in Russia, but their power is lessening as demonstrated in three events: a proposal to build a huge radar facility was cancelled; a proposal to destroy chemical weapons at one major plant has been stopped ; a plan to continue nuclear testing has been weakened. Lack of financial resources, pressure to increase production, and the threat of an energy crisis may result in environmental issues being sidelined.

The Privy Council does not look at most of the Americas, or at Australia and its neighbours, but obviously population reduction or stabilization would do wonders for them, Eastern Europe, Russia and any areas not mentioned.

Professor Studin should eat some humble pie and do his homework.

100 Million People For Canada ? Say No To Hell !!