Its a no brainer: population must stop growing soon.
By Mark OConnor
Posted on ABC
Then click on Opinion.
August 18, 2010
David Attenborough remarks in his last documentary How Many People Can Live On Planet Earth? I've never seen a problem that wouldn't be easier to solve with fewer people, or harder, and ultimately impossible, with more.
Everyone knows that in a finite world you cant keep on growing forever or at least, as Kenneth Boulding famously said, everyone but a madman or an economist.
Mind you, that would be unfair to many economists today. But 30 years ago most economics departments taught their students that a nations economy, and also its population, need know no limits. Market forces would provide! If any important resource ran short, well its price would go up, causing people to produce more of it or else find a substitute.
Thus Colin Clarke claimed it would be easy for the world to grow 50 times as much food; and Julian Simon claimed that since there was no limit to the number of oil wells that might be drilled, the worlds oil supply was non finite. The book Overloading Australia gives many such examples. Many of our current leading bureaucrats, politicians, demographers, and business leaders absorbed this pernicious doctrine.
Even eleven years ago, when oil hit $10 a barrel, The Economist assured its readers the price must soon return to $5. Instead it climbed to $100. The Pentagon now predicts it will reach $200, destroying many business plans, and threatening Australias agriculture which depends on fertilisers made from oil.
Australias oil supply, recklessly used and sold off by growth-obsessed governments, will be gone by 2020, according to the Third Inter-generational Report.
The problem is not just ideology but greed. Property investors and developers make a fortune out of population growth. Some have literally billions of dollars to gain if an increase in population pushes up house prices. Even though houses are now so expensive that both spouses have to work, they are not content. Under Australian law they are able to make donations to both major parties who, since they need this money for their campaign chests, dare not cross the big end of town.
Not content with this, vested interests ventriloquize through a bewildering range of institutes, foundations, task forces, committees for etc. Claims, by these fronts or lobbies, that population growth is essential are constantly reported by the media as responsible opinion. Little wonder that former Canberra Times editor Crispin Hull describes Australias population growth as a scam that enriches the few and impoverishes the many.
Yet myths abound, dinned into peoples heads by repetitive ventriloquising. These include:
That Australias population growth rate (currently 2% a year) and its immigration rate are normal, so that anyone criticising it must have some odd or racist agenda. Not so. 2% is six or more times the typical rate of advanced countries, and beyond even most developing countries. And our per capita immigration rate is even more extreme.
That Australia is a vast country and would be selfish not to take in the excess populations of other lands. Not so. Australia is largely desert; and deserts even in the worlds most populated countries like India and China are largely unpopulated.
That most immigrants are refugees. And that Australia, by being so generous to immigrants, has become a sort of designated nation of immigrants. No, it is a sovereign nation. And refugees are a tiny fraction of our intake.
That we suffer a terrible shortage of labor, and that high immigration follows of its own accord as an inevitable result. No. We have high unemployment, at 5%. There is no shortage of labor, just an unwillingness by employers to pay the market price of labor, which should include training young workers to replace those who retire.
Sadly in all of this, few politicians or journalists give a thought for other species, which lose their homes and lives daily as our bull-necked civilisation expands over them.
Mark OConnor (website www.australianpoet.com ) entered the population movement as an ally of fellow poet and environmentalist Judith Wright. He is the author of 16 books of poetry and co-author of the book which Dick Smith says started the current debate: Overloading Australia: How governments and media dither and deny on population.
Mark is a founding member of the Stable Population Party of Australia and is standing, together with William Bourke, in the 2010 Senate elections for NSW as Senate Group T.