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Japan: Walking and talking disaster: Andrew McLeod on ABC News Breakfast

China has sent in 30 extra aeroplanes to bring its people home and France is doing likewise, but at this time when immigrants are fleeing Japan like proverbial rats, Committee of Melbourne "Disaster Management Expert," Andrew McLeod, recommends that Japan actively boost its population and economic growth by importing masses of 'skilled workers'. Reinsurers have been warning people for years that the impact of disasters rises in line with population numbers, density and complexity of infrastructure. Andrew McLeod, however, tries to turn this upside down. At the end of this article we present another view, "Sustainable Japan," from a writer living in Japan, inland about 20 km from Sendai.

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China has sent in 30 extra aeroplanes to bring its people home and France is doing likewise, but at this time when immigrants are fleeing Japan like proverbial rats, Committee of Melbourne "Disaster Management Expert," Andrew McLeod, recommends that Japan actively boost its population and economic growth by importing masses of 'skilled workers'.

Population Numbers and natural disasters

Reinsurers have been warning people for years that the impact of disasters rises in line with population numbers, density and complexity of infrastructure. Andrew McLeod, however, tries to turn this upside down.

Listening to Andrew's interview on ABC News Breakfast, March 15th, 2011, you could be excused for thinking that Japan's relatively low birth-rate and slowly unbloating population were the cause of the earthquake and the Tsunamis. With the Japanese themselves fleeing Tokyo for fear of radiation, it seemed odd that Andrew didn't even mention the looming cloud of radiation dust as reactors explode and cores heat up and rods in dry cooling ponds start to fuse, but then, he's mixed up with the growth lobby in Australia, and they sure don't want to talk about anything embarassing to do with nuclear reactors. That's because nuclear reactors are all part of the growth lobby deal, which says, "We must have population growth" on the one hand and, "We have to have nuclear power because of all this population growth." Of course 'we' could simply allow our populations to decline, but then we might get by without nuclear power, and that would disappoint certain investors seeking to diversify their assets. See "Bernard Salt on the Population Debate, "Nuclear power, totalitarian spin and overpopulation in Australia," "Normalising endless immigration and coupling it to nuclear power in Oz," "Ziggy Switkowski, Population Numbers and Nuclear in the Australian," and, "Scanlon report underpins threat to Australian democracy"


"The idea that nuclear capacity will double between 2011 and 2035 is now regarded as absurd. Even China has called a halt to its nuclear program to appease community concern about a reactor problem that may deliver radiation to China." Source: Chanticleer, "Fossil fuels ride the big wave back," Australian Financial Review, 18 March 2011, p.60.

[Of course Chanticleer doesn't mean that there will be more fossil fuel available; he means that the cost of fossil fuel will rise as we try to spread round what is left in the absence of some past and projected nuclear power plants and any other important new source of fuel. Not good news for the growth lobby.]

Walking and talking disaster

On Andrew's bio you will find that he describes himself as the recipient of awards associated with development projects in poor countries hit by disasters. Perhaps it is his natural modesty, but on ABC News Breakfast he didn't mention one of his greatest disasters - Melbourne. Melbourne is a disaster because of overpopulation, after receiving the same kind of treatment that Andrew is recommending for Japan - mass immigration. Indeed, who better to be CEO of the Committee for Melbourne than an ex-senior advisor on disaster management for the United Nations to manage Melbourne's growth-lobby-engineered disaster? Reading his bio further, you get the impression that Andrew is mixed up in the construction business somehow and that he may even be involved in international migration management, with his extreme focus on population growth and property development and from the kinds of 'boards' he is on, mostly of the identikit marketing corporate 'leadership' type. These boards include:

- The Committee for Melbourne
- The Conversation Interim Board (Committee of Melbourne)
- The UN Global Compact Cities Program Advisory Council, urban development, including big private water projects in poor countries. (Note that the UN describes "The United Nations Global Compact" as "a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption." And, "UN procurement: The United Nations buys everything it uses: from paper clips to dams; from emergency food to clean water. It buys training services and uses consultants involved in every facet of sustainable development. The UN and its agencies spend $US30 billion a year on helping the world to help itself. The United Nations Association of Australia offers Australian companies advice and information in tapping into this market. This services is available from the Victorian Division of UNAA.")
- The ADC Future Summit Advisory Board
- The People.Productivity.Planet Advisory Board, which seems to be run by a marketing organisation, Wellmark Perspexa.

You may care to read the following ABC interview transcript of the video and ask yourself why Andrew would be invited to address national radio on the subject of Japan's catastrophic situation.

Andrew McLeod on the Effects of Japan's Disasters, ABC News Breakfast, March 15th, 2011

The videoed interview begins with Trioli observing that Japan "is a very different situation when it comes to a disaster of this kind, because it is a highly skilled, well-developed country, with an educated, sophisticated population, and also it's accustomed to dealing with earthquakes."

McLeod sees in this as a "different resilience equation." He says that there is "higher collective resilience in developed economies, but that their "individual resilience is much lower." "In the developing world people are used to not having food and water in regular supply every day, but in a developed economy, "when you take away those basic substances, electricity, water, food, individual resilience is really struggling."

[This last remark seems to suggest that people feel hunger and cold more in developed countries than people do in undeveloped countries. It doesn't make much sense, since people everywhere cannot do without basic daily necessities, such as food and water.

A better way of putting it could be that 'developing countries' (as opposed to complexly urbanised countries) have localised self-sufficient economies so that disaster in one area doesn't knock half the country out and people are often able to get what they need from the next village or relatives. In a 'developed country with complex infrastructure, hardly anyone produces food themselves and it isn't feasible to leave the city and look for food in the country, because the food is stored in depots and requires road transport; you wouldn't know where to look and transport costs a fortune, even if you can leave your job. That's if you still have a job, which is also not such a problem in 'undeveloped countries' with local self-sufficiency and a lesser reliance on money.]

Male Interviewer: "Based on what you've seen, how is the recovery effort unfolding in japan?"

McLeod indicates that the biggest problem he sees is the scale of clearing away the rubble in an "environmentally sensitive way".

Trioli agrees that that is "the real challenge."

McLeod, "What we did in Pakistan was to fill in a number of valleys and make them into cricket grounds." [The more one hears of Andrew the more one wonders what his definition of 'environment' and 'sensitive' is.]

Male Interveiwer: "How much of a problem is it that Japan's population is aging? The human resources to deal with this aren't as big as they were 20 or 30 years ago."

[How contrived can you get? They are going to make Japan's tsunami and earthquake into an opportunity to frighten Australians into accepting a completely bodgy association between small populations and judgement day-like disasters. How obvious can programming be on the ABC? Does big business simply send in the scripts and the journalists follow them these days?

So now the imaginary scene is set of a mass of confused geriatric Japanese trying to clean up the mess, when in fact most of the Japanese population is between the ages of 15 and 64. Not all of the 64 plus people would be useless. The emperor is praying and others will be offering more technical and practical assistance.]

Andrew McLeod says that Japan has a huge debt and that it is because it isn't growing its population.

McLeod: "Well, exactly. It puts paid to the ridiculous arguments of people like Kelvin Thomson in Australia about population capping."

[Kelvin Thomson has so nothing to do with this- Macleod has used a massive long hook to get him in.]

"What you've had in Japan is over the last two decades... they've moved from the world's largest creditor to the world's largest debtor and that's happened largely because their population is aging and their population is shrinking and they haven't filled that aging and shrinking with skilled migration...."

[It follows then that the Bangladesh, Africa and Haiti must be the world's largest creditors.

Andrew McLeod says that Japan has a huge debt and that it is because it isn't growing its population. However, "A new Monash University study finds population growth - mainly from overseas migration - had masked ''grim'' economic realities including the doubling of Victoria's international trade deficit to more than $35 billion. See,]

McLeod continues: "That means that 20 years ago, Japan had plenty of money to look after themselves. Today there is a genuine question, "Will this disaster tip Japan over the economic edge or somehow will it restart domestic demand and get them going? It's a genuine discussion amongst the economists, but the one thing that's for sure is, if you have an aging and a shrinking population, your resilience to a shock will decrease."

[Andrew's case here is so well proven - not - in Haiti's response to the 2010 earthquake. So, according to his logic, should we expect Japan to do even less well than Haiti, because Japan doesn't have such a large proportion of its population under the age of 15? Time will tell.]


"Until I see a change in their population policy. If they were to have skilled migration gaps - and by the way - skilled migration at the global level is environmentally good because it encourages education in the developing world and that decreases global population growth, so at a global level it's a good thing, at a domestic level, it's a good thing. But the culture of Japan is not one that opens up permanent migration to other nationalities..."

[Hmm, what exactly, or even generally, is Andrew claiming here? He seems to be saying that the prospect of an opportunity to migrate to another country will tend to make families in developing countries have fewer children so that they can educate them to migrate. Here it is again - Andrew's fascination with international immigrant workers. It crops up in the oddest places. It would be simpler just to ban child labour; that's the tried and true method of reducing family size. (See Doepke) It also means that adults do the jobs and get higher wages. Of course that makes it harder to run sweat shops.

But back to the wierd interview on the ABC:]

Trioli: "And then they have lower status in Japan when they are working there..."

McLeod: "(...) So you've got a continually aging population and continually shrinking population, so the question is, how do you increase your economic activity to make up for the disaster, when they have to continually increase economic efficiency and activity just to stay still, making up for the shrinking population?"

[For an alternative viewpoint to this flatlander 'economic' perspective, see this other economic one, Japan's Broken Window, which contradicts Andrew's GDP maximizing one.]

MCLeod on Immigration: Propaganda passes for news on ABC 24 and in The Age

McLeod has only one song to sing it seems, and, no matter what the topic is, he will talk up migration. And the content is threadbare. The reason for the constant airing of Mr McLeod's dreary demographic dirge is because there is money to be made by the corporate media out of overpopulation and international immigration. In fact, the Age is even a member of the Committee for Melbourne, so is, in effect, giving the megaphone to a business representative. Since state and federal governments are so close to big business and property development these days, it should not surprise (although it does so disappoint) to find similar spruiking on the ABC. If it were you or I talking down immigration, in the most fascinating way, we still would not get this kind of reporting. We might get a letter to the editor in once a year, but Andrew here, well he gets published again and again saying the same old thing. It isn't news. It's propaganda and it comes with the same monotonous repetition as the muezzin. Examples abound:

The Age:
"Committee for Melbourne chief executive Andrew MacLeod forecasts that Melbourne's population is likely to double again over the next 50 years, to 8 million by 2060.

Mr MacLeod says governments must start planning now for a Melbourne of that size, and work out where the next 4 million residents should live.

He suggests Fishermans Bend, ''currently a giant car park'', should be transformed into ''a great new Docklands'' through higher density housing and business development."

The Age

"The chief executive of the Committee for Melbourne, [of which The Age is a member] Andrew MacLeod, said last night that arguments about slow growth were ''incredibly dangerous'' because slow growth would not happen.

Mr MacLeod said Melbourne at 8 million in 2060 was not fast growth, ''it is normal growth''."

[Oh well, if he says so and The Age publishes it, then it must be true, mustn't it? We surely cannot have the temerity to require scientific and democratic justification for this wild and woolly assertion on which so much big money is riding.]

"The committee's report warns that a refusal to accept population growth will hurt Melbourne with poor urban planning, and notes many deficiencies in Melbourne's current planning. It says unfettered land supply ''as a primary driver of short-term housing affordability, is now being allowed to dominate the policy discussions''.

The report is critical of the movement of Melbourne's urban growth boundary, which was pushed out by another 43,600 hectares last week.

''The development industry has learnt that it is merely a waiting game of when, not if, the UGB [urban growth boundary] line will be redrawn and true to any democracy, its realignments have demonstrated the power of lobbying government,'' it says.

Moving Melbourne's boundary, it says, is ''like releasing a valve on the pressure to find an alternative approach ? the incentive for the development industry to take on the greater challenges of urban renewal in the established parts of the city''.

While supporting increased housing density in Melbourne, the report says there is no coherent government plan to achieve this goal."

Monash University [A big investor in student accommodation construction.]

"Community Campus Summit on International Students": "The second session focused on community engagement with international students. Mr Andrew Macleod, Chief Executive Officer, Committee for Melbourne led the discussion and spoke about the Committee and the Victorian Government?s work on studentcommunity engagement." (

WA Today:

"Gillard's big talk more a case of shift in emphasis," Tim Colebatch, WA Today, June 28, 2010, : "But let's not lose sight of the real issue. As Committee for Melbourne chief executive officer Andrew MacLeod points out, Australia's population will keep growing. We need to plan for that, and build the infrastructure it will need. Cities far bigger than Melbourne work very well if they build a good metro system, and go up as well as out. Good infrastructure and good planning make big cities work."

[Using the word "good" when talking of planning and concluding that things will work is tautological. A good hair cut will make my hair look better, a well designed building will look better and be more functional, good transport system makes a city function better with respect to moving people from a to b and back again. What is it that MacLeod has said that is worth publishing?]

The Australian
"Committee for Melbourne chief executive Andrew Macleod warned that if "no-growth" or "slow growth" proponents won the population debate, pollution and congestion would worsen in the cities because any impetus to plan for it would disappear.

Mr Macleod said the big cities had been able to handle growth until now, and would be able to do so into the future, provided governments hit the right policy buttons on infrastructure, housing and essential services.

He warned that deliberately slowing the international migration rate would damage Australia's reputation as a welcoming country and harm our economy.

"The fastest way to a more polluted, congested city is not to plan for growth. We won't have the infrastructure and roads in place and end up with cities like Manila," Mr Macleod said.

"When people are afraid we can't handle future population increases, are they afraid of the number of people coming in or of the necessary infrastructure -- water, transport etc -- not being built? These are very different issues.""

Andrew McLeod is also listed as providing the "background and policy" ideas for the ALP Members Forum on Asylum Seekers, Policy ideas and statements.

Woodcut by Hiroshige, "Suido-Bridge-and-Surugadai," (Edo period)

Sustainable Japan

Other more informed views exist, however. Here is one based on Antony Boy's work, "How will Japan feed itself without fossil energy?" in The Final Energy Crisis, Pluto Press, UK, 2008, which examines the prospect of a much smaller and safer Japan.

Antony Boys has lived in Japan for over 20 years on a farm located about 20 km inland from Sendai and about 100km from the first reactor explosion. He is an agricultural expert and has written extensively about the history of Japan's economy before oil, looking at the kinds of problems that Japan will have feeding her population as oil dwindles. This analysis is also valuable when looking at survival during the aftermath of earthquake and tsunami, with a large part of Japan's capacity to provide power removed, in late winter, when snow is still falling.

Table IV.21.1. Japan’s Primary Energy Consumption 2005. Source: EDMC Handbook, 2007, Pp.19 and 26.

Antony writes "Whilst the world's dependence on oil for its primary energy consumption is about 39 percent, Japan's was 49.7 percent in 2005. Japan relies on Middle East oil-producing countries for around 89 percent of its oil and was the world's third largest oil consumer in 2005, after the USA and China, and the second largest importer. Domestic primary energy production is extremely low, being about 16 percent in 2005 if electricity from nuclear power is counted as domestic production, and about 4.5 percent if it is considered to be reliant on imports of uranium. Thus if the approximately 2.6 EJ of nuclear electricity production being counted as domestic production is counted as an energy import, the import dependency for energy supplies rises to around 95 percent."

Japan depends on nuclear for about 11.6% of its primary electricity, but a number of the country's nuclear power plants have been closed down due to collapse of infrastructure. With this collapse of power and transport infrastructure, Japan's large cities are vulnerable in a way that no pre-fossil-fuel society could be vulnerable.

In today's Japan, population is concentrated in the cities, where the great part of fossil-energy-based employment has taken place in the last 150 years. Most Japanese do not live where food is produced or where farms might be located in the future.

To import more people to Japan would require more energy and more fuel. Only someone with a fairy-tale concept of energy as something that appears when humans need it, would fail to understand that this vulnerable country would increase its risks by increasing its population. If you don't factor energy/fuel costs into work/production then your economics simply don't make sense.

Stable, Self-sufficient, Edo Japan - 1603-1867

Antony Boys found in Japan's recent Edo period, 1603-1867, a time of relative stability, a model for a a safe and steady long-term future without oil, coal or nuclear power.

"Whilst the Edo economy was almost entirely self-sufficient, today Japan imports 60 percent of its food calories and its population has quadrupled under these conditions which are, of course, associated with plentiful imports of coal, petroleum, natural gas, and uranium.

Historical statistics tell us that before imports of food began, traditional agriculture probably supported a fairly stable population of about 30 to 33 million on the Japanese archipelago from around 1720 to the Meiji Restoration in 1868, when the Edo period ends. At that time there were roughly eight people per hectare, or an average of 0.125 ha of arable land per person in a clan-based peasant economy with some feudal features stemming from a military class but without widespread serfdom or slavery.

In Edo Japan, an average hectare inhabited by a family of 6-10 members would contain all or most elements for self-sufficiency.
Some examples of land-use arrangements at this population density have been preserved in old residences of a noble class. A “hanshu” or clan-lord granted such residences, called "yashiki" to the samurai warriors, or "bushi", in his retinue who were then expected to be self-supporting.

One such yashiki, a 6000 m2 igune, or land with a forested area, dating from 1774, can be seen in what is now Wakabayashi Ku in Sendai City (northeast Japan). Vegetable gardens occupy about half the total area, a house and other buildings take up another quarter and the remaining quarter is covered with trees. Rice, grown on fields nearby made each yashiki part of a self-sufficient community organised along clan-based lines.

In the 18th century, when rice yields were around 1.5 tonne/ha, a family of 10 required about 0.8 to 1 ha of paddy field for rice. An adult consumed an average of 1 koku of rice (roughly equivalent to 140 kg) annually, so one chôbu of paddy land (almost the equivalent of a hectare) would support ten adults. Local lords knew the potential population (and fighting force) of their territory simply by knowing the area of their paddy fields. Political and military power was measured in koku during the Edo Period.

169 trees surround the house in Sendai. Over half of them are kinds of cedar, cypress, persimmon, plum, and pine with additional yew, paulownia, chestnut, willow, citron, cherry, walnut, fig and others. Unusually for Japan, there is no bamboo, which is fast-growing and provides an extremely versatile material, but most of the uses which you could think of for trees are represented; food, house-building, furniture-making, tool-making, fuel for heating and cooking. Tree-leaves provide compost and trees act as wind and snow breaks. They also enhance the water-holding potential of the ground.

The Final
Energy Crisis

Sheila Newman

Best Price $14.40
or Buy New $31.03

Far larger yashiki were created in the Santome district of what is now Tokorozawa City and Miyoshi Town in Saitama Prefecture (just north of Tokyo) in 1696, some of which are still in existence today. Each consists of about 4.85 ha in a block of land 72 m by 675 m. A road runs along one end of the block with the house, surrounded by trees, on about 0.6 ha. In the center of the block there are about 2.7 ha of upland fields. At the end away from the road and house is a wooded area (heichirin) of about 1.5 ha. This yashiki was designed with the difference that its samurai-farmers (gôshi) were expected to produce surpluses which could be traded for rice. Famed for its sweet potatoes (satsuma imo) the area was an important food producer in the Edo Period and during the food shortage following the end of the war in 1945.

Japanese culture has thus preserved in the yashiki the memory of what basic self-sufficiency is, what it looks like and how it is done, for Japanese people today, and yashikis are still written about in newspapers, magazines and books.
Few Japanese, however, would conceive that a "return" to a similar form of lifestyle might be necessary within the lifetimes of people alive today – by around 2050.

For a solution to be based on Edo-type land-use structure and social division of work, however, the current population to arable land ratio, 29 cap/ha, is far too high. The numbers would have to come down to around the 8 to 10 cap/ha (0.1 to 0.125 ha/cap) hypothesized above. Or perhaps the internationally sourced approximate 0.134 ha/cap (7.5 cap/ha) which now provides the Japanese population with food would be a realistic ideal to work towards locally.

The problem of feeding such a large population on so little land would be assisted by improvements in alternative agriculture, which have kept pace and possibly now exceed those of industrialized agriculture. At today's yields, the rice for a 10-member family would be grown on 0.25 ha (at a yield of 5 tonne/ha and an average consumption of 120 kg/cap/yr of rice), in contrast to 18th century rice yields of the Edo period, which were only about 1.5 tonne/ha.

Major factors needing to be adjusted to each other in order to tailor an Edo-type land-use solution would be population numbers, land-use availability, social division of work, consumption and technology." Source: Antony Boys, "How will Japan feed itself without fossil energy?" in The Final Energy Crisis, Pluto Press, UK, 2008.

At the moment Tony Boys is too busy looking for food and water to write. I last heard from him on 14th March 2011.


A scavenger is any animal that feeds on decaying organic matter, esp on refuse. They prey on carrion, and avoid getting sick themselves. The disaster in Japan is being used by Andrew Macleod to push his own agenda, and frighten the people of Australia. Any disaster would be magnified with more people! Surely Haiti's example is enough to show that higher populations are a killer, and any disturbance is even worse with overpopulation.

Our planet is not stable, but dying. There have been any number of urgent scientific reports in recent years emphasising just how dire the future looks and how little time we have left to act. But around the world only a few have truly faced up to the facts about global warming.

Requiem for a Species by author Clive Hamilton is the story of a battle within us between the forces that should have caused us to protect the earth, like our capacity to reason and our connection to nature, and our greed, materialism and alienation from nature, which, in the end, have won out.

Clive Hamilton, Dick Smith and Mark O'Connor and all the rest will keep hammering the government on the cautionary science of climate change, declining arable land and resources knowing perfectly well they'll be ignored because the vested interests of both Liberal and Labor and their myopic aims for electoral and economic "success" rather than long-term survival. Earth is not just about supporting the human race. Other species also contribute and have a right to exist without being exterminated for human expansions.

Japan has one of the highest average life expectancies in the world, and the aging of the population is proceeding at a rapid rate.

In the words of renowned British scholar Thomas Robert Malthus, The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man. Despite the "green" revolution, this is quite true even today. Japan currently imports sixty percent of the food it consumes. With its limited amount of arable land, one can only imagine the level of dependency a larger population in Japan would have. With dependency comes vulnerability, and Japan would be first hit in the event of a global food shortage. More population would exacerbate the problem.

Japan already has some of the most congested and largest cities in the world. What would happen if this population were to swell? Pollution would increase, and the logistics of supply and demand would become worse.

Sachs last year revealed that Japan’s GDP would be increased by a full 15 percent if 80 percent (currently at 60 percent) of all women in Japan held some sort of a job. Such a boost in both workforce size and GDP would be welcomed in a country currently grappling with an aging, shrinking workforce. Older people should be encouraged to continue to work - even part time - so that their knowledge and skills utilized.

Human resources need to be invested in and optimized. Overpopulation creates short-term economic benefits, but long-term pain and suffering.

Japan's emergency is primarily a human disaster and environmental one, not an "economic" one as Andrew Macleod says. Japan is highly skilled and educated, and they don't need foreigners for their economy. They may have a high trade deficit, but they are on the way to a sustainable nation.
Is it shameful that he is exploiting this natural disaster for his own ends - more immigration and "skills" in Australia for more property development and business customers. Victoria's trade deficit is woeful and not helped by population boosting!

The Economy is a system to support our lives, an ideology, that can grow perpetually and infinitely in theory, but not our planet, our resources, our ecosystems.

Vivienne, don't you think that likening a scavenger to someone who would have us believe that the near nuclear disasters in Japan reinforces and does not undermine his case for higher population is most unkind to the scavenger which, at least, performs a valuable service in the web of life?

Nature is wholesome and a complete web of life, and even the unsavory bits have their use. The better word would have been "opportunistic" - of using the natural disaster as a platform to promote ongoing population growth in Japan - and here in Australia.
According to Wikipedia:
Opportunism is sometimes also defined as the ability to capitalize on the mistakes of others: to utilize opportunities created by the errors, weaknesses or distractions of opponents to one's own advantage. In a war situation or crisis, this may be regarded as justifiable, but in a civilized situation it may be regarded as unprincipled.
Even Vultures are often misunderstood and vilified, but they have an important part in maintaining the health and beauty of our environment. There are some perverse species advantages of large numbers, but there are also great costs to other species, the environment, and of the monolithic structures of cities that lack flexibility to escape dangers and recover too.

"I opened the door and looked outside. I knew immediately there was something wrong. The temple here has many candles. I took them to my neighbours to save them from spending the night in darkness. That was all I could do.

The problem is that we rely totally on electricity. Nothing can be done without it. Everything stops without it. That is why he had to have nuclear power.

There is a need to think differently.

Anyone can recognise misery and bad luck, but happiness is something that one only recognises when one has lost it."

Japanese Bhuddist monk interviewed on 1300h French News 18 March 2010.

Subject was: a little inaccurate.

I thought you skewed my interview in a populist way. Happy, in the name of dialogue and discussion, to debate or talk with you about this any where anytime if you want to step from behind the safety of a screen into the real world.

See also: comment of 22 Feb 2011, Committee of Melbourne on call for Pratt & Murdoch to downsize, also by Andrew MacLeod. - Editor

Tony Boys's picture

I am Tony Boys, the Antony Boys mentioned in Sheila Newman's article. Firstly, I would like to say that I'm a little glad not to be in Sendai as that area was hit by the earthquake+tsunami (hereafter E+T) rather harder than where I am, which is Hitachi Omiya City, Ibaraki Prefecture, about 120km north of Tokyo and close to the Pacific coastline. However, we're about 120km southwestish from the Fukushima No.1 Power Station. This is causing us huge anxiety as it is still not clear (March 21, 0850 JST) whether the four reactors still having problems will be brought under control.

Otherwise I fully concur with what Sheila says in her article. It is quite obvious that Andrew MacLeod is using the disaster(s) in Japan to push his own ideological agenda, something that most people would find rather offensive, I think, given the current circumstances in Japan.

The population of Japan is a complex subject. I'll try to keep it short. Basically, we have the notion that a larger population would somehow have mitigated the consequences of the E+T and nuclear disasters (or would have made them less serious, or would have made recovery easier, quicker, and so on). I totally disagree and would argue as follows.

1) Flat land suitable for housing and other construction is in short supply in Japan. (Roughly 67% of the land area is forested mountains.) Naturally, this has meant that large areas of land historically thought to be unsuitable for construction have been developed over about the last 100 years or so. This is generally soft/moist land near the sea, lakes and rivers, traditionally used for paddy fields or simply left alone as marshland for common use. Most Japanese people are quite aware of the phenomenon of liquefaction that occurs in association with earthquakes and will avoid building on this kind of land. (The recent earthquake in Christchurch, NZ, is also a very good example of this problem.) Population pressures, though, have made it necessary to do so.

This same population pressure on the land has also resulted in more construction on flatlands near the sea, the scenes of most of the horrific disasters in the overall current Japanese E+T disaster. "Tsunami" is, after all, a Japanese word. Everyone here knows that quakes are likely to be followed by tsunamis. We have one fairly big tsunami alert each year or so. People who build and live near the sea, especially along the coast where the really serious disasters have occurred this time, know that they are in danger at all times. This current E+T is reckoned to have been the largest since about 850AD, but it happened! Why do they live or have their businesses there? Basically and simplistically, because there's nowhere else convenient to build. (Fishing infrastructure is an exception, I'll agree.) So would a smaller or a larger population be better?

2) This is the tricky one. Not hard to write a book on this one, so I'll try to restrain myself. How come a country where 50 million people might be the limit for a 'sustainable' lifestyle now has a population of 127 million (and falling very, very slowly)? In the Edo Period, as mentioned in Sheila's article, the population was stable at just over 30 million, but this was after a sharp rise that had resulted in extensive deforestation had effectively capped population growth. Serious famines occurred during this time. Following the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan opened up to the world and trade in food and other commodities became possible. Food (etc.) availability was no longer the limiting factor for population, and Japan joined the race for 'national wealth and military power.' I'm talking about history, not ideology. My mother-in-law's generation (my wife is Japanese, and her mother is now 77) had 8-10 siblings, this being encouraged by the government as, cynically, 'cannon fodder'. The result has been Japan's 20th century history of war, defeat and the only country to be bombed by the atomic bomb, post-war revival and economic growth and development. History. I don't know if Japan ever had the 'choice' to industrialize or not, but given the circumstances of the 20th century it was probably the only realistic path. Of course, this can be debated, as can the ideological aspects of Japan's development path. What we have ended up with is a situation in which a country very poor in mineral resources has become a highly industrialized and populous country where the people (generally) enjoy a high standard of living. So, in a sense, naturally, they would 'want' to have nuclear power. (The history of nuclear power in Japan is fraught with the usual problems of democratic processes being completely ridden roughshod over by those in power who saw a chance to make bundles of money from nuclear power stations, but this - though closely connected with the ongoing nuclear disaster - is not the place to pursue this discussion...)

So with the information we have in 1) about earthquakes, tsunamis and places in Japan that are considered dangerous, was it really a 'good idea' for Japan to be building dozens of nuclear reactors along its coastline (where all the reactors are situated). Not really. Lots of serious accidents waiting to happen, and this time they did! So what does this have to do with a smaller or larger population? Hypothetically, Japan could have chosen a different development path - one that kept the population within the limits defined by availability of farmland and other basic resources, I estimate about 50 million, and at that level, and with foresight and intelligence, would not have required nuclear power. Hence, any large E+T occurrence could not result in a nuclear disaster. Economic development + (or is it "=") population growth leads to social and infrastructure complexities that become harder and harder to control. In some countries this might be OK. But I hope you can see that for Japan this is very dangerous.

Final comment to Andrew MacLeod: A relatively younger population, or a relatively more skilled population (through immigration ,etc.) may have beneficial economic or recovery effects (normally and) in times of disaster. In the case of Japan, and I suspect quite a few other countries, local conditions make this marginal at best and possibly downright dangerous, as shown above. For Japan, where the history of migrant workers shows that this can only ever be a short-term policy (very, very few people settle down here as I have), this is really not a practical option. What would be better, in terms of disaster avoidance, would be a smaller population which did not have to build residences etc. on marginally safe land and which did not require the huge amounts of electrical power that make nuclear power stations appear to be a 'necessity.' As far as Japan is concerned, these long-term aspects are far more important than short-sighted statements about the age structure or skill-level boosted by increasing the population through immigration.

The comment I made was about the financial state not to push an ideological agenda.

Having spent most of my life in post disaster recovery and reconstruction I find the insinuation distasteful. If you doubt that at least check out my profile:

When a country has gone from being the world's largest creditor to the world's largest debtor in only 20 years, it can no longer afford to re-build. That was the point I made.

On a bigger issue: many people in Australia lament the lack of quality debate in our politics.

If you are disappointed ask yourself this: Does howling down and abusing people just because they disagree with you an encourager of debate?


Editorial comment: I am not aware of any post that could fairly be labelled 'abusive'. If Andrew were to cite an example here or by e-mail, I can take it up with the person whom Andrew MacLeod feels abused by.

One apparent error in Andrew MacLeod's contribution is his claim that people who disagree with Sheila Newman's views, who would like to contribute to this discussion, are being "howl[ed] down". The fact that he has submitted this and quite a few more contributions today and that all have been published in full, on top of all that he has contributed before today surely means that Andrew MacLeod, at least, has not been "howl[ed] down." If Andrew MacLeod knows of anyone else who has felt too "howl[ed] down by the tone of this discussion to contribute, then he is welcome to let me know about it. He could even post whatever contributions he knows of, which our "howling down" has prevented others from contributing themselves, should they wish him to.

When a country has gone from being the world's largest creditor to the world's largest debtor in only 20 years it can no longer afford to re-build. (as above)
Assuming that the "solution" to Japan's economic decline is continuing to grow the population is based on ideology and and economic theories. Economics is an ideology, a theoretical system of supply and demand, a method of enabling societies to live and have their lifestyles supported. Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. Ideas and social sciences are infinite by default and have no limitations. They exist in theories and in mathematical/functional models. However the real world, the world of finite resources, has parameters, boundaries, and people have muiti-dimensional needs and aims that may not coincide with economic growth agendas.
A nation, our planet as a whole, has finite resources, and each nation has particular natural and topographical limitations. To continue to add more people, despite inadequate food supplies, inhabitable land areas, inhospitable terrain, declining fish stocks, climate change, energy needs, and simply lack of space would be reckless and misanthropic.
Economic ideals of growth should not transcend human welfare, liveability, long term survival, and exacerbate ecological overshoot - as we are already in! People are more than economic units to be exploited, confined and imported for growth. People shouldn't be bred like battery hens or factory pigs. (and these creatures shouldn't either).
The tragic recent earthquake and tsunami are examples of limits to growth. We can't assume that our planet is static. It isn't, and is changing. Monolithic man-made structures, forcing people to live in unstable and unsafe areas, would exacerbate tragic outcomes and limit recovery. The need for nuclear power is due to excessive power needs.
The Economy should be our servant, not our Master. Economics exists to support human lives, not so humans can support economic growth - as economists seem to think! Economic growth has become an aim rather than a tool, to our detriment.
Japan may be the first highly industrial nation to actually be on the route to sustainability. Once their population balances to one of stability, where births equal deaths, they can live comfortably within their environmental and resource limits. They don't have to rebuilt to their previous economic outputs. Until then, economic decline may be a cost they have to endure. They need to rebuild their society, their economy, on a sustainable level - without the easiest, "dumbed-down" way, of perpetual population growth - which means sacrificing long term sustainability, lifestyles and basic survival for short-term economic gains.

Andrew McLeod wrote:

"Having spent most of my life in post disaster recovery and reconstruction I find the insinuation distasteful. If you doubt that at least check out my profile:".

Whilst I cannot comment on Andrew's personal contributions to overseas disaster management because I do not know their details, the industry of disaster recovery and reconstruction have been soundly criticised by Naomi Klein in Shock Doctrine. Overseas charity organisations have also been roundly condemned by a number of books, including, Graham Hancock, Lords of Poverty, Michael Maren, The Road to Hell, among others. In my own life I have saved lives and performed heroic actions for no financial reward, and beyond the call of duty, but I don't believe I have marketed myself as a hero or to defend my own actions and politics on this basis. In my opinion that would put a price on actions performed as a citizen and capitalise financially and politically on the social trust that is essential to community function. It is hard for me to admire prominent people whose good works or association with good works also enhances their political credibility or to endorse a process whereby a corporatised media creates, endorses or assists financial profit from such behaviour. It reminds me of the practice of politicians and product brands to seek association with winning sports champions. Over the years I have become suspicious of such public behaviour; so much of it is about branding. A very good example of this branding was the late Richard Pratt's marketing of himself as some kind of hero because he was the child of refugees always struck me as cowardly opportunism. He was a well-educated and privileged man who abused his good fortune, in my opinion. His large private estate struck me as particularly indecent, tasteless and contemptuous, when he constantly marketed lower living standards and quality of life for other people. The state and the mass media amplified his opportunism in a shameless process to try to make the public support high immigration by massaging the erroneous idea that most immigrants are refugees. In this, ultimately, they made the public unduly suspicious of refugees and asylum seekers. I was disgusted at how public figures associated with him at the Melbourne Population Summit and at the fact that he received at times consultant salaries from both State and Federal governments whilst he made money from changing public policy in processes which did not effectively include the public.

The privatisation of AID is problematic. It has become another industry. Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine exposes the industry of Disaster Aid in a manner which the industry has never been able to deal with. You might say that it also exposes corrupt governments. Yes, it does. And it exposes the impact of globalisation on democracy. It is another argument for relocalisation of everything and that small is beautiful.

Capitalism and globalism have created a situation where individuals with a lot of money, and corporations, are able to create attractive public profiles which are then used to influence perception via the amplification of newsmedia, creating giant personalities. Our democratic system thereby suffers.

Andrew, you may have remarkable qualities and truly be a hero in some of your walks of life, but you are a public figure with actions that impact on many people and democracy calls for public figures to justify their actions and impacts to the public.

Sheila Newman, population sociologist

Japan's economy is teetering, thousands are dead, many more are missing, presumed dead, and millions are homeless, without water or electricity. However, they have shown an admirable stoicism and dignity that has had the world agape with admiration. There is no looting, no whinging, very little panic, if any, and no demands for some mythical "them" to fix it. it is the result of a strong social order that comes from having 127 million people crammed into a small island with few natural resources, and living on a fault line.

Japan generally has a low rate of crime. However, there is an increased incidence of drink spiking at bars and other entertainment venues, often resulting in credit card theft and assault. According to the SmartTraveller website, there is sporadic incidents of bag snatching and pickpocketing of foreigners in crowded shopping areas, on trains and at airports have occurred. Credit card and ATM fraud can occur in Japan.

The inheritance of centuries of rigorous self-centredness and control, of enormous pressure to conform, combined with a fierce belief in cultural superiority result in a society that accepts the suppression of the individual for the greater good to an extent that communist regimes could only dream of and never achieve. They have a strong belief in themselves.
Japan is a very racially homogenous society, where immigration is frowned upon and genetic purity is seen as a good thing. And with the birthrate slowed, they’re moving towards an era where a full half of the population will be over 65.
Ninety-five per cent of Japan's debt is owned by its citizens, not foreign hedge funds. Financially, the government has more room to manoeuvre than might seem apparent. Japan makes it difficult for foreigners to live and work in the country. They are resisting immigration.

It's a country where a government works for the people, and the people are ALL invested emotionally, psychologically and financially in their society, looting is far less likely to occur.

Aside from Japanese, they have a group of Koreans living in Japan that goes by Zai-Nichi. They consist less than 1% of the population in Japan; however, Zai-Nichi Koreans account for 90% of rape and robbery in Japan. Remarkably, less than 1% being responsible for 90% of crimes—the number sounds so astounding that it sounds unreal, but police statistics prove that this is a reality.

Japanese authorities do not allow foreigners to change their immigration status from visa-waiver status to work status while in Japan. Japanese immigration officers may deny you entry if you appear to have no visible means of support.
Previously, crimes perpetrated by foreigners tended to be of the “hit and run” variety, committed during short-term stays in Japan and followed with the criminal fleeing the country. However, in recent years, cases of global foreign criminal organizations targeting Japan, and the formation of criminal groups in Japan made up of foreigners from many countries, have been conspicuous — a trend dubbed “the globalization of crime.” The news reports don’t seem to be mentioning an overall increase in the number or rate of crimes committed by foreigners. It's no wonder they don't want immigration and "diversity" to disrupt their close social cohesion and strong identity. The costs of immigration-driven population growth would mean their cohesion would break down.

I tend to see Japan as a large system of Pacific Islanders, a very old and resilient tribal community, albeit injured by overpopulation.

With regard to immigration, Japan has rules like most traditional Pacific Island communities, where immigration must be agreed to by the community and tends to occur through marriage or adoption in an individual way.

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
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Francis, thanks for your info and analysis. Despite living here for over 35 years I had never before seen the statistic about Zai-Nichi Koreans and crime. I will check it - not that I doubt you, but it does seem, as you say, unreal.

Although I am not living in one of the serious disaster zones, the area where I live, northern Ibaraki Pref., has been quite badly affected. I totally concur with what you say about the lack of looting, whinging and panic. People here have been wonderful, polite, cooperative and helpful!

But, it has been that same strong social order that has allowed nuclear power to be introduced into this country, despite the obvious problems I have stated in the comment above, and will probably keep it going for years in the future unless a way can be found to harness current public opinion against nuclear power.

Kindly take a look at this article:

Totally outrageous! But I have not yet seen it in the media in Japan!! Strong (undemocratic) social order also has its significant downsides.

Andrew Mcleod of the Committee for Melbourne is leaving Australia. Going to London to work for Rio Tinto. Guess he's going to kick some indigenous ass for them instead of for the Committee for Melbourne. Unless he's taking his committee with him. Wouldn't that be good news, if the pseudo charities and pompous builders went to work in a copper mine at pacific islander rates and stopped bothering the rest of us.

This is an old article, but a good one. I think Japan is on the right course. They are hugely overpopulated. The population will age, and this is a serious problem. But increasing the population, or even maintaining it at the current level, would cause far greater problems. It seems to me that the rest of the world should be seeking to emulate Japan. Instead Japan is held up as a terrible lesson for what happens if you dare to stop growing.

All I see in the media is "we don't want to cut back on immigration, or we'll wind up like Japan", "we may be growing slowly, but at least we're not Japan", "our growth rate is very fast, but at least we're not Japan". The couple of times I've talked to people about population growth the response I've gotten is "we can't stop growing - look at Japan". This is sadly why I hold no hope Australia, or America, will ever be able to voluntarily accept population stability or decline.

skilled migration at the global level is environmentally good because it encourages education in the developing world and that decreases global population growth,
Ha, yet when Japan stops growing, thereby decreasing global growth, according to McLeod this is a disaster. If any developing nation actually stopped growing then the first thing McLeod would do is tell them to start breeding again.

But this terrible natural disaster strikes Japan and all McLeod could talk about was Japan's low birthrate and unwillingness to open their borders to tens of million of migrants. Its almost like he's saying that the tsunami was no coincidence. It was actually a punishment visited upon them by the Great God of Growth for daring to forsake Him.

Andrew Mcleod of the Committee for Melbourne is leaving Australia. Going to London to work for Rio Tinto.
They are welcome to him.