"The growth lobbyists will tell us that we can solve our problems by converting to “clean coal” technologies or nuclear power, building more high rise, producing desalinated water at $10 litre (who knows?), installing “smart” electricity meters, piping water from the Northern Victoria to Melbourne, importing more food on more and bigger ships etc." Federal Candidate, Jenny Warfe writes, "I'm looking forward to a different way of 'moving forward.'"
Editor: Headings introduced by candobetter.org editor
Honouring our Provision of Asylum obligations
Firstly, I believe we must honour in word and deed our international obligations to provide asylum (1) for those who seek it, especially in view of our present international military activities. What’s more, the few thousand refugees who gain Australian residency each year make no significant difference to our population growth, so are irrelevant to the following discussion.
Dick Smith’s recent ‘Population Puzzle’ (2) documentary has brought population impacts into the mainstream so now seems like a good time to discuss one of my policies:
Develop a population plan informed by best available relevant science. Migration program should focus on political and climate asylum and reunions. Remove reliance on skilled migration by re-skilling and training Australians.
Neither the ALP or the Libs understand the mathematical realities of growth
As Dick Smith discovered to his amazement – there is no plan and neither major party seems capable of understanding the mathematical realities of growth.
Population growth in most developed countries is declining, but Australia’s growth rate has been rising fast. It’s currently 2% per annum - more than twice the world average and higher than most other developed or developing nation, eg: India’s 1.4% and UK’s 0.4%. At 2% per annum, Australia will almost double its population by 2050. Melbourne is set to double to 8 million in the next 50 years (3). Impacts of our growth rate are being felt in inadequate public transport services whilst tollways and freeways continue to expand; water restrictions; stresses on our coastline, oceans and waterways; loss of productive land to new suburbs; loss of marine and terrestrial biodiversity; destruction of our natural and built heritage for continuing urban expansion – and the accompanying carbon emissions and climate change. Surely the elephant in the room is the world’s inability to deal wisely with our own expansion?
Where's the logical end point to this?
I think every nation on Earth needs a plan based around some concept of carrying capacity. This might be a long way off, but a good start would be to restructure the UN as a real global government, extinguish domination by the USA and its allies, all countries to be represented equally and global defence and armaments expenditure to be significantly re-allocated to humanitarian and environmental restoration activities.
1994 Australian population carrying capacity Inquiry
In 1994 Australia did look at its carrying capacity in the Parliamentary report: Australia's population "carrying capacity”: one nation - two ecologies (4). But – the idea has gone nowhere since - buried it seems under the rise to power of the growth lobby, including the Business and Property Council of Australia – the few faceless entities who benefit from more of everything, and ably assisted by media commentators such as Andrew Bolt and Piers Akerman. The growth lobbyists will tell us that we can solve our problems by converting to “clean coal” technologies or nuclear power, building more high rise, producing desalinated water at $10 litre (who knows?), installing “smart” electricity meters, piping water from the Northern Victoria to Melbourne, importing more food on more and bigger ships etc.
Climate change and paving habitat
Mr. Rudd was right. Responding to climate change is one of the greatest moral challenges of our time, but dealing with that challenge whilst we continue to expand will be all the harder. Until our political leadership has the guts to ignore the ramblings of Andrew Bolt et al we will be stuck in a reactive policy merry-go-round. As our natural heritage disappears it isn’t good enough to fall back on a “19th Century zoo mentality” and list yet another species as critically endangered (what’s the point if we pave over its habitat?) or propose a National Park to save a piece of our land or sea, when what we need to do for the safety of the planet and all who live on it is to reduce the impact we humans are having on the land and oceans.
Psycho-social and economic disconnect from Environment
It’s my view that since the industrial revolution humans have become the only species on Earth whose population numbers, at least in the “First World” are no longer prescribed by the environmental constraints that controlled us for thousands of years and other species for millions of years. Now, especially in the West we have become increasingly disconnected – both physically and psychologically – from the environment which sustains us, allowing us to consider the environment as a resource for our use and exploitation rather than our habitat. But the standards we have constructed in the West and our addiction to growth and its underpinning consumerism have come at huge cost to others on the planet. Poorer nations subsidise our wealth, providing consumer goods made with cheap labour in harsh conditions, and many such country’s lax regulations allow their environments to become degraded and their endemic species to be obliterated.
Capitalism can work well without growth
But, there is another way to organise ourselves. As even capitalism loving Dick Smith says, “capitalism can work wonderfully well without growth”.
We can get along very well in a steady state economy – indeed our quality of life, not just the quality of our possessions – might even increase. There’s quite a bit written about it, and it’s all pretty inspiring. See: http://steadystate.org/
Inhumanity of Growthism and Paying the Ferryman
I reckon if we don’t want to consider our population and growth impacts we aren’t being humane. Already, with 6.5 Billion people on the planet, over 1 billion can’t access clean water. With 9 billion people by 2050 how can we possibly address appalling realities like that? Sometime soon we are going to have to pay the ferryman.
I’m looking forward to a different way of “moving forward”.
(1) And on-shore processing centres
(3) The Age August 5th 2010 http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/make-plans-for-population-to-double-within-50-years-20100804-11fn5.html