To navigate the rapidly changing international system, we must replace three dangerous assumptions underpinning Australia’s defence planning.
You may have been wondering when and who would point out the silver lining in the current situation, where the interruption of decades of mass immigration has seen employment prospects and living standards for many ordinary people looking good in Australia for the first time in decades. If so, you will be very pleased to catch the following interview between 2GB's Michael McLaren and the Sustainable Australia Party's William Bourke, on this very issue. We are living through fascinating times.
On 10 May 2021, Michael Mclaren (2GB radio) was joined by William Bourke, President of the Sustainable Australia Party, to comment on the RBA’s report that suggests that the pause in immigration due to the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to higher living standards in Australia and could spark wage rises in some regions and industries - even though the economy will be smaller than previously expected. In its quarterly statement on monetary policy the preceding week, the RBA noted, “The Australian economy is transitioning from recovery to expansion phase earlier and with more momentum than anticipated.”
[Candobetter editor: Note that this was done via automatic transcript then corrected by a human editor. Please let us know if you find any mistakes.]
MICHAEL : Well, there has been a lot of side-effects from the Cornona Virus … we’re probably all sick to death of talking about it but, one that probably hasn’t been mentioned is that it has done a couple of people probably out of a job – at the very least, it has proved them right – I’m talking about the team behind the Sustainable Australia Party – because, if nothing else, COVID has closed the borders. There are now no real prospects of masses of migrants coming in to work or to fill job vacancies, or whatever the story was, prior to the pandemic.
However, as I said, I think it has proved the point, because, for many years, William Bourke and the whole team behind him at Sustainable Australia and people like Dick Smith, who’ve supported them, have been banging the drum of logic, saying that Australia does not need unsustainable levels of growth in the population to remain wealthy, to remain prosperous, indeed to grow.
And, sure enough, they have now got an ally, I don’t know if they meant to or not, in the form of the Reserve Bank. In their quarterly statement, on monetary policy – it was released on Friday - most people don’t read it of course – but they made the point that the level of GDP – Gross Domestic Product – is expected to remain a little below forecast before the pandemic – mostly due to the lower population growth – however, in per capita terms, GDP is expected to be on a higher trajectory, supported by higher per capita household income and a strong contribution from public demand. In other words, the pause to Big Australia will lead to higher living standards and could spark wage-rises in some regions and some industries according to the Reserve Bank.
Now, the Big Australia advocates said this was impossible. Many of us said they were wrong all along and motivated by greed.
Well, William Bourke is the President of the Sustainable Australia Party and on the line. William, nice to talk with you again.
WILLIAM BOURKE: Good to be with you, Michael.
MICHAEL: Sadly, I suppose, COVID has done you out of a gig. The borders are closed. The population will flatline for a while, and the experiment that you’ve called for will happen, for no other reason than medical science has demanded it happens. I suppose, if you are proved right, you will go out a happy man, won’t you?
WILLIAM BOURKE: Well Michael, obviously population growth is something we’ve been concerned about, since we’ve been going – probably a decade or so. We’ve got some other issues we do stand for, overdevelopment and environmental issues, but yes, absolutely, it’s amazing that COVID has revealed, once and for all, that high immigration is notnecessary to either keep the economy growing, or to create jobs.
So, it’s great to see the RBA coming to their senses. And many other mainstream economists are also saying things like, ‘Lower immigration is equalling higher wages.’ So there’s a great lot of things that are coming out of this unfortunate COVID pandemic.
MICHAEL MCLAREN: And it’s logical, is it not, because, when you flood the economy with workers, obviously the whiphand is that of the bosses. They can say to Bob, well, if you don’t want to work for that amount of money, I’ll go over there to Frank. He’ll do it. But when the number of people available for jobs is smaller, Bob and Frank both start, all of a sudden, to have a bit of bargaining power, don’t they!
WILLIAM BOURKE: Indeed, and obviously, when you bring in highly exploitable people, who really don’t have a lot of bargaining power, who aren’t part of … I guess, unions and so forth, then you can beat down wages. And we’ve seen a lot of – you know – probably the lowest growth in wages over the last decade in the last century.
These things are now starting to see a pick-up in wages, and that’s a good thing for the average Australian.
MICHAEL MCLAREN: They are. I saw that Tom Dusevic of the Australian said, and I quote,
”During recent years, when population growth averaged a rich, world-leading, one and a half per cent a year [...]"
- which is just madness -
“with two thirds of it due to net-overseas migration, per capita incomes fell, even though national output was expanding at a fast clip, compared to our peers.”
In other words, the nation was getting wealthier – that’s National GDP, the individuals that make up the nation, that do the work, were actually going backwards.
WILLIAM BOURKE: Exactly, and the point there being that GDP per capita is really the proxy for living standards. So, the aggregate growth in GDP really doesn’t matter, if all of us are going backwards on average. And we know that there has been a lot of discussion about, you know, this 20 plus year run of ‘no recessions’ and so forth, but if you look at it on a GDP per capita basis, there were three recessions over the last 25 or so years, where GDP per capita went backwards, two quarters in a row. So, there’s a lot of misinformation out there, and we really need to look at the per capita of GDP, not the aggregate level.
MICHAEL MCLAREN: Yep. Now, none of this is to gloat. There are some sections of the economy which are doing it particularly difficult. The business model was heavily reliant on the migrant labour workforce. Hospitality, for example, their business model has been disrupted. A lot of people are doing it tough, but on a per capita basis, the average Australian looks like they may come out in front. And, of course, again, to be completely up-front, a huge amount of stimulus from the Federal Government also helps in that respect, and to remove that might have created a different story, but it just goes to prove the point, does it not, William, that you don’t need record levels of migration to continue economic growth?
WILLIAM BOURKE: That’s exactly the point. There’s a lot of studies out there about the impact of immigration on the economy, but a lot of it is based on, you know, assumptions. This is empirical evidence. This is very very very clear now, that where there is no immigration, we are still growing our economy and we are still creating jobs, and we have actually reduced the unemployment rate. So we’ve gone from seven odd per cent down to about five and a half per cent, and we look like going down to around four and a half per cent. That’s because a lot of people who have been long-term unemployed are now getting an opportunity to get a job. And isn't that a great thing?
MICHAEL MCLAREN: Well, it is and the tighter labor market Also pushes an important extra emphasis on behalf of government, and even business, on the issue of skills or re-skilling the Australian population, including those that are unemployed.
Most unemployed people want to work. They take they take no pride in not having a job but they may not have the skills to do it, so, you know, it's great. We've got the budget, of course tomorrow night. There may be something in there about this too, but there is a greater emphasis on business and government to say, well, look, you're not going to get the fresh blood in anytime soon. There is a bit floating around here though that needs a gig. Train them up, get them in a job.
WILLIAM BOURKE: There's a much greater focus on training and education as you say Michael and I'm sure that Treasurer Josh will be mentioning much more investment in training and education in the budget, and I've seen, you know, some media reports to that extent. So that's it. That's a really encouraging thing, because at the end of the day, we do have the labour here in Australia. We do need to continue to evolve our economy and evolve our skills. And that's what's happening right now, and it's a good thing.
MICHAEL MCLAREN: And, Will, to add to all of this, the re-emphasis, or the newly emerged emphasis, on needing to be more self resilient, more independent, instead of relying on international supply chains and there. And, there again, all of a sudden, you are incentivising people to re-establish, or freshly establish, sovereign industries in this country, particularly manufacturing-oriented industries, which – again - will help mop up a percentage of the unemployed.
WILLIAM BOURKE: Exactly right. And, at the moment, you're probably aware, the Upper Hunter by-election is on in New South Wales. We've got a candidate running there and he works on the railways.
He's an engineer working on railway maintenance and, you know, we built the Tangara trains in Newcastle, you know, the Hunter area and now we're importing them from South Korea. So we need to turn back to making our own trains. And manufacturing, you know, our medical supplies. All of those issues that we thought we can just outsource overseas. I think we're now realizing finally that that's not a sustainable way to run an economy.
WILLIAM MCLAREN: Why then for so many years, we mention those record levels of immigration, despite the average Australian not wanting it. People are in favor of some immigration, sure, a bit of fresh blood doesn't hurt, but there's sort of nonsense of one-and-a-half percent growth per year. It was just a disaster on the property , on traffic – everything. Services. Why did it persist for so long? I mean, I'm a bit ignorant, I suppose, but I thought that democracy was basically the elected officials representing the will of the people, but on that issue, it couldn't have been more opposite. So, why did it persist for so long?
WILLIAM BOURKE: So, I think Michael there are some groups in our society, in our economy, in our political environment, they have a little bit more power than the average person. And obviously, you know, the property industry, you know, big business and so forth. You know, they have a fair bit of sway. They've been complaining, even very lately about skills shortages and, Immigration Minister Alex Hawk, has just allowed a doubling of the hours of foreign students from 20 to 40 hours a week. So they're having a lot of influence, you know, because of political donations and other aspects of the body politic. And I guess that it would be nice if we did have a plebiscite or a referendum. Do we want to grow our population at this extreme rate of 1.5 plus percent when the developed world really should grow at, you know 0.2 per cent at the most.
MICHAEL MCLAREN: I was a little facetious early when I said that covid had probably done you out of a gig. Sustainable Australia, as you quite rightly said, stands for more than just a population issue. Just talk us through a little of what else it is that interests your party.
WILLIAM BOURKE: Well, we're a fairly centrist party Michael. So, you know, we talk about the big picture issues that matter. Obviously sustainable is about protecting our environment, and we really do want to make sure that, you know, we're not sprawling our suburbs, over our agricultural farm land. For example, we really want to stop overdevelopment and return planning powers to local communities.
I'm running in the North Sydney council elections in a couple of months. So, you know, making sure that local people have a say on the character of and the heritage values of their neighborhood. So those are some of the issues.
Corruption is an increasingly big issue that we're focusing on and I think there's a bit of corruption in this Big Australia, where vested interests are influencing our politicians rather than the public interest being put first. So that's just a couple of things that we stand for.
MICHAEL MCLAREN: A lot of common sense. Always good to talk to you. We’ll speak again, soon, William. Thank you so much for all that time.
WILLIAM BOURKE: Thanks for having me. Michael.
MICHAEL MCLAREN: That's my pleasure William Burke. As I said the President of the Sustainable Australia Party
You probably would have noticed the media attention given to the Australian economies historic 26 year reign of economic growth which has been claimed is breaking that held by the Netherlands. Apart from being incorrect, (The Netherlands’ real GDP declined by 0.3% in the June quarter of 2003, and by 0.01% in the September quarter of that year) that record should go to Japan. In fact, if Japanese GDP data were available on a quarterly basis earlier than 1960, it’s likely that this run of continuous economic growth would have been even longer, perhaps as long as 38 years, inferring from annual data available back to 1955. Not bad for a nation mocked for its decision to abandon population growth and actually reduce its population.
Our current reliance on GDP as an economic indicator harkens back to a war-time measure where it was considered necessary to measure production (of war material) in order to fight the war. After the war finished it seems logical to continue to use GDP in order to create the materials necessary to repair shattered infrastructure, a situation that is no longer logical when we should be caring for the economic casualties of this process.
The weakness of GDP as an indicator has been pointed out by many, none better than US senator Robert Kennedy who said "GDP measures everything but tells us nothing," and it certainly does not show growth was achieved or even if it was beneficial. Switching to non-sustainable resource dependency was certainly not to our long term benefit and while the total value of goods and services has increased due to population increases so has income inequality, poverty, homelessness, mortgage stress and many more unpleasantness including government corruption. Perhaps more importantly all this growth in GDP came at the expense of a government debt of $551b and a household of about $2t - the third highest in the world - leaving us vulnerable to a housing bubble implosion. Then there has also been a welter of public asset sales - now called recycling - often used for re-occurring expenses just to keep governments functioning. Many of these sales, like our gold reserves that were flogged off by Peter Costello or the GPO which went for a paltry $150m, indicate that we are not getting good value for our assets, despite the $3.5b that went to financial advisers in order to facilitate these sales.
Scarcely a recommendation for good governance.
Youth unemployment has reached crisis point in Australia, the Brotherhood of St Lawrence says, as it releases an analysis of the latest official figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The number of young Australians out of work has reached ''crisis point'', as more 15 to 24-year-olds struggle to find jobs in the ripples of the global financial crisis.
An average of 12.4 per cent of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 were out of work in the year to January. Executive director Tony Nicholson has described the result as a disaster. "And in our modern economy that means that they're really being sentenced to a lifetime of poverty."
He has called on the Federal Government to invest in a national strategy to turn things around. The national strategy should be to turn our economy around, and end the "growth" model.
There's a lot of intellectual dishonesty, and while agencies are sweeping up the mess of human fallouts and poverty, and welfare dependency, governments still continue with their "growth" agendas! Instead of trying to "grow" out of the mess, and make the hole deeper, they should be making the logical U-turn from economic growth, to stability.
While youth especially are facing high unemployment, there's nothing being done to mitigate the myth of "skill shortages" in Australia! With over 1000 new arrivals each day in Australia, at airports, the competition for jobs keeps getting harder. Our economy can only "grow" to a natural height, determined by natural resources and prices, and forcing higher population growth ignores the costs of growth.
A leading migrant and refugee settlement agency AMES Chief Executive Officer Cath Scarth has told a conference at the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) 2013 Conference on the Gold Coast, that effective unemployment rate among some communities from non-English speaking backgrounds in Australia could be as high as 20 per cent.
Over the past fifteen years, hundreds of thousands of sponsored workers have come to Australia, with just under half opting to take out permanent residence. Unemployment among skilled migrants and their families is 30% higher than for the population as a whole, but those who do have a job are more likely to be in a professional role.
Approximately one quarter (26.1 per cent) of Australia’s total population were born overseas and a comprehensive survey last of recent migrant labour force data showed that recent migrants have significantly higher unemployment rates.
The Brotherhood of St Lawrence and other do-good agencies trying to be a voice for Australians who are unemployed should end their obstruction of the real facts. Our population growth, driven by record levels of "skilled" migration and family reunions, is at a runaway rate and can't be justified. It is out-pacing jobs creation, and housing and infrastructure building is only a short-term fix, and adds to the misanthropic "growth" agendas of governments.
Governments are creating a great fear of an "ageing population" and population decline. While asylum seekers are shunted off to PNG, there are over 1000 people legally imported into Australia each day - as skilled migrants or under the family reunion scheme – to alleviate our “ageing population”.
Our cities and infrastructure are buckling under the heavy weight of population growth, to alleviate our "ageing population"! We have constant "shortages", cut backs and austerity measures due to population pressures. Young people are at risk from being lost to unemployment, and debt, as our economy lags behind population growth.
Mug shot of Charles Ponzi (March 3, 1882 – January 18, 1949). Charles Ponzi was born in Italy and became known as a swindler for his money scheme.
Increasing spending on welfare
With total government spending at $485 billion, spending on the welfare state accounted for a majority share—or 65% of the total. It is astounding that of the $316 billion that the government spent on welfare, approximately half, or $158 billion, was due to tax-welfare churn (The process of levying taxes on people and then returning those taxes to the same people in the form of income support payments and welfare services simultaneously or over the course of an individual’s lifetime).
When combined with the fiscal pressures of an ageing population and expected lower tax revenue growth, it is clear the Australian welfare state is unsustainable on current trends.
Australia is facing a welfare state-driven financial crisis like that which exists in Europe today. (CIS report: Target 30)
Target30 propose that superannuation be used to buy annuities, pension assets tests should include the family home, and aged pension and preservation ages be raised and aligned.
Social security and welfare spending accounted for A$138 billion in the latest budget, a rise of nearly 14% per year over the past decade. Assistance to the aged has risen to almost A$55 billion, a rise of 22% per year since 2003-04. In 2003-04 A$26 billion were payments to the aged, while families with children received A$21 billion.
Health expenditure expected to nearly double as a proportion of GDP over the next 40 years and aged-care spending projected to increase as a proportion of GDP from 0.8 per cent in 2010 to about 1.8 per cent in 2050.
The aged pension is predicted to cost $37 billion this year rising rapidly to $45 billion by 2015-16. It is estimated another 220,000 older Australians will start drawing down an aged pension in the coming four years.The greatest risk to prosperity come from sustained increases in spending, especially in health. Over the past decade health expenditure rose by over $40 billion in real terms. According to a Grattan Report the ageing population was not the prime cause. Rather, people of any age saw doctors more often, had more tests and operations and took more prescription drugs.
After welfare, the second biggest chunk of the federal budget is healthcare. This is "burdened" by the ageing population. The health budget is set to escalate to $71 billion by 2015-16.
In third place in the budget comes education spending at almost $30 billion a year, including funding for universities, non-government schools and some funding for public schools (although states still pick up most of the tab for public schools).
No doubt the best solution would be to ensure that older people were eliminated, by voluntary euthanasia, after they finished contributing economically to our society.
Despite many older people living long and healthy lives, and being financially self-sufficient, they are are being exaggerated as a threat. Migrants are ageing too. Professor Graeme Hugo AO, Director of the Australian Population and Migration Research Centre at the University of Adelaide, says the issue of ageing migrants is important to a range of policy areas in Australia. The last Census showed that 32,000 aged pensions are being paid every year direct to Greece and Italy to migrants who formerly came to Australia over the decades in the 20th century, and have now retired.
It's assumed that young migrants are the "silver bullet" to our ageing workforce, but migrants age too!
We need to end the stigma and discrimination of the aged in the work force and tap into their wisdom and experience. Japan has an ageing population, and still their economy is strong and growing - due to production and skills.
Importing young migrants only temporarily keeps our population "young" anyway, as everyone ages at the same rate. Rather than a constant flow of foreigners, many of whom are now facing higher rates of unemployment than Australian born, employers need to be flexible to allow part-time work, and tap into the experience and abilities of older workers.
Immigration only temporarily relieves ageing population
NSW Treasury Long-Term Fiscal Pressures Report answer to the fiscal ‘challenge’ of Australia’s ageing population is to increase immigration, restrain public sector pay, and – the quote here is direct – through “lowering community expectations” of services. There’s no Get Up! outrage over humdrum issues like 10 year-long queues for public housing, or ballooning hospital waiting times, or the fact that only 2% of rents in Sydney-Illawara are affordable for very low income workers. Deniers avert our attention to asylum seekers and gay marriage,"McMansions", big cars and over-consumption.
Population growth is also the lazy way to grow GDP (as opposed to GDP per capita) and make Treasurers look good. If this wasn’t enough, big business also has enormous influence on our major political parties through donations.
Young people remain longer in education before they take on full-time jobs in an economy increasingly based on knowledge and skills, and older people may often experience difficulty in finding employment. In 2011, 36% of Australia's older people were not born in Australia, a substantially higher proportion than the 24% of people under 65 years who were overseas-born.
In the Productivity Commission 2010 report titled Population and Migration: Understanding the Numbers, the Commission concluded that "Realistic changes in migration levels also make little difference to the age structure of the population in the future, with any effect being temporary, since immigrants themselves age."
Where does population growth end? We might be able to temporarily dilute, by a fraction, the proportion of people aged over 65, but in the long term the next generation will inherit a bigger "ageing population" to compensate for - but how?
“Realistic changes in fertility can have little impact on the age structure of the population in the short to medium term. While they have a greater effect in the longer term, they cannot stem the ageing of Australia’s population. Realistic changes to fertility could have some effect in the long term, but the proportion of older Australians will still grow from current levels. ”
End to the Age of Entitlements
The nation's peak welfare body has backed Joe Hockey's call for an end to the age of entitlement, arguing that people have "learned to expect new things from government" and tax reform is needed to transform the system. Australian Council of Social Service senior policy officer on tax and economics Peter Davidson said slowing growth and an ageing population meant the tax and welfare system was unsustainable.
Baby Bonus, Schoolkids Bonus and a Seniors Bonus are all "wasteful". Acoss says that taxes should be as simple, transparent and predictable as possible.
The Age of Entitlement is over. We should not take this as cause for despair. It is our market based economies which have forced this change on unwilling participants. Government spending on a range of social programs including education, health, housing, subsidised transport, social safety nets and retirement benefits has reached extraordinary levels as a percentage of GDP, and in an age of slowing growth and ageing population, are simply unsustainable.
It's an admission that our "growth" will inevitably lower our standards of living, and we will be less for our taxes. It's pure Ponzi economics!
Two decades of economic growth and we are being strangled economically.
“The reality is that despite more than two decades of strong economic growth, fault lines are emerging in our economic and social foundations that we simply cannot continue to ignore.
“There are major holes in our social safety net that the next government will have to address – in affordable housing, education, disability, mental and dental health, and community controlled services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples..." In reality, 22 years of "economic growth" has left us worse off, and poverty is increasing with 2.2 million people living below the poverty line.
ACOSS outlines proposals for first 100 days of new government (They never suggest limiting growth!)
Australia has long been one of the countries which has most enthusiastically pursued growth through immigration. But as the fertility rate fell – it has been below replacement rate for more than 30 years – that Big Australia goal became ever more reliant on imported people.
With no policies on slowing immigration levels, the flow of migrants to the western suburbs will hardly slow at all.
Lower fertility rates mean older, less innovative and productive workforces. More importantly to the Ponzi economic order, older, stable or declining populations consume less. So growth requires either importing people, or exporting stuff, or a combination of the two. Orthodox economics simply can’t cope otherwise.
“Economic growth” Ponzi economics
The Economy is meant to serve us, not “grow” to detrimental levels and deny its very purpose – to care for our health, education, children and seniors, and be a safety-net when emergencies strike.
“We’re certainly operating a Ponzi scheme in Australia,” says Dr Bob Birrell, an economist and migration expert from Monash University.
“Our growth is predicated on extra numbers… [and] more of our activity is going into city building and people servicing, which do not directly produce many goods that can be traded in overseas markets".
There are limits to growth, and Ponzi pyramid growth schemes always collapse and leave the participants worse off - except for the capital owners at the summit. What we need is a circuit-breaker to the growth/ageing population/"economic growth" mentality that is destroying our environment, vilifying older people, and causing hardship and increasing budgetary austerity.
The Japanese government has recently announced power supply "options," which it says will be used as a basis for a "national debate," the outcome of which will be reflected in the formulation of a new Basic Energy Plan. But what is it about the deceptive methodology of the "options" that always leads to the conclusion that nuclear power is "necessary"...?
The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station catastrophe has caused something of a national debate, if such a thing can be said to occur in Japan, on Japan’s energy future. The core of the debate is, naturally, how much, if any, nuclear power will Japan require in the coming decades and how much power can be produced by renewable energy technology or supply requirements reduced by energy conservation and efficiency efforts. Power companies, business circles and the politicians, bureaucrats, academics and so on who constitute the ‘nuclear village’ claim that without nuclear power Japan will face power shortages and try to scare the general public into acceptance of nuclear power with dire warnings of blackouts during the peak summer power consumption period. Nuclear opponents, on the other hand, say that there is no non-nuclear energy/electrical power shortage in Japan and that nuclear power stations are simply not necessary.1
Japan’s new energy policy, the “Innovative Energy and Environmental Strategy” is due to be unveiled sometime during the summer of 2012 and is supposed to reflect discussions on reviews of the Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy and the Basic Energy Plan. The Basic Energy Plan was revised in June 2010, but is now being reviewed ‘from scratch’ since it has a strong bias towards nuclear power.2 The Plan is drawn up by the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy, a consultative body of the Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry (MITI), and the review of the Plan has included a number of options for the composition of power supply from different sources (nuclear power, thermal, renewables, etc.). These options have been published in the Japanese press recently, and are as follows.
No figure was given for total energy or electrical power requirement in 2030.
Luckily, we have recently been treated to a rare look into the process of discussions in one of the subcommittees that has been deliberating these options. This appeared in the form of a monthly mail magazine sent out in English by Japan for Sustainability (JFS).3 Under the title “Re-Examining GDP Growth Projections to Plan Japan's Future Energy Policy,” the author Junko Edahiro, representative of JFS and a member of the Fundamental Issues Subcommittee under the Advisory Committee on Natural Resources and Energy,4 describes the discussions in the committee meetings on the various energy ‘options’ and the economic growth scenarios that form their basis. The English article also contains a link to a Japanese PDF (originally a PowerPoint presentation) that was submitted to the subcommittee as an opinion by Ms. Edahiro on March 9, 2012. This PDF contains detailed material supporting Ms. Edahiro’s argument and the discussion below will be based on the English article and the Japanese PDF. Slide numbers mentioned below refer to the slide numbers in the Japanese PDF
Regarding the lack of a figure for the total energy requirement for the 2030 power structure, Ms. Edahiro says, “This discussion gives me the impression that we are being told to think about how to cut a pie into pieces without knowing the size of the entire pie. I've been saying at the meetings that we need an estimate of the quantity of energy required before discussing how to secure the supply.” Quite right, but not unusual. Even the well-known Tetsunari Iida, sitting on the same subcommittee, and his Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP) do the same thing – giving energy source mixes for the power supply for 2020 or 2050, but failing to mention how large the pie is.5 (Strangely, Ms. Edahiro also gives a similar power structure graph for 2020 and 2030 on Slide 41 of her PDF.) Perhaps it is hard to calculate, but all the non-expert people I have talked to have assumed that the total energy/electrical supply in 2050, when ISEP says that it will be possible to supply 100% of electrical power by renewables, will be roughly the same as it is today. The graph on p.1 of ISEP’s paper makes it look like all electrical power in 2050 is supplied by renewables, but has been reduced by 50% through energy savings, and there is no indication of the actual size of the power supply. Less than we are consuming today, I’m sure, but how much less, and what might that mean it terms of lifestyle? I am not suggesting that it will necessarily be a worse lifestyle than we ‘enjoy’ in Japan today – one of the major points of Ms. Edahiro’s article is that it may well be a better, more relaxed, happier, less stressed-out lifestyle – but it will be different from what we have today. Perhaps that is what Tetsunari Iida wants to avoid saying, though I have no idea why he would want to avoid saying it. Perhaps that is what the nuclear village wants to avoid saying, since it might mean that if we are living in this low-energy 2030 or 2050 society we might not need nuclear power.
So we want to know just how much energy/electricity Japan will need for its economy in 2030 or 2050. To estimate the amount of energy that will be required at some point in the future, we need to have some way of calculating what the level of economic activity will be at that time. We can do this by knowing the current GDP, which is given by multiplying productivity by the number of workers in the labour force, and then by estimating the labour force and productivity in the target year. Calculating precise figures is difficult, but pretty good estimates can be made. This will result in an estimate of the amount of energy required for that level of economic activity, leading then to a number of options on how the energy can actually be supplied. At the same time, this will also result in an annual growth rate for the period up to the target year. The current Basic Energy Plan of June 2010 assumes an annual growth rate of approximately 2% for Japan for the period 2010 to 2020, then an approximate 1.2% for the period 2020 to 2030 (which is about the same as called for in the Japanese government’s New Growth Strategy6), with oil prices of approximately $120/bbl for 2020 and $170/bbl for 2030 (which is taken from the IEA’s “World Energy Outlook 2009”) (Slide 10). But note that these annual growth rates do not seem to have been calculated using the method mentioned above. They appear to be more like wishful thinking “called for” in the New Growth Strategy for the purposes of alleviating Japan’s wobbly pension, social security and public debt problems.
In the Fundamental Issues Subcommittee, the committee secretariat firstly proposed two growth scenarios, apparently based on cabinet office calculations:
(1) 1.8 percent this decade and 1.2 percent from 2020 (the “growth strategy” scenario), and
(2) 1.1 percent this decade and 0.8 percent from 2020 (the “prudent” scenario).
Ms. Edahiro, however, pointed out that Japan's labour force is estimated to decrease by 19.2 percent, or 13 million workers, between 2000 and 2030, due to the rapid aging of the nation’s population. (See graph in Slide 14, which shows that Japan’s population peaked at around 2005 and is now in decline).
Ms. Edahiro goes on to propose that projections of energy/electricity demand be based on the growth rate of GDP per capita rather than on total GDP, since Japan’s “economically affluent lifestyle depends on the level of national income per capita, not on the overall size of the economy.” What happens when we make growth predictions based on the reduction of the size of the labour force and per capita GDP?
Japan's annual GDP growth rate from 2000 to 2010 was 0.74 percent, while the annual GDP growth rate per capita was 0.65 percent. Calculating on the basis of these numbers and the reduction in the size of the labour force, the annual growth rate per capita can be estimated at 0.3 percent this decade to 2020, and zero from 2020 to 2030 (Slide 18). Ms. Edahiro estimates that the real GDP in 2030 would be only 3.7% greater than in 2010, i.e. an effective zero-growth scenario, whereas under the scenario envisaged by the current Basic Energy Plan it would be 40% larger. Assuming that there are possibilities for renewable energy expansion and increased energy conservation and efficiency, this clearly shows a huge gap in perception between the bureaucracy, which maintains that nuclear power is necessary for economic reasons, and people like Ms. Edahiro, who are not necessarily “anti-nuke,” but who base their estimations for the necessity of nuclear power on more realistic growth scenarios.
At this stage, the committee secretariat added the following to the growth scenarios:
(3) The case suggested by members, which assumes that Japan will maintain its per capita GDP growth and estimates the real GDP growth rate at 0.3 percent this decade and at zero percent from 2020.
Some committee members complained that this low growth rate in scenario (3) would cause some difficulties with government policies, such as the pension system. Ms. Edahiro rebuts this argument by saying,
“… I believe people who address policies based on easy assumptions that the size of a pie will get larger should reconsider their way of thinking… It is more important that we consider how to sustain those things under the situation of a realistic growth rate.”
I would interpret this as meaning, “What’s the point of having nuclear power if there is no basis in reality for the economic growth that it is intended to support?”
It should also be pointed out that, although not mentioned in Ms. Edahiro’s article, the PDF shows in Slide 20 that the real GDP of Germany has been rising for more than 20 years while the energy supply has gradually fallen. This is compared with Japan, where it looks much more like energy supply and real GDP rise or fall together. Presumably, this is due to Germany’s efforts to promote renewable energy as well as energy conservation and efficiency improvements, which have been stifled in Japan by the power companies and the nuclear village, who do not wish to see any competition for their energy regime. Thus, even if Japan’s real GDP is 40% larger than what it was in 2010, that does not necessarily mean that 40% more energy will be required to fuel it or that the energy must come from thermal (fossil energy) or nuclear sources.
Finally, in the PDF slides, Ms. Edahiro points out that electricity is not even the Japan’s biggest energy problem. Oil is. Oil supplies 52% of Japan’s final energy demand (electrical power is 26%, coal 11%, natural gas 10%, industrial steam 4%, and renewables are negligible – Slide 23). What Japan needs to do is reduce consumption of vehicle fuel through the introduction not only of hybrids and EVs, but also by allowing the use of bioethanol and biodiesel. This is another area where the big energy companies have tried to block off competition to their fuels by delaying tactics or by the use of ethyl tert-butyl ether (ETBE) as a 3% gasoline additive instead of making serious efforts to introduce the use of bioethanol, e.g. by small, private enterprises making use of waste plant materials and so on. No one in Japan seems to have woken up to the fact that there are plenty of countries in the world where large numbers of vehicles are run on 100% biodiesel fuel or bioethanol (Slide 31 - or that in countries like Brazil there are thousands of flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs), which make it possible for cars to run on any mixture of gasoline and ethanol). It is very interesting to hear the gasps from Japanese audiences when I tell them that all gasoline cars can run on ethanol with certain, relatively easy, changes to the fuel injection system (and tell them about the existence of FFVs, some of which appear to be running on Japanese roads with neither the owners nor the dealers knowing it!) and that Henry Ford actually designed his first mass-produced cars to run on ethanol, not gasoline, and were effectively FFVs!
There are a large number of other issues involved here. The IEA estimates, mentioned above, that oil prices will be approximately $120/bbl in 2020 and $170/bbl in 2030 are a joke. Anyone can make a guess, I suppose, and they might be right, but at the same time, the tendency for oil-exporting countries to consume more and more of their production domestically as their resources deplete also suggests that the amount of oil reaching Japan’s shores might be zero in 2030.7 Who knows? What’s the betting that Japan will not be importing any fossil energy in 2050? If we think like Tetsunari Iida and imagine that 100% of Japan’s energy (not just electricity) will be supplied by renewables in 2050, then perhaps we need to start thinking about what kind of agriculture Japanese people will be doing in 2050, what Japan’s population will be then, and whether Japan will need to import food or how it will do so if it needs to. These are just examples; there are hundreds of energy issues that all countries will have to face in the coming decades. The extent to which we are able to make use of one energy resource or another defines our societies and lifestyles. The Oil and Gas News, an Internet newsletter sent out by the Energy Daily (www.energy-daily.com) proclaims oil and (natural) gas to be the “fuel of civilization.” Quite right. It will not even be possible to operate nuclear reactors for more than a year or so without (relatively cheap) oil supplies.
For the time being, though, how and why the nuclear village bureaucrats, politicians and others abuse figures and ‘options’ to persuade the Japanese people that nuclear power is necessary for the future of Japan’s economy is a story the Japanese people need to know. Along with the Japanese earthquake/tsunami problem and the problem of nuclear waste (symbolized by the continuing horror story at Fukushima Daiichi’s extremely precarious Unit 4 fuel pool), it is quite clear that the Japanese people should not be wasting their time trying to decide how much nuclear power they want. The answer should already be patently obvious: ZERO.
1. Nishio, Baku, Complete Halt of All Nuclear Power Plants in Japan – But for how long can restarts be prevented? Nuke Info Tokyo No.148, May/June 2012 gives more detail. Available for download in PDF format (in English).
3. Edahiro, Junko, Re-Examining GDP Growth Projections to Plan Japan's Future Energy Policy
Japan for Sustainability Newsletter #117, 31 May 2012. Archived at http://www.japanfs.org/en/mailmagazine/newsletter/pages/032001.html
The Japanese PDF mentioned in the article.
4. Web pages of the subcommittee (in Japanese).
5. E.g. ISEP, From “Haphazard Blackouts” to a “Strategic Energy Shift”, 23 March 2011, page 1, (in Japanese).
ISEP, Directionality of Post 3/11 Nuclear Power and Energy Policy, page 9, (in Japanese).
6. For English documents on Japan’s New Growth Strategy, or see the other English materials.
7. Brown, Jeffrey J. and Samuel Foucher, A quantitative assessment of future net oil exports by the top five net oil exporters, Energy Bulletin, January 8, 2008,
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Unless there's economic growth, we're not making progress
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Until we respect the planet, we won't progress.
Dear Minister Wong,
On 21 September 2009 you had the following exchange on the Breakfast Show on ABC Radio:
"Minister, Australia's population is projected to increase by 65% to the level of 30m people by 2050. During that same period, the government is committed to cutting our carbon emissions by 60%. Aren't those goals or those facts mutually exclusive? How are we going to massively cut carbon as our population continues to massively grow?"
"Well, absolutely not, because the key issue with reducing emissions is that we have to de-link our levels of carbon pollution from economic growth and population growth. We have to ... Whereas the last few hundred years emissions growth - that is, growth in our carbon pollution - has essentially tracked our population and economic growth, we have to break that link and that the whole world has to break that link and so does Australia. So the key issue here is breaking that link, not, not trying to reduce population."
Please tell me exactly what theory and model you are relying on for this proposed delinking of energy from population numbers in a context of economic growth. Please tell me why you believe it is inconceivable to simply allow Australia's population to return to natural levels of growth rather than interfere to engineer growth ever-upwards.
I am aware of economic beliefs that energy calory decrease trends since the late 1970s meant that there had been a delinking of energy use from productivity. This, however, has been shown to be mistaken. What had changed was the choice of and quality of fuels used for different tasks. Overall fuel use (and concommitant carbon gas output) has continued to increase with economic growth.
If it had failed to do so then the laws of thermodynamics would have been repealed, and that is impossible.
Perhaps you are relying on centrifugal separation based nuclear power, which admittedly uses less electrical energy than the old gaseous diffusion type?
Nonetheless, surely you cannot be unaware that, to replace Australia's current electrical consumption would require at least one thousand MWe nuclear power plant for each million Australians, each supplying 25PJ, plus an average of 4.8 new nuclear plants per year to supply annual growth in consumption. And that is without replacing the energy that oil and gas depletion will leave unsupplied, and it is without catering to the total electrical output of electricity producers, much of which will never reach any purposeful productive activity.
I await your response with real anxiety. Please reply as soon as possible, citing your theory, data and sources.
Sincerely, Sheila Newman Population, Environment and Energy Sociologist Editor of The Final Energy Crisis, 2nd Edition, Pluto Press, UK, 2008
Fresh water dam capacity is a known determinant of a dependent population's capacity. Once dam levels drop below critical levels, water demand has clearly exceeded supply. So logically, rationally, naturally, excessive demand ought to be tempered and curtailed. This is what rationally follows in macroeconomics, like when Australia's Reserve Bank increases interest rates to dampen excess demand. It doesn't suggest we import more.
But governments think they can spin their own reality and now employ communication consultants to evangelise a 'can do' positivism mantra - irrespective of potentially adverse social and ecological consequences. Who considers the impacts of those judgments and decisions on local families and local ecology?
In Melbourne's case, the Brumby Government seems deeply headlong into some artificial life support to perpeatuate Melbourne's population growth. Where's the rationale?
Otherwise, blind unguided, not though through support of Federal mass-immigration pressures the need for 'desalination' as magic pudding panacea for a tide to which the government has set no high water mark - bit risk these days?.
It's Greenspan's 'irrational exuberance' infesting population growth by Brumby's kneejerk, shortsighted and downright undemocratic Victorian Government. But it has nothing to do with central banking in a democratic society, but everything to do with worshipping some growth divinity, and in the process prepared to sacrifice important ecology and Wonthaggi rural amenity values. Is this Brumby's 'pagan-inspired' sprawl infesting Melbourne's still rural outer fringe?
The Brumby Government's unelaborated growth fetish appears too narrowly focused on the supply end of the problem, yet strangely it denies and ignores the obvious root cause and driver of the growth problem - excessive demand. The prime cause of that increasing demand is our federal government's exuberance to maximise immigration.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics "at June 2008 there were an estimated 3.9 million people residing in the Melbourne ('Statistical Division'), an increase of 74,600 people or 2.0% since June 2007. Melbourne SD experienced the largest growth of all Australian capital city SDs for the year to June 2008. Melbourne SD accounted for 81% of Victoria's population growth between June 2007 and June 2008, and was home to 73% of Victoria's population."
The largest growth areas are on the new 'sprawlskirts' of Melbourne at the local government areas of Wyndham, Casey, Melton, Whittlesea and Hume. The fastest growth areas are Wyndham, Melton, Cardinia, and Whittlesea, plus with the increasing highrise in the central Melbourne itself.
The prime driver of urban population growth is immigration, current peaking into Australia at 400,000 net this year. That is two new Geelongs every year! Illogically, federal and state governments are hell bent on maximising this immigration and so exacerbating the demand problem.
By resorting to water supply from desalination, which has been shown to extravagant in terms of borrowing costs, in its massive continuous energy demand, and in its wastefulness (byproducts of salts, chemicals and organic sludge), the Brumby government is effectively acknowledging that Melbourne's population is outstripping water resource capacity. Melbourne is simply living beyond its means.
Every time we push the natural boundary of what this country can naturally sustain, we damage it and lower our living standards by allowing more people to exploit the same natural resources - land, water, energy, etc. It's as if our politicians compare us to Hong Kong and have a Hong Kong vision for Australians. Well then they can bloody well go and live in Hong Kong on their credit cards, as long as we don't have to fund them.
It's time that triple bottom line scorecard reporting was applied to measure and reward government performance, rather than locked in the spin government PR. Australia's ecological health and Australians' living standards need to be measured and factored into political performance in quarterly results. What's the benefit in economic growth numbers like say 100,000 new dwellings approved for the quarter, when the Thomson Dam keeps reducing its water capacity and the state is debt burdened with an additional $3 billion to fund a 'desal' plant at Wonthaggi?
And we need to question this 'greater good' utilitarian mindset. At Wonthaggi, the Bunurong Marine Park and Coastal Reserve and Wonthaggi's rural community seem sacrificable for the 'greater' Melbourne? To exploit locals for a greater good is morally wrong. And where is that 'greater' obese Melbourne to end in 50 years time?
This is indeed 'so wrong'. Brumby is doggedly locked in an extravagant and immensely damaging 1950s mindset.
Snowy River Lessons
This $3.5 billion desal plant (pre-blowout estimate) is comparable to the Snowy River Scheme commenced in post-WWII 1949. This growth inspired scheme cost $1.16 billion (possibly $7 billion in today's money) to add resource capacity for a growing post-war population. But in the process, the Snowy Scheme tragically castrated the Snowy's wildness and its legend to a trickle. "The creation of the huge Eucumbene, Jindabyne, Blowering and Jounama reservoirs resulted in the flooding of thousands of hectares of land. Two whole towns, Adaminaby and Jindabyne, and numerous farms and homesteads were inundated. Thousands of years of Aboriginal history were also lost beneath the waters. Both Adaminaby and Jindabyne were rebuilt nearby as new towns that were heralded as modern and comfortable. People were compensated by the Authority for their losses and relocated."
The Snowy Scheme did employ hundreds at the time, but destroyed the Snowy, Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers and the way of life of hundreds of established pastoral families that for generations had livelihoods dependant upon these vital flowing rivers.
Fifty years later, a repeat of the Victorian government growth driven 'irrational exuberance' now imposes its undemocratic will on the rural Wonthaggi community and its surrounding natural environment. It is so again an obese Melbourne can exceed its capacity and become even morbidly obese. This is nothing but a government infatuated growth disorder akin to 'bulemic sprawl'.
And Brumby has no ultimate vision as to where this is all leading. He will be Parliamentary pensioned off by that time and he won't care.
Story by Catherine Case:
With the Community Cabinet due to take place in the city of Launceston where I live, I thought what better opportunity to ask a question of the Prime Minister about the government's obsessive focus on economic growth and their apparent blindness to the realities of ecological limits? I also wanted to try and ascertain whether they had any long term plan whatsoever to deal with projected population growth in Australia. Would they even acknowledge it as an issue? No one in the mainstream media ever asks these questions, the paradigm of "perpetual growth" goes unchallenged. It seems so blindingly obvious to me that endless growth is an impossibility. Why isn't someone - anyone - in the government facing up to reality?
Launceston community cabinet
On Wednesday 5 November 2008, I attended the community cabinet at Launceston, where I got to ask a question I had prepared in front of 400 people. Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, looked at me with total disdain and completely avoided (and in the most patronizing way) answering my question, which was:
Relentless focus on growth
"For me one of the most disappointing aspects of the Labor government has been the relentless focus and almost obsession with "growing the economy". It's as if every member has sworn to repeat this mantra as often and as loudly as possible on every occasion, as we've already heard here tonight.
Isn't about time that we stopped pretending that mindlessly chasing unending economic growth is even remotely compatible with sustainability?
Because underlying this whole issue is the unspeakable and forbidden P word - POPULATION
The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently projected that Australia's population could increase to 42 million people in a little over 40 years with Melbourne and Sydney both reaching nearly 7 million people each.
Is that sensible, desirable or sustainable?
Australia is in bad shape already
Aren't we as a country already seriously struggling with water supply, energy independence, food production, depleted fisheries, overloaded infrastructure and severe environmental degradation?
When will the government show real leadership on this issue and start to address the elephant in the living room that is population?
When will the government take the brave step of articulating a national population policy - one that recognizes REALITY and dispenses with the cozy fantasy that is the economic mirage of never-ending population growth?
Will this government have the courage to articulate a policy that, as recommended in a recent CSIRO publication, aims to stabilize the population of Australia to 25-27 million people by 2050?
And if not, why not?"
Prime minister Rudd responds obliquely
First off Rudd said that he and his government wouldn't apologize for wanting every "able bodied" person to have employment… the importance of strong economy, jobs etc.
Then he rattled off something about buying back water entitlements. Some more guff about signing the Kyoto Protocol. Some other far-fetched rhetoric about "sustainable development".
He said how important it is for Australians to address climate change and how the government is doing just that.
The only thing that even got close to addressing the question was something about immigration rates and how the government adjusted those in accordance with economic conditions. And Rudd cursorily mentioned "natural" population increase as if the government had no hand in promoting and encouraging it and was powerless to do anything about it.
And even though I'd addressed the question to him and the Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett, Rudd quickly pointed at the next person in the audience with their hand up and didn't pass the mike on to Peter Garrett, even though he did with all the other questions to various ministers.
He struck me as a shifty, slippery piece of work. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. But I would have liked to heard Garrett's response, and I hope to follow up on this.
General problems with conduct of the Community Forum
As well as the frustration of having the Prime Minister fudge my question, I found the way the community forum was conducted disappointing. At the beginning of the forum, which was already running about 20 minutes behind, after numerous welcomes and thank you's, everyone had to listen to Rudd for about another 15 minutes telling us about all the wonderful election promises that he has kept - in some detail mind you - and all the wonderful things still to come.
Yet the Prime Minister and his entourage were supposed to be there to listen to US! It was like an election speech, anyone would think the guy is still trying to get elected. Even his ministers were looking uncomfortable and bored. I let one of his advisors know in no uncertain terms that I thought it was rude and inappropriate that he went on so much. It was pretty obvious the whole thing is a PR exercise pure and simple.
By the way, I did get quite a bit of applause after my question, so lots of people were in agreement.
Follow-up with Peter Garrett
Peter Garrett just happened to be making an announcement right next to where I work yesterday. I was able to bail him up after he'd finished his official stuff and after he had spent some time placating pulp mill protesters with his reassuring words of how diligently he would be assessing the project against the extremely narrow commonwealth guidelines and how after all, It was Malcolm Turnbull who had approved it - not him! I had heard this before. At least he made the effort to go and talk to them which I have to give him credit for....
It was quite funny because the protesters have taken well known songs and changed the words to become pulp mill protest songs and halfway through Garrett's speech they started singing them very
loudly, practically drowning him out.
Anyway, I got round to saying to Garrett that I was the person who had asked the question the night before about population and that I had been disappointed that he didn't get a chance to answer it.
"Well," he said, "I'm in complete agreement with the Prime Minister."
Population was not a problem!! It was more important to address issues like environmental impacts and other things.
"But" I said, "Surely you have to take population into account, it's a major factor?" Did he really think that Australia having 42 million people was a good idea given the already existing environmental problems?
My recollection is that he said that he was not going to "talk numbers", that it was "not about the numbers". He reminded me that he had been President of the ACF for a number of years, arguing that this had acquainted him well about population as an issue, but it's not "the problem".
He disagreed with my "opinion" about population.
I said, "Well it's not just my 'opinion'; what about the CSIRO? They're recommending that this be addressed."
My impression was that he totally dismissed this point, and that he walked away from me, still pronouncing what sounded to me like platitudes about consumption, sustainable industries, etc etc.
My next thing is to fill in the form that they gave out at the forum and send it to him with some more specific questions. I want to see what he says when he has to put something in writing.
Reducing our immigration numbers is not enough. Our Immigration Department should be closed except to manage the intake of refugees and individual cases.
The "problem" of an ageing population is being used as a smoke-screen to artificially increase our numbers because it is "good for businesses". Any skills lacking should mean an adjustment to our education and training schemes. Businesses don't pay students' prohibitive HECS fees!
We will never meet our Kyoto obligations while we continually compensate for our "ageing population"! Our abysmal figures of biodiversity losses should sound warning bells that our environment is already heavily stressed. Even a strong economy will never be able to replace the "services" of our biodiversity.
We only have one planet, Earth! While our global population continues to increase, more natural resources are threatened. We live firstly in an environment, not an economy! Migration has given us an optimum population and it has been good for our prosperity. However, we have passed "sustainable" growth. Instead of bringing economic and livability benefits to our lifestyles, our over-population is causing greater stresses and expenses. Natural resources are finite. Will businesses be able to find a solution to climate change, irreversible ecological damage and a threatened ecosystem?
Our economy is dictating government decisions, aimed at continual economic growth through population growth. Other countries have healthy GDP figures without immigration. Our economy needs to be based on 21st century technology. Our grandchildren will be cursing us and singing "advance Australia bare" unless we stop our population growth.
Hello my name is Ms. Russia
I lost 7 million people since I stopped being a Communist in 1992. Before that I couldn’t stop my weight gain. Nothing else worked. Not cardio, strength training, dieting or yoga.
I shed 250,000 people in the first half of 2008 alone. I feel and look great. But according to economic theory I should be dead. I guess it proves that both communist and capitalist theoreticians had porridge for brains.
What are my prospects? Despite losing demographic girth, I expect economic growth of 5.5% next year and in ten years I will apparently become the 5th largest economy in the world.
So here is a question or two for my rivals. For Ms. Canada, Ms. Australia, Ms. UK, Ms. Singapore, for the dozens and dozens of those out there who still believe that population growth is necessary to propel economic growth--- how do you account for MY success, and that of Ms. Japan’s?
And must you always conflate aggregative quantitative growth with qualitative development? When you come to the realization that population growth is not a necessary catalyst for economic growth, and you have spent enough time in that mental decompression chamber, you might then be ready for the next one. That economic growth is neither necessary nor sustainable.
If I win the Ms. Universe contest, it will be a victory for population stability and reduction, but not a victory for steady state economics. People will still aspire to consume more and more of the earth’s resources when it is manifestly beyond its absorptive capacity already. But at least the process will be slowed somewhat. I will have broken a path, and perhaps another bolder contestant will challenge for and win this competition. Ms. Negative Population AND Economic Growth.
Mon Jul 14, 2008
Volunteers remove parasites from the shells of tortoises
Hundreds of Australian long-necked turtles are the latest victims of the demise of the lower reaches of the Murray-Darling Basin. [The Murray Darling Basin is Australia's major riverine system and principle foodbowl.]
Volunteers cleaning victims of worm and market-logic
Small turtle, Big message
The message is that, in the Environment Minister, Penny Wong's scheme of priorities, South Australia's southern lakes long-necked turtles, don't rate much against an irrigation incumbent from the big end of town. For Australia's cash-obsessed government, economic growth may seem to out-rate the turtle, but remember Aesop's fable about the slow and steady turtle against the hare. Thermodynamics tell us that the turtle outlives the hare due to superior thermodynamic efficiency over the long haul. Consider in this light, that respect for nature, rather than subservience to the inhuman market, carries the greater chance for the survival of humans and their civilisation in this desert country. (Sheila Newman)
(Film briefly showing worm-affected turtle but also gives good info on frightening impending collapse of riverine system.)
The turtles that live on the Murray mouth in the Coorong Lakes have been infected by a parasitic bristle worm that thrives in hyper saline waters.
A Goolwa resident, David Surmon, has organised an emergency rescue service for the turtles.
He says that he has saved something between 200 and 300 tortoises, but that he finds more dead each day.
He was reported by Bronwyn Herbert, to say that,
"In the last week I've found around about 13 or 14 dead and that's all deadly in the case of the bristle worm - because what happens is the turtles, if they can move, they get up onto the shore and they can't go any further because there's so much weight."
He added that foxes and rats attacked the encumbered turtles and killed them.
Apparently the bristle worm attaches itself to the turtles' shells and then the infestation slowly increases from then, creating a huge encrustation on the turtles upper and lower shells. The turtle can be trapped inside its shell by the growth of the encrustation. Its legs may not reach the ground anymore, or the worm-infestation may become so heavy that the weight prevents the turtle from moving.
Surmon was quoted by interviewer Bronwyn Herbert, saying that the rescue group had "...actually weighed one, one time, and it weighed nearly seven kilos. And that was a very small turtle. On the back of the turtle was around about three or four inches high of bristle worms."
Turtle rescuer, David Surmon, describes how the team he works saves as many turtles as they are able to reach by taking the turtles from the river and putting them in a big bathtub of rain water. They leave them there for about two or three hours, which is enough to kill the worm. Afterwards the volunteers liberate the turtles from their prison by scraping the dead worm and its encrustation off the turtles carapaces.
"Believe it or not pure fresh water, even tap water will actually kill the bristle worm because it is not used to living in fresh water," David Surmon says.
He said that when he had around a dozen of them, he generally took them further up-river, freeing them up above Murray Bridge.
According to Surmon, the Coorong Lakes comprise very important habitat for turtle reproduction and are the location of a significant breeding population.
Many of us would agree with David Surmon that "Without the wildlife in the river and around the river (...) All we've got is just a big, big mud pan that's going nowhere."
He sounds like a kind and thoughtful man, able to take responsibility and initiative, and to communicate something very significant about our society, our government, and our river system, by reading and interpreting important signs from generally overlooked inhabitants of this badly treated country.
Photos of turtles and their human helpers republished with kind permission from Citizens saving turtles from Murray-Darling crisis The film from you-tube was a selection by the writer.
I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Canada’s social democrats have not experienced an ideological epiphany in the past seven months. One might recall that New Democratic party (NDP) premier Lorne Calvert in calling an election for November 7th declared that growth was a good thing so long as its “benefits” were shared.
This revolutionary statement was made to distinguish social democrats from the growthists on the right who simply promised that growth’s benefits would “trickle down” to the less fortunate without state intervention. But between them was complete unanimity that growth should proceed. The boreal forest would continue to be clear cut no matter how timber royalties were spent, potential farmland would be sold for housing, wetlands would be cleared for development and uranium mined.
In a speech given 22 May 08 to the Shepherds of Good Hope, NDP leader Jack Layton revealed that his party had not changed its attitude to growth:
“As a country, we have a responsibility to ensure that no member of our society is denied the essentials of life. But today, we are seeing a very disturbing trend in Canada: the growing gap between the rich and everyone else. More wealth (sic) is being generated than ever before—but that does not mean that everyone is better off. In fact, the opposite is true. The reason is pretty clear―the benefits of economic growth (sic) are not being shared equally among all Canadians.”
Oh Jack. So that’s what’s wrong with economic growth? Just that its benefits are not being shared equally among all Canadians. Well they certainly weren’t shared equally in NDP British Columbia, NDP Saskatchewan and NDP Manitoba. All three provinces recorded the worst child poverty rates in the country. And homeless people were out on the street in force in the latter half of the nineties in BC too, during the NDP reign. The growing gap between top and bottom income levels also rose during their tenure. Analysts even on the left also report that the gap between social classes or at least regionally between north and south actually grew under Tony Blair’s centre-left government. Clearly there is a gap between the rhetoric of social equality and its delivery. And just as clearly, economic growth is not the mechanism of that delivery.
But I thought what was wrong with economic growth was what it did while it was “growing”. Eating into natural capital and destroying real wealth in creating the “wealth” that Mr. Layton defines as such. For what is “wealth”? Is it the toys we accumulate with all this economic activity? The consumer goods, the cars, the furniture, the sparkling new housing units? What is it? Seldom factored in as wealth are the 33 trillion dollars worth of biodiversity services that the planet provides free of charge to support human life. Services which are daily being destroyed by relentless economic growth. Clean water, unpolluted air, healthy vibrant fish stocks in our lakes and streams, viable microorganisms―these constitute the real wealth of the nation that are not to be “shared” and parceled out like tax rebates to Jack Layton’s low income constituency or offered to the developers’ greed. When are we going to a measuring stick that reflects this fact and replaces GDP and the statistics politicians are using to test reality?
To seal the deal Layton was asked by veteran parliamentary reporter Mike Duffy if his plan to tax the worst corporate polluters might impede economic growth. Layton quickly reassured him, “Oh, no, look at Germany. Thegovernment forced penalties on the car manufacturers and revenue went to the development of wind turbines. There is more economic growth now than before.” Layton’s plan is in opposition to the Liberal-Green plan to introduce carbon taxes. He apparently has not heard the news that the Royal Academy of Sciences concluded that ALL economic growth must end if we are to stop short of raising global temperatures by that critical 2 degree tipping point.
Tim Murray, 1 Jun 08
See also: Growth is OK if it is shared? of 12 Oct 07.
Sustainable Population Australia Media Release
State Premiers must recognise that continued economic growth is not sustainable and give precedence to the environment recognising that the size of the economy is bounded by Nature's ability to sustain it, say conservationists in the wake of the Garnaut Report on Climate Change economic impacts.
'One can only hope that the ignorance shown by Anna Bligh, the Premier of Queensland, is not shared by our Prime Minister', remarked Sustainable Population of Australia President Dr John Coulter when he saw the Premier's comments on the Garnaut Report.
In response to the Report, Premier Bligh has said that there must be a balance between the environment and the economy. 'The Queensland Premier seems not to realise that if we don't have an environment we don't have an economy and we don't have a future for our children', commented Dr Coulter.
'It is this naive nibbling away at the environment through misguided bleats about balance that has brought humanity to the edge of a cataclysmic collapse. Fifty percent of fifty percent of fifty percent leaves only twelve and a half percent for the environment yet Premier Bligh wants to halve that again. It is well past the time when the environment must take precedence.
'Continual economic and population growth are not consistent with an environmentally sustainable future. Anna Bligh, like every other Australian Premier wants more growth. She has just seen in devastated Mackay one small result of climate change yet she would pack another half million into the Gold Coast Region with its multitude of canal estates. These may well be under the sea within the lifetime of our children.
'At present rates of economic growth the black coal deposits of Queensland will all be gone before 2040, the carbon will be CO2 in the atmosphere making Queensland's climate even more inimical to future generations.
Wake up Premiers! Sustainable economic growth is an oxymoron. You can have one but not both! For the sake of the future of our children and the world, recognise that the only economic model which is consistent with a sustainable future is one that is dynamic but steady-state, in which the size of the economy is bounded by Nature's ability to sustain it, concluded the president of Sustainable Population Australia.
For further information:
Dr John R. Coulter
National President, Sustainable Population Australia
On December 4, 2003, Australia’s population was estimated at 20 million and projected to reach about 30 million by 2050. Slightly less than 50 per cent of this growth rate resulted from net overseas immigration. By 5 November 2007, Australia’s population had ballooned by more than one twentieth of itself (or 5.66 per cent) to 21,131,216 and was projected to reach 34 million by 2050.#fn_i">[i] In fact, with that growth rate of 1.5 per cent per annum, it is on course to double within less than 50 years. Annual immigration has been responsible for more than half this growth, even though the birth-rate had increased in a context of misleading pronatalist propaganda.
Before British colonization in 1788 the peoples of Terra Australis managed to conserve an almost exclusively hunter-gatherer nomadic lifestyle. Art#fn_ii">[ii] but no written history, has been found, and reconstruction of their impact relies on anthropological, archeological and ecological studies. “Australia” was transplanted and adapted from a British society which was on the cusp of industrialisation. Pre 1788, Australia’s aboriginal population averaged continent-wide less than one person per 8.5 square kilometers – possibly as few as one person per 51 square kilometers.#fn_iii">[iii] Numerous clans inhabited the continent at different population densities, reflecting regional rainfall, soils and climate.#fn_iv">[iv] Also patterned by climate and soils, the fossil-fuel-era population distribution is similar, but much denser.
Early attempts to establish agriculture failed with some unintensive exceptions recently uncovered.#fn_v">[v] The British managed to gain an agricultural foothold using ‘white’ slaves in the form of convicts drawn mostly from the ragged army of their dispossessed. Their number was later supplemented by indentured labour, displaced aboriginals, and, until Federation, ‘black-birding’ – the practice of kidnapping Pacific Islanders and bringing them to work in Australia, principally for the Colonial Sugar Refinery Company. There is thus no history or tradition of an established pre-fossil fuel agricultural society. The gold-rushes of the 1850s attracted capital, finance and economic migrants, resulting in a rapidly morphing population and economy and formation of a working class. This class made a national wage-fixing pact with capital at Federation in 1904 and also obtained the agreement of CSR to outlaw black-birding #fn_vi">[vi] and the importation of other 'non-white' labour, widely perceived as synonymous with slaving.#fn_vii">[vii]
The economy intensified after World War II, but much land was cleared and divided up for development by land speculators from the time of the gold rushes of the mid 19th and early 20th century. When the gold ran out, there was a massive depression, which probably assisted the formation of the above industrial laws.
After WW2 business promoted a fear of population implosion among politicians and a policy for mass immigration came in. High immigration, combined with the unforeseen baby-boom that accompanied the petroleum era, made the newly privatized housing industry very powerful and consolidated an economic addiction to population growth. Although the ‘white-Australia’ policy was dismantled, wages and conditions legislation under the 1904 constitution protected workers and made it unprofitable to import labor simply to undercut wages. However, in 2006-7, the conservative government found a way around this - (Workchoices).#fn_viii">[viii] At the same time net immigration was encouraged to increase from an average of around 75-80,000 per annum to upwards of 160,000 per annum,#fn_ix">[ix] at the behest of the development, housing, mining and financial lobbies. All this took place in the context of a huge increase in mining and construction, including massive engineering projects in most states which have drawn angry but useless protests from Australians. These circumstances underpin Australia’s demographic and material overshoot.
The ideology of multiculturalism has been useful for suppressing protest against this massive population growth by tarring as 'racist' any protest against immigration for whatever reason. It is ironic that the White Australia policy, which was introduced to combat the kind of slavery which the USA was built on, has been replaced with a much nicer-sounding Multiculturalism, which allows the importation of low-wage labour and the flooding of the housing market to benefit speculators, in the context of rising land prices and rising homelessness.
#fn_ii" id="fn_ii">[ii] Much of which functioned as maps of areas of land with markers for water, game, people and landmarks.
#fn_iii" id="fn_iii">[iii] Total land stock is 770 million ha of 7,700,000 square km. Estimates of population range between 150,000 through 300,000 to 900,000.
#fn_iv" id="fn_iv">[iv] Joseph B. Birdsell, “Australia: Ecology, spacing mechanisms and adaptive behaviour in aboriginal land tenure”, in Ron Crocombe, (Ed.), Land Tenure in the Pacific, OUP/MUP 1971, pp.334-361
#fn_v" id="fn_v">[v] Jennifer Macey, “Vic bushfires uncover ancient Aboriginal stone houses”, The World Today, 3 Feb. 2006 12:45:00, www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2006/s1561665.htm
#fn_vi" id="fn_vi">[vi] “With Federation, the Commonwealth Parliament became dominated by spokesmen for ‘White Australia’. In October 1901 legislation was passed prohibiting the introduction of Pacific Islanders after 31 March 1904.”, McKillop, R.F., referring to Bolton, G.C., A Thousand miles away: A History of North Queensland to 1920, ANU Press, 1972, p. 239, in “Australia’s Sugar Industry” on the Light Railway Research Society of Australia site, www.lrrsa.org.au/LRR_SGRa.htm
#fn_vii" id="fn_vii">[vii] The Colonial Sugar Company aroused similar responses among indigenous Fijians who also objected to black-birding as well as to the importing of Indian indentured labour. “The Indian Connection”, Frontline, Volume 17 - Issue 12, June 10 - 23, 2000, www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl1712/17120130.htm
#fn_ix" id="fn_ix">[ix] “Largest population increase ever: ABS,” Media Release, September 24, 2007, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Latestproducts/3101.0, “Net overseas migration contributed 54% (162,600 people) to this growth, which was more than the natural increase of 46% (138,100 people or 273,500 births minus 135,400 deaths).” This occurred with confusing changes to statistical methods plus new ease of transfer from temporary to permanent migrant (largely equivalent to European citizenship).
Peace in our time, Habitat forever?
For those who recall the scene when Neville Chamberlain stepped down on the tarmac of London's Heston aerodrome on September 30th of 1938 waving his piece of paper, the #announcement">announcement by the government of the Canadian province of British Columbia (B.C.) on October 16, 2007 must have seemed like déjà vu. On both occasions, an announcement promising 'peace in our time' (for people or wildlife) was met with jubilant relief from people who wanted to believe that the insatiable appetite of a monster can be appeased with an hors d'oeuvre.
In 1938 the monster was Adolf Hitler and he was not to be believed or trusted. In 2007 the monster is economic growth, and its need for lebensraum will not stop at greenbelts, farmland, wetlands and nature reserves. It will devour what it needs to fuel its momentum and bend governments and laws to serve its ends. The strictest land use plans will fall before its armies. Even the home of 'smart growth', Portland, Oregon, stood helpless as growth forced population to spill over tight urban boundaries into adjacent farmland. British greenbelts are beginning to suffer the same fate. As planning consultant Eben Fodor was moved to comment, "smart growth is merely the planned, orderly destruction of our remaining environment."
Economic growth is a function of population growth, driven in North America largely by immigration, coupled with obscenely excessive consumption---and it is crowding out wildlife habitat. The question is, can the dedication of conservation areas permanently shield wildlife and flora from developmental pressures? Experience suggests that it cannot.
In their 2005 Report, the National Refuge Association of the U.S. revealed that "many endangered or threatened species are not even found on the refuges, including 40% of all listed mammals, birds and reptiles, 75% of listed fish and amphibians, and about 85% of listed plants and invertebrates." The area outside refuges will be more and more a killing zone. Much of the 40% of all housing units that will exist in America in 2030 will be built on previously open lands, and "lands within five miles of fully 78% of the western refuges have been mined, drilled , offered to or otherwise controlled by mining, oil and gas interests." And nearly 40% of refuges have greater than 50% human-impacted landscape within 5 to 40 miles. Particularly vulnerable are the 20% of wildlife refuges smaller than 1000 acres, or refuges fragmented into small parcels that can't adequately defend the ranges of the species that need protection.
Of course, the #announcement">announcement on October 16 by the B.C. government offers habitat protection on a vastly larger scale. An area twice the size of Jamaica of old growth cedar, pine and spruce, and a buffer of forest that is to be harvested with sensitive care. The coalition of ten environmental groups who fought for the habitat are sanguine. But even with 2.2 million hectares set aside, they would be advised to keep their powder dry. Especially when you look at the province's barren mountainsides and remember the government slogan, "Forests Forever".
The hard truth is, as long as economic growth runs loose like a mad dog, no land of any size is safe from predation. Growing populations and growing development envelop pristine sanctuaries, reach a tipping point, and then the resources that these sanctuaries are harbouring will be ravaged. Just as the B.C. government set aside this Mountain Cariboo habitat, the U.S. Congress once established Yosemite National Park. When mining and logging interests came knocking at the door, with the stroke of a pen, Congress released 1400 hectares of the precious park for their exploitation.
Shocking betrayals of this kind by government have and will be made when the economic chips are down, as the Plains Indians will attest. The solemn Treaty of Laramie guaranteed the sacred Black Hills to the Lakota people in perpetuity, but when white prospectors found gold, all bets were off and the monster was let loose. Miners flooded the area and in just eight years the Dakota territory was a white colony and the sacred hills a hub of activity.
One day soon, in a country near you, with the oil the price of gold and power down, there will be a desperate and ruthless scramble to use up resources wherever they can be found, even behind the sacrosanct walls of conservation lands. And government will pave the way.
First it was the tiny Sudetenland, then it was Poland and then it was the vast steppes of Russia. Feed a crocodile a morsel and he becomes stronger and bolder, coming back for more and more. The only safety for nature is to slay the beast, not to hide from it within the confines of a National Park. Economic growth must be stopped and a steady state economy instituted. Now.