Mark O'Connor, co-author of Overloading Australia talks on population fallacies and the IPAT equation and touches on Greens politics at the Sustainable Living Festival in a Sustainable Population Australia event.
Churches are part of politics and usually back the establishment, as much through investment in property assets as through political policy. It is therefore inspiring to see this honorable departure from the mainstream church and mass-media-led arguments for population growth. In March 2009 the Public Affairs Commission released this discussion paper on key issues for Australia’s future, which recommended some responses to global and national environmental stresses. A summary of this paper is attached, with a reference to the General Synod web site where the whole paper may be accessed.
The author of this paper is John Langmore, an Anglican and ex-ALP senator ffrom the ACT. It is a very worthy contribution to the "Population Debate". We present here the original document that gave rise to some sensational reporting, such as "Anglican Church accused of paganism, advocating genocide". Our publishing of this paper does not mean that candobetter.org has any religious affiliation or belief. (Candobetter.org editor)
Prepared by the Public Affairs Commission
of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia
In March 2009 the Public Affairs Commission released a discussion paper on key issues for Australia’s future, which recommended some responses to global and national environmental stresses. A summary of this paper is attached, with a reference to the General Synod web site where the whole paper may be accessed.
Now the Commission seeks to assist consideration of population growth in a way that is consistent with our Christian faith and it is hoped will encourage integrated responses. Population growth is a controversial and sensitive topic, and one about which many fear to speak publicly, but it is fundamental to the challenges we face, globally and in Australia. Globally there is concern about the projected increase in population from 6.8 billion now to 9.2 billion by 2050 (1). In Australia there is concern about the recent official projection that Australia’s population will increase from 22 million now to 35 million by 2050. Consumption and environmental impact increase with population. These population increases will be taking place in a finite world that has not yet been able to agree on reducing greenhouse gas emissions enough to avoid potentially catastrophic temperature increase and climate change. There is hope: a serious debate about population growth has very recently begun in Australia. This paper provides a brief overview and encouragement for Christians to become informed on the issue and to contribute to the debate.
1. What responsibility do we bear as Christians?
Most people in developed countries, including Australia, have benefited hugely from the resources of the Earth. Until recently we did not have compelling evidence of the problems caused by the growth in human numbers and consumption, but now we do. Our awareness makes us responsible to do our best for the future. This is not about guilt for the past, but about responsibility for the future. We continue to celebrate the joys of children, families, communities, and the wonderful natural world around us but now, in words from Lambeth, with a much clearer awareness of our (see below), and a focus on the beautiful expression of Thanksgiving 5 in our Prayer Book:
‘Loving God, we thank you for this world of wonder and delight,
You have given it to us to care for, so that all your creatures may enjoy its bounty,
Lord our God, we give you thanks and praise.’
The Commission commends the following statement prepared by the Environment Working Group of the Australian Anglican General Synod, in the context of action concerning the Canon for Protection of the Environment which was passed by the 14th General Synod (2007), accessible on the General Synod web site and attached to this paper.
‘The bond between Creator and creation underlies our whole relationship with God and it is clear from scripture that this bond is not just with humanity but with the whole of creation (e.g. John 1: 3; Romans 8: 20-21). As a consequence, it is essential that the Church takes this relationship seriously and seeks to express it rightly and fully, remembering that those whose words result in relevant action are blessed (James 1: 22-25). Our generation is faced with the dual threats of human induced climate change and the highest extinction rate in human history. In recognising that God sustains and saves all creation, and appoints people as stewards, we are called to honour God through acting with care and respect not only for other people but for all the earth. As the declaration to the Anglican Communion of the 2002 Global Congress on the Stewardship of Creation argues, “We come together as a community of faith. Creation calls us, our vocation as God's redeemed drives us, the Spirit in our midst enlivens us, scripture compels us.” This is echoed in the 2007 Canon for the Protection of the Environment, which points out that “In Genesis it says that ‘The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till and to keep it’. In 1990 the Anglican Consultative Council gave modern form to this when it declared that one of the five marks of the mission of the church was ‘to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and to sustain and renew the life of the Earth’.’
To this may be added that unless we take account of the needs of future life on Earth, there is a case that we break the eighth commandment – ‘Thou shalt not steal’. Christians are sometimes regarded by those outside the church as caring only about their own spiritual wellbeing to the exclusion of valuing and caring for the whole of life on Earth (2, pp. 5-6). In contrast, we draw attention here to very clear statements on the public record from our church leadership at the highest level:
The resolutions from the 1998 Lambeth Conference (of the Bishops of the world-wide Anglican Communion, convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury) included the following strong statement:
i. that unless human beings take responsibility for caring for the earth, the consequences will be catastrophic because of:
unsustainable levels of consumption by the rich
poor quality and shortage of water
eroded and impoverished soil
plant and animal extinction;
ii. that the loss of natural habitats is a direct cause of genocide amongst millions of indigenous peoples and is causing the extinction of thousands of plant and animal species. Unbridled capitalism, selfishness and greed cannot continue to be allowed to pollute, exploit and destroy what remains of the earth's indigenous habitats;
iii. that the future of human beings and all life on earth hangs in balance as a consequence of the present unjust economic structures, the injustice existing between the rich and the poor, the continuing exploitation of the natural environment and the threat of nuclear self-destruction;
iv. that the servant-hood to God's creation is becoming the most important responsibility facing humankind and that we should work together with people of all faiths in the implementation of our responsibilities;
v. that we as Christians have a God given mandate to care for, look after and protect God's creation.
In this Resolution, ‘overpopulation’ is the first-named reason for concern about the risks of catastrophic consequences for the earth. Resolutions from the Lambeth Conferences reaffirm the Biblical vision of Creation as a ‘web of inter-dependent relationships bound together in the Covenant which God has established with the whole earth and every living being’. They state that ‘human beings are …. co-partners with the rest of Creation ….with responsibility to make personal and corporate sacrifices for the common good of all Creation’. Relevant resolutions from the 1998 and 2008 Lambeth Conferences are attached in full to the March 2009 PAC paper.
On 13 October 2009 in the lead-up to the Copenhagen conference on climate change, the Archbishop of Canterbury set out a Christian vision of how people can respond to the looming environmental crisis (3). He said that ‘living in a way that honours rather than threatens the planet is living out what it means to be made in the image of God. We do justice to what we are as human beings when we seek to do justice to the diversity of life around us; we become what we are supposed to be when we assume our responsibility for life continuing on earth. And that call to do justice brings with it the call to re-examine what we mean by growth and wealth.’ Then ‘Our response to the crisis needs to be, in the most basic sense, a reality check, a re-acquaintance with the facts of our interdependence with the material world and a rediscovery of our responsibility for it. And this is why the apparently small-scale action that changes personal habits and local possibilities is so crucial. When we believe in transformation at the local and personal level, we are laying the surest foundations for change at the national and international level.’ Part of this is to ‘change our habits enough to make us more aware of the diversity of life around us’, make sure we watch the changing of the seasons on the earth’s surface, and ‘ask constantly how we can restore a sense of association with the material place and time and climate we inhabit and are part of…. The Christian story lays out a model of reconnection with an alienated world’.
In tune with this is the earlier writing of the cultural historian and eco-theologian Thomas Berry, offering a new perspective that recasts our understanding of science, technology, politics, religion, ecology and education. He shows why it is important for us to respond to the need for renewal of the earth, and suggests what we must do (particularly through education) to break free of the drive for a misguided dream of progress. His book ‘ The Dream of the Earth’(4) shows how the convergence of modern science and spiritual and religious affinity for creation can lead to a new covenant of ethical responsibility for the natural world. In this, science is seen not in its familiar role of taking the earth apart so as to manipulate it, but as synthesizer, providing the basis for a metareligious vision and enabling us to see ‘the integral majesty of the natural world’ and the wonder of the universe (pp. 95,98). This underpins the creative future he sees for humankind.
There is a wide appreciation in Christian traditions of our need to be better stewards. A number of Diocesan documents and resources are available to inspire liturgy and help towards action. The Environment Working Group of the General Synod is compiling liturgical and theological resource lists for ready access, and will be facilitating the sharing of action plans. Some examples of evangelical contributions are ‘Environment – A Christian Response’ and ‘Christian Ministry in a Changing Climate – Report to Synod’ (both at http://www.sie.org.au/tag/environment and awaiting an update) and the Declaration on Creation Stewardship and Climate Change from the Micah Network, July 2009.
However, to change mindset and act accordingly is an enormous challenge. On 13 December 2009 during the Copenhagen conference on climate change the Archbishop of Canterbury preached on casting out fear and acting for the sake of love (5). He said that ‘we cannot show the right kind of love for our fellow-humans unless we also work at keeping the earth as a place that is a secure home for all people for future generations.’ ‘We are faced with the consequences of generations of failure to love the earth as we should.’ ‘We are not doomed to carry on in a downward spiral of the greedy, addictive, loveless behaviour that has helped to bring us to this point. Yet it seems that fear still rules our hearts and imaginations. We have not yet been able to embrace the cost of the decisions we know we must make. We are afraid because we don’t know how we can survive without the comforts of our existing lifestyle. We are afraid that new policies will be unpopular with the national electorate. We are afraid that younger and more vigorous economies will take advantage of us – or we are afraid that older, historically dominant economies will use the excuse of ecological responsibility to deny us our right to proper and just development.’ The Archbishop ended by emphasizing that love casts out fear and with a plea not to be afraid, but to ask how we show that we love God’s creation, and how we learn to trust one another in a world of limited resources through justice and caring for our neighbour.
Moving directly to the topic of this paper, the theologian John Painter was invited to address the Commission in June 2008 to provide a theological vision that might stimulate and assist it to develop its work agenda. The paper he presented, ‘An Anglican approach to Public Affairs in a Global context’, has now been re-shaped for publication (6). In it he recognises that we are inextricably part of one world, and that human activity in one place affects life in every place. Earth is the fragile web of life of which we, and all life, are part. The narrative of the creation in Genesis contains within it an affirmation of the intrinsic worth of the creation as a whole and of its component parts; Psalms such as 24, 95 and 104 celebrate the value of the Earth and its parts; and the Prologue of the Gospel of John sets both the creation of the world and the incarnation of the Word in the context of God’s love for the world. The paper expresses the need for us to hear the call for justice for the Earth and all its creatures, and to celebrate the marvels and mysteries of creation and of the loving Creator whose bounties we enjoy, while also ensuring that all of Earth’s creatures share in this bounty.
With the burgeoning human population now posing a threat to all life on the planet, Professor Painter considers there is a need to develop ‘a more adequate theology of sexuality’. (He observes that churches and religious groups generally have not given a constructive lead on the issue of human population growth, and confesses that he can see no solution to the threat to all life if this growth is not checked. In his view, while human sexuality will continue to find expression in a deep and abiding human love as a basis of community or family, and procreation and the birth of children in the context of a loving relationship remain very important, these need to be within limits that allow other species to flourish. He concludes that only then will there be a rich and diverse Earth for our children and our children’s children to live on.)
Given all these expressions, it is very sobering to realize that the United Nations projects another 2.4 billion people to be living on the Earth by about 2050 (1). As yet there is no agreement on enough action to safeguard the wellbeing of the Earth, and the current rates of extinction of life forms are comparable with the five great extinctions of the distant past, the last being 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs disappeared.
2. Why is it so difficult to discuss population issues? Some reasons and responses
Population is an emotive and controversial topic. It has been virtually a taboo subject, the ‘elephant in the room’. Reasons why people prefer to be silent about it include:
. Many benefit from population growth in the short term – businesses sell more products and make more profit, builders build and sell more homes, but demand still outstrips housing supply and anyone who owns a home benefits because the value of the home increases.
- However those who do not own their own homes, particularly young people and the poorer members of our community, will find it increasingly difficult to achieve ownership. This is a serious social justice issue.
.Population growth readily translates to economic growth, which is a prime goal of governments.
-However, economic growth for a nation does not necessarily mean growth in individual incomes. Over the past seven financial years, real GDP has grown by 23% but real GDP per person has grown by less than half that (7). Questions need to be asked – Who really are the beneficiaries of economic growth once a certain (and not particularly high) level of personal/family financial security has been achieved? Should ongoing economic growth be an end in itself - and increase in population used as a means to achieve it? Does the community as a whole benefit from it? Are there alternative economic paradigms?
.Some consider that a bigger population makes Australia more secure and gives the nation more international influence, though it may not be diplomatically attractive to express such motivation. These kinds of considerations will have contributed to the increase in the immigration rate, and also to the introduction by the previous Government of a Baby Bonus, which has been continued and even increased by the current Government.
-There are good counter examples of nations with significantly smaller populations who contribute strongly to civilization and carry much international influence (8, p. 117 ).
. Some consider that an increased birth rate is a necessary means of helping to compensate for the ageing of population which is now taking place in Australia. The introduction of the Baby Bonus may well be an outcome of such thinking. One of the world’s leading thinkers and activists in economic development, Jeffrey Sachs, addresses this concern which is basically that the social security systems of the rich world will collapse as more retirees live longer and have fewer workers to support them. He points out that in the high-income world the ratio of those older than 65 to those aged 15 to 65, called the old-age dependency ratio, will increase from 23% to 46% by 2050, and that this will indeed impose stresses on pension systems, but ‘it is simply not true that the costs are likely to be large’. First, with slower population growth or even decline, there will be large social savings in major infrastructure investment that was previously needed to keep up with population; second, retirement ages are likely to rise gradually by a few years, particularly as older people enjoy more healthy life years; and continued improvements in productivity may well mean we can work less in total, some of the returns being taken as greater leisure time (9, pp. 200-202).
- In the context of unsustainable global population growth it is inconsistent and arguably irresponsible to provide financial incentives for population increase.
. Some business leaders seek substantial skilled immigration to provide a good selection of potential employees with skills needed for their companies. Governments may also find this an attractive way to overcome shortfalls in essential services personnel such as health workers.
- The far more constructive alternative is to plan ahead and train current citizens in the fields that are needed, so improving total employment prospects for existing Australians and also the opportunities for more skilled and satisfying work. Risks associated with oversupply in the job market include unemployment of both skilled and unskilled people, with personal trauma and unproductive costs to the national budget. There is also a need to be concerned about depriving less developed countries, from which many skilled migrants come, of people who are needed in their home countries.
. Some consider that the basic problem is consumption, and growth in consumption, not population growth.
- Consumption does indeed need to be restrained, but that cannot take the pressure off population as a key underlying issue. With global population growth continuing at a very significant rate, reductions in consumption per person in developed countries (with total population about 1.2 billion out of 6.8 billion globally) are unlikely to be sufficient to achieve reduced global consumption as population, incomes and consumption per person rise in rapidly developing countries with their much higher populations. The total impact on the environment arises from average consumption per person multiplied by total number of people. Both consumption and population need to be addressed, and very sensitively, given the benefits received by rich nations from their use of global resources.
. Many Australians have migrated here and they do not feel it is fair to ‘pull up the drawbridge’ when others want to come.
-In response, it is not expected that Australia would want or need to close off immigration. Our country has been greatly enriched by migrants over a long period, and we are a successful multicultural society. There is scope to increase our intake of genuine refugees (which is very small compared with total immigration – see next section) and continue to enable family reunion, while decreasing total immigration to a level consistent with scientific advice on the long term carrying capacity and preservation of the biodiversity of the Australian continent.
. Australia has obligations to other nations, particularly island nations, who will be adversely affected by climate change.
- True. However, it is also true that Australia will be one of the nations affected most severely by climate change and that some of the island nations have high population growth which will be unsustainable on their land area regardless of climate change. This is part of the global population picture and, in addition to accepting refugees, we need to support such countries in restraining their population growth to achieve balance with their countries’ natural resources.
. Immigration is a topic on which some extreme views have been expressed in Australia in the past, and people are very afraid of being perceived as selfish, racist or xenophobic; some extend this to express the view that, although they recognize the overarching significance of population growth, the church should not speak about population for fear of being misinterpreted.
- If fear prevents us from speaking the truth for the greater good, out of love for the whole earth including all our fellow human beings, are we being true to our faith? Again, the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury encourage us not to be afraid, but to ask how we show that we love God’s creation, and how we learn to trust one another in a world of limited resources through justice and caring for our neighbour (5). Justice and care take many forms.
- Crispin Hull writes ‘Very few people who oppose higher population and high immigration want a Hansonite revival. Indeed, many would happily see more refugees and much lower general immigration. But we do want to see some sense and some moral purpose in Australia’s population policy’ (9).
. Birth control education and facilities are sensitive for some church members because they disagree with the extent of services offered, in Australia and overseas, especially in developing countries with large family sizes and burgeoning populations.
- Balancing such matters can be very hard, but the big picture is of overpopulation. Isn’t it important to support those seeking to enable women and men to choose family size - those who, through voluntary means, are trying to achieve the greatest good – for the individual woman, for the wellbeing of all her children, for her nation and for the world as a whole - through education and reproductive health services including contraceptives - as advocated by Sachs (9, Chapter 8).
. Some church members wish to avoid discomfort in relation to colleagues of other denominations or faiths, whom they expect to reject birth control measures, and they do not want to cause tension on this account.
- The big picture is of over-population and the need to care for the future of all life on earth. Love needs to drive out fear so that those who recognise the population problem speak out about it, in love. The responses of some of our colleagues may surprise. Some of them, too, may be fearing to acknowledge publicly what they recognize in their hearts.
3. Where to from here?
Briefly, the facts:
. The resources of the Earth are being used unsustainably
. Global human population is huge and still increasing rapidly
. Human activity is the root cause of current environmental stress and climate change; these threaten
- the survival of poorer people, and
- major extinctions of other life forms by the end of this century.
The fundamental problem:
. Global population growth is unsustainable. On a finite planet, if the rate is not reduced rapidly, there will be huge problems for humanity and other life forms.
This paper offers a brief overview of issues and some responses, globally and for Australia.
3.1 The broad costs of overpopulation
Many of the costs of overpopulation are not directly concerned with money, but involve changes in society and its interaction with the natural world. These and a wide range of other issues are discussed by O’Connor and Lines (8), and they have been addressed in the special series of ABC TV 7.30 Reports centering around Australia Day 2010 (25 – 29 January 2010, accessible on the internet, ref.10). The growing congestion of cities, destined to become worse, means much time lost in commuting, more polluted suburbs, denser housing and the loss for many of suburban gardens in which to relax and still have some frequent communion with nature – which in turn means children and future citizens are likely to have less empathy with the natural world. Other consequences include the build-up and crowding of Australia’s narrow and beautiful coastal strip, with destruction of most of its natural forest adjacent to beaches, and the forgoing of good arable land because it is being built upon. Water supply is already a major challenge for many parts of Australia and it will become an even greater challenge as climate change intensifies and population increases; restrictions apply now in nearly all major population centres as well as agricultural areas. The public in general do not want these kinds of negative changes to their quality of life. Polls have also shown that the majority of people do not want large immigration programs. O’Connor and Lines put the view that minimizing individual consumption is a poor answer if population is not stabilised. They say that if citizens save water, for example, it will not mean that their neighbours get more water for their gardens, or that tougher restrictions will be postponed. Rather it will enable the population to be increased, and even lead eventually to worse shortages of water and other environmental disasters (8, p.182). A challenging thought.
3.2 Global population issues
The human population grew from about 230 million when Christ was born (9, p.60, 64) to 6.8 billion now. Factors such as better living conditions, nutrition and health care have ensured steadily improving life expectancy. According to the United Nations’ most recent revision of World Population Prospects (2006, ref. 1), total global population is projected to reach 9.2 billion before there is likelihood of overall stabilization and then decline. The medium variant projected increase from now to 2050 is approximately equivalent to the size of the world population in 1950 (1).
The UN Report confirms the diversity of demographic dynamics among the different world regions. The population of the more developed regions is expected to remain largely unchanged at 1.2 billion, and this population is ageing, while virtually all population growth is occurring in the less developed regions and especially in the group of the 50 least developed countries, many of which are expected to age only moderately over the foreseeable future. There are distinct trends in fertility and mortality underlying these varied patterns of growth and changes in age structure. Below-replacement fertility prevails in the more developed regions and is expected to continue to 2050. Fertility is still high in most of the least developed countries and although it is expected to decline it will remain higher than the rest of the world. In the rest of the developing countries, fertility has declined markedly since the late 1960s and is expected to reach below-replacement levels by 2050 in the majority of them.
Realisation of the medium variant projections contained in the UN 2006 Revision Report depends urgently on ensuring that fertility continues to decline in developing countries. These projections assume that in the less developed countries as a whole, fertility will decrease from 2.75 to 2.05 children per woman from 2005-2010 to 2045-2050; and in the 50 least developed countries, from 4.63 to 2.50 children per woman. The UN states (1 , p.6) that to achieve such reductions it is essential that access to family planning expands in the poorest countries of the world; otherwise, if fertility were to remain constant at the levels estimated for 2000-2005, the population of the less developed regions would increase to 10.6 billion (instead of the 7.9 billion projected by assuming that fertility declines). World population would then rise to 11.8 billion. That would mean world population increasing by twice as many people as were alive in 1950.
There is no certainty of well-managed decline unless significant change in human behaviour takes place. The ‘green revolution’ initiated some decades ago may have kept pace with increased human need for food so far, but there are serious doubts that the peak number of people could be fed by means of more increases in production (11). An October 2009 report under the auspices of the Royal Society says that many and major changes would be required if this were to be achieved (12). Agricultural productivity currently depends on fertilizers based on fossil fuels, there are severe limitations on increases in agricultural land and water for crops and increases come at the expense of other forms of life. Up to 50% of the Earth’s photosynthetic potential is directly appropriated for human use, and land that is being cleared now is either increasingly inhospitable or home to precious and unique stocks of biodiversity, such as tropical rainforests (9, p. 68). We are approaching the limits of what science can realistically achieve, and the technologies needed now may well be as much the social technologies of policy and administration in adapting to limitations as they are about technologies of production itself (11).
A wide range of issues relevant to this paper are addressed by Jeffrey Sachs in his book ‘Common Wealth – Economics for a Crowded Planet’ (9). Basic observations are that the scale of human economic activity has risen eight times since 1950, will rise possibly another six times by 2050, and is causing environmental destruction on a scale that was impossible at any earlier stage of human history (9, p.29). Scientists have estimated that if habitat conversion and other destructive human activities continue at their present rates (which is hard to avoid if population keeps increasing, poor people in the poorest countries struggle to survive, and standard of living increases in newly industrialising nations), half the species on Earth could be extinct or unsaveable by the end of this century (2, pp.4-5 and Chapter 8). And we are causing this in the face of evidence that a decline of biological diversity may render many parts of the world less hospitable, less resilient and less productive for human beings as well (9, p.29).
In response Sachs names three basic goals: environmental sustainability, population stabilization, and ending extreme poverty. These are the essence of the Millenium Development Goals (9, p.32). Here we concentrate on what he has to say about population stabilization (which is strongly linked to the other two goals).
. He notes the ‘tyranny of the present’ when it comes to population growth. For example, impoverished parents often have many children to ensure their old age security or perhaps in the hope of obtaining more communal land or other resources, but this may well come at the expense of the children’s own wellbeing – the parents cannot provide effectively for the nutritional, health and educational needs of six or seven children, a not uncommon family size (9, p.41). A household’s decision on fertility also depends on widespread cultural norms, the availability of education and contraceptive means through public health facilities, and other matters determined by public policy. Decentralised decision-making of individual households can easily lead to excessive population growth. Sachs argues that the rapid growth of populations in poor countries (commonly a doubling in a generation) hinders their economic development, condemns the children to continued poverty and threatens global political stability (9, Chapter 7).
. Global population dynamics are complex (9, Chapter 7, pp 159-182). There is nothing automatic about a transition to lower fertility following a decline in child mortality and, when it does occur, the total fertility rate declines with a lag leading to a population bulge before a low fertility/low mortality stage can be reached. Governments have played a key role in the rapid decline of child mortality, and they have also had to step in, or need to, to promote a rapid decline in fertility to accompany the decline in mortality.
. He gives four compelling reasons why the poorest countries need to speed up the demographic transition and why we need to help them do it: families cannot surmount extreme poverty without a decline in the fertility rate; neither can poor countries; the ecological and closely related income consequences of rapid population growth are devastating; and finally there are threats to the rest of the world, raising pressure for mass migration, and increasing risks of local conflict, violence and war (9, pp.175-6).
. There is hope. Public policies designed to promote a voluntary reduction of fertility rates can have ‘an enormous effect’, benefiting both present and future generations. Sachs names nine factors that have proved time and again to be important in leading to a rapid decline in fertility rates, while noting that not all are needed: improving child survival, education of girls, empowerment of women, access to reproductive health services, green revolution, urbanization, legal abortion, old age security, and public leadership. His basic advice is that development policy for a high fertility region should integrate aid for economic development with aid for family planning (9, p.184).
. Nevertheless, it has been difficult to obtain support from rich countries to help poor countries speed up their demographic transition. Sachs outlines (9, p177 – 182) the way in which support and results have waxed and waned with political change. Intergovernmental conferences on population and development were held in 1974, 1984 and 1994, and the multidimensional plan of action from the last of these forms one of the most important Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The UN Millennium Project’s special report on sexual and reproductive health (2006) came up with an estimate of the scale of donor effort needed to ensure broad coverage of contraception and family planning, also safe childbirth, and it was approximately 0.06% of the income of the donor countries. But the financial goals have not yet been met. Contributing much more to this cause would be a very effective and compassionate way for Australia to help people in poor nations, and their environments.
3.3 Australian population issues
The book ‘Overloading Australia’ provides a wealth of information, insight and references (8).
In Australia, for people who have currently lived their three score years and ten, there were approximately:
- 4.4 million people when their parents were born (1910)
- 7.0 million when they were born (1940)
- 12.5 million when their children were born (1970)
- 19.2 million when their grandchildren were born (2000)
(ABS, Australian Historical Population Statistics Catalogue 3105.0.65.001). There are more than 22 million now, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics population clock. That growth has kept accelerating. Our population growth rate in percentage terms is the highest in the developed world (2.1% for the year to June 2009, ABS, Australian Demographic Statistics, Catalogue 3101.0), and is now at a level typical of developing countries. It is higher than growth rates in eg Indonesia, China and India. We in Australia are part of the global overpopulation issue.
In 2008 when the Australian population exceeded 21 million there was no significant public comment or policy discussion. A startling official projection for increase in Australia’s population, to 35 million people in the next four decades, was publicised in September 2009 prior to the formal release of the 2010 Intergenerational Report of the Department of the Treasury (13). This was significantly higher than the previous official projection from 2007, only two years previously; and Dr Ken Henry, Secretary of the Treasury, expressed personal pessimism on 22 October 2009 (at a Business Leaders’ Forum at the Queensland University of Technology) about Australia’s capacity to be able to deal with environmental sustainability while housing and absorbing this big population. Meanwhile the Prime Minister, on the ABC 7.30 Report of 22 October 2009, said initially that he thought it was good news that Australia’s population is growing – good for national security long term and for what Australia can sustain as a nation; recently he has been more cautious, having acknowledged that the demands for coping with substantial increases will be ‘massive’. The current Opposition Leader has been quoted as saying that he would like to see as many people are possible given the chance to live in Australia (14).
The composition of Australia’s population increase is food for thought. In the most recent year for which the full data are available on the ABS web site (2007-2008, ABS Catalogue 3412.0 released 28 July 2009):
the population grew by 1.71% or 359,300 people, to reach a total of 21.431 million (note that this rate increased to 2.1% in the year to June 2009, Cat. 3101.0)
net overseas migration added about 213,700 (and this is excluding people on student and work visas, many of whom become eligible to stay), while
natural increase added 145,600 per year (births minus deaths).
It was the third year in which net overseas migration had exceeded natural increase. The numbers carry major implications for the growth of the Australian population well into the future. While rapid growth is being encouraged by key political leaders, expressions of concern are now coming from a serving politician, the Federal MP for Wills, Kelvin Thomson, who has put forward a 14 point plan for population reform (15), and the Federal MP for Menzies, Kevin Andrews, who has called for a national discussion about population, noting that planning, infrastructure, transport, health, education etc share population as a critical element (16). Concern has been expressed for many years from the scientific community (eg 17, 18, which both indicate the Australian population is already around the level of what can be sustained), some public figures such as the former Australian of the Year Tim Flannery (19, 20), former Premier of NSW Bob Carr (21) , and from bodies such as Sustainable Population Australia and the Australian Conservation Foundation (22). But until very recently the discussion did not appear to have traction. This has changed following the Treasury’s 2010 Intergenerational Report projection of 36 million by 2050 and a debate is now taking place. Population projection is not simple and the projection of 35 or 36 million has been queried as inconsistent with underlying facts and hence too low (23). Furthermore, what happens after 2050 also needs to be in mind, because there would be momentum to continue growing.
The question must be asked whether our current and projected population growth is fair to future generations of Australians and to other life in the environments our descendants will have to inhabit. This does not imply a lack of concern for those in need in other countries – on the contrary. Compared with total immigration, humanitarian migration into Australia has been very small – about 14,000 per year, but of these only about 4000 to 6000 were refugees by the United Nations’ definition (8, p.73). There is scope for Australia to respond more generously in humanitarian immigration, and it is likely to become necessary as population around the world continues to increase. Looking at the global situation of political, ethnic, religious and environmental refugees, numbers can be expected to increase and the manifold causes often include or centre around population pressure (ibid., p.74).
The Public Affairs Commission is of the view that the risks are too high to allow the numbers to run away in Australia without very serious consideration of the risks and the alternatives. In this very thirsty and thin-soiled continent there is a need for a national debate on Australia’s population, leading to a population policy consistent with the big picture for national and global environment and population, while supporting those in need. The debate has recently become lively and there have been many comments from knowledgeable people about the serious issues Australia must address if the nation is to absorb a major increase in population, including water shortages, land shortages, higher food and housing costs, stressed infrastructure in cities, degraded rivers (eg 10, the ABC 7.30 Report special series, 25 – 29 January 2009, archived and available on line).
It is not the role of this paper to prescribe population policy in detail. That is a responsibility for elected politicians, taking account of factors such as congestion, infrastructure and amenity, expert advice on Australia’s environmentally sustainable carrying capacity, and views in the electorate. We ask that our Government fulfil the responsibility to determine sustainable population policy and ensure that there would be no significant increases in environmental and social stress from any major increase.
Reflecting the debate, a responsible course would include:
. taking full account of Australia’s role in contributing to the global overpopulation/overconsumption problem, with its implications for greenhouse gas emissions and devastation of the global environment;
. reduction in total immigration rates while increasing the proportion of refugees and family reunion migrants in the total and
. removal of public incentives aimed at increasing the birth rate and replacing them with support for improvements in the capacity of parents to be fully attentive to their babies, eg by increasing paid maternal and paternal leave.
In addressing population policy, the following values are important to us:
Justice, not only for current Australians, but for our descendants and the other life on this land in all its beauty and diversity
Care for those in need and for the broadest wellbeing of human and other life, and
Sharing in a world of finite resources, building trust by showing justice and care (and love!) for our neighbours in other parts of the world.
4. To speak or not, from a Christian’s viewpoint
Remaining silent about population issues, although one has concerns about them, is little different from supporting further overpopulation and ecological degradation. If people are not prepared to speak up, these things will happen. Given the high risks from global and national population growth, can any of the above reasons justify saying nothing while numbers continue to climb? Out of care for the whole Creation, particularly the poorest of humanity and the life forms who cannot speak for themselves, this paper argues that it is not responsible to stand by and remain silent.
It is, however, a challenge to participate in the debate. People with vested interests, who may not see the whole picture, can put forward plausible partial views. None of us particularly want to give up things we like, or expose ourselves to dismissive or angry reactions. This paper can only try to emphasise the big picture. It is sometimes difficult to keep the whole picture in view – but there is danger that a partial view, adopted for reasons that appeal in the short term, can lead to avoidance of long term responsibility.
5. What can we do?
We can each act individually, but to have an impact on the fundamental issue of population growth it is essential that governments establish sustainable population policy. Based on the big picture, it is hoped that this paper will encourage people to communicate to our Government their concerns about global and national population growth. We owe it to the whole Creation, including our own descendants. There is no time to lose.
Reinforcing recommendations from the March 2009 PAC discussion paper, we need as individuals to
. Grow in understanding of global and national environmental challenges, become acutely aware of the issues, and address them as a whole, with integrity.
. Be prepared to make personal and corporate sacrifices for the common good of all Creation: Change our own ways individually and collectively to reduce our own consumption, helped by others including Diocesan Environment Commissions and Registries.
But beyond that we need to communicate big picture population concerns to our Governments, asking them to
. Recognise the fundamental role of burgeoning population growth and related human consumption in causing unsustainable environmental stress globally and in Australia
Determine a sustainable population policy for Australia, which is fair and just for current and future Australians and for other life on this land and aims for the broad wellbeing of all
. Halt any policy that provides an incentive specifically and primarily to increase Australia’s population, notably the Baby Bonus, while increasing paid maternal and paternal leave ; and reduce the overall level of immigration to fit with expert advice on the sustainable capacity of this land, while being more generous in our programs for refugees and family reunion.
. Effectively and compassionately improve the welfare of people in poor nations, and hence their environments, by contributing much more to restraining global population growth through voluntary means, via appropriate international channels including those of the United Nations. For high fertility regions, aid for family planning needs to be integrated with aid for development.
. Reject any assumption, clearly untenable in the longer term, that there has to be ongoing population growth in order to maintain economic growth as a prerequisite for human wellbeing.
References (in addition to those in the March 2009 Public Affairs Commission paper referred to in the attachment)
1. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, ‘World Population Prospects – the 2006 Revision’, http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/wpp2006/English.pdf
2. Wilson, Edward O, The Creation – An Appeal To Save Life On Earth, W W Norton & Co, New York and London, 2006, 175 pages.
3. Williams, Rowan (Archbishop of Canterbury), ‘The Climate Crisis: Fashioning a Christian Response’, Lecture at Southwark Cathedral sponsored by the Christian environment group Operation Noah, 13 October 2009 (http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/2565)
4. Berry, Thomas, The Dream of the Earth, Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, 1988, 247 pages.
5. Williams, Rowan (Archbishop of Canterbury), ‘Act for the sake of Love’, Sermon in Copenhagen Cathedral, 13 December 2009 ( http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/2673)
6. Painter, John, ‘An Anglican Approach to Public Affairs in a Global Context’, to be published in St Mark’s Review, 2010 (2) No. 211.
7. Gittins, Ross, ‘Let’s think twice about growth by immigration’, Economics Editor, Sydney Morning Herald, 28 September 2009.
8. Mark O’Connor and William J Lines, Overloading Australia, published by Envirobook, Canterbury NSW 2008, and second edition 2010, 241pages.
9. Sachs, Jeffrey D, Common Wealth – Economics for a Crowded Planet, Penguin Books printed in Great Britain by Clays Ltd, St Ives, 2009, 386 pages.
10. ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), The 7.30 Report, special series of programs 25 – 29 January 2010, http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/archives/2010/730_201001.htm
11. Stewart, Jenny, ‘Limit to what science can do’, The Canberra Times, 26 October 2009.
12. Royal Society, London, ‘Reaping the Benefits: Science and the sustainable intensification of global agriculture’ October 2009, 86pages, http://royalsociety.org/Reapingthebenefits/
13. Department of the Treasury, Intergenerational Report 2010, http://www.apo.org.au/research/intergenerational-report-2010
14. Hull, Crispin, ‘Watch this space of ours, or we may just populate and perish’, The Canberra Times, Forum p.19, 30 January 2010.
15. Thomson, Kelvin, Federal Member for Wills, ‘There is an alternative to runaway population – Kelvin Thomson’s 14 Point Plan for population Reform’, 11 November 2009, http://www.kelvinthomson.com.au/speeches.php
16. Thomson, Kevin, Federal Member for Menzies, ‘How many people do we need’, presentation to the Australian Environment Foundation Conference, Canberra 20 October 2009, http://aefweb.info/data/Kevin%20Andrews%20presentation.doc
17. Australian Academy of Science and authors, Population 2040 Australia’s Choice, published by the Australian Academy of Science, Canberra, 1995, 144 pages.
18. Ten Commitments – Reshaping the Lucky Country’s Environment, Editors David Lindenmayer, Stephen Dovers, Molly Harriss Olson and Steve Morton, CSIRO Publishing, 2008, 237 pages.
19. Flannery, Tim, ‘Now or Never – A sustainable future for Australia’, Quarterly Essay Issue 31, 2008, pp.1-66.
20. Flannery, Tim, ‘Beautiful Lies – Population and Development in Australia’, Quarterly Essay Issue 9, 2003, pp. 1-73.
21. Carr, Bob, ‘Perish the thought that we can handle a bigger population’, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, 19 November 2009.
22. Australian Conservation Foundation, ‘Population and Demographic Change’, http://www.acfonline.org.au/articles/news.asp?news_id=2110
23. Hull, Crispin, ‘Population projection not so simple’, The Canberra Times 6 October 2009.
Responses to Global and National Environmental Stresses *
. The resources of the Earth are being used unsustainably – fossil fuels will run out, land cannot be cleared indefinitely for agriculture, fresh water used on the crops to feed more people cannot be drunk or available to other life
. Global population has increased from about 300 million when Christ was born to more than 6.8 billion now, and is still rising rapidly; Australia’s own population has increased three-fold in the last 70 years, and continues to increase rapidly
. Consumption is increasing with population
. Consumption (directly or indirectly) causes environmental stresses and increases greenhouse gas concentrations
. Greenhouse gas increases cause climate change
. Increased human activity is the root cause of environmental stress/climate change
. Environmental stress and climate change threaten
the welfare and even survival of poorer people
major extinctions of other life forms by the end of this century
. We have already passed the ‘tipping point’ of greenhouse gas concentrations for serious climate change, and with concentrations continuing to rise, the Earth is approaching a ‘point of no return’, which cannot be predicted accurately, from which no action we take would be able to avert catastrophe.
The fundamental cause
Global population growth is unsustainable.
Australia’s rate of population growth is one of the highest in the developed world.
What responsibility do we bear?
Resolutions from the Lambeth Conference 1998 reaffirm the Biblical vision of Creation as a ‘web of inter-dependent relationships bound together in the Covenant which God has established with the whole earth and every living being’. They state that ‘humans beings are both co-partners with the rest of Creation and living bridges between heaven and earth, with responsibility to make personal and corporate sacrifices for the common good of all Creation’. The conference recognized that ‘unless human beings take responsibility for caring for the earth, the consequences will be catastrophic’.
What can we do?
It is within the power of each of us to do the following:
change our own ways substantially and quickly to lessen our impact as individuals and as the church, using the Diocesan resources prepared by the Environment Commission and the Registry, educating ourselves also in other ways about reducing our consumption, and encouraging each other to action along the way support conservation of life forms and ecosystems in our own environment and work for environmental causes that do so nationally and internationally, and become acutely aware and talk to others, in our parishes and in the wider community, about the kinds of issues addressed in the Public Affairs Commission paper.*
And importantly we can, as individuals and collectively, encourage our Government(s) to:
Apply integrated thinking to environmental issues, recognizing that pressures linked to increases in population are the fundamental cause of them.
Place economic policy firmly in the overall framework of environmental management and well-being, not the other way around, and recognize that population policy is necessary to achieving balance.
Set policy with incentives and regulations that will rapidly achieve much greater environmental sensitivity and efficiency in the use of energy, water and land for agriculture.
Give very high priority to fostering large scale use of technologies that will enable major greenhouse gas emission reductions.
Reject the assumption that there has to be population growth in order to maintain economic growth as a pre-requisite for human wellbeing.
Do the utmost towards cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2050 and 25% below 2000 levels by 2020 (a fair share for Australia of a global target of 450 parts per million carbon dioxide equivalents, which might for example enable the three-dimensional structure of the Great Barrier Reef to survive)
Play a leading role with increased funding to protect the hottest spots of biodiversity in the world, ensuring that this investment improves long term living standards of people who would otherwise find it necessary to convert more habitat and thus destroy more of the other life forms with which we share the Earth
Work vigorously at the climate summit in Copenhagen in December 2009 for agreement on global and national targets that will avert global catastrophe
Contribute further to restraining global population growth through the UN Fund for Population Activities and other appropriate international channels.
Australia’s share of distressed people needs to be welcomed warmly, but the main focus needs to be on aid for improvements in other countries. There is a powerful case for a substantial increase in aid by our Government and by individuals in Australia. Education broadly underpins human wellbeing and continues to deserve strong support, but there is a special case now for an aid focus that enables conservation of biodiversity at the same time as it enables people to achieve appropriate and sustainable living standards.
* This brochure is based on a paper released early in 2009 by the Public Affairs Commission of the Anglican General Synod, for discussion within the Church and the wider community. The full paper with references and bibliography is accessible on the General Synod web site at http://www.anglican.org.au/governance.cfm?SID=2
CANON NO. 11, 2007
PROTECTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT CANON 2007
A Canon to assist in the protection of the environment
The General Synod prescribes as follows:
A. This Church acknowledges God’s sovereignty over his creation through the Lord
B. In Genesis it says that “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of
Eden to till it and keep it.” In 1990 the Anglican Consultative Council gave modern
form to this task when it declared that one of the five marks of the mission of the
Church was "to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and to sustain and renew
the life of the earth”.
C. This Canon gives form to this mark of mission in the life of the Anglican Church of
D. This Church recognises the importance of the place of creation in the history of
E. This Church acknowledges the custodianship of the indigenous peoples of this land .
F. This Church recognizes that climate change is a most serious threat to the lives of the
present and future generations. Accordingly, this Canon seeks to reduce the release
of greenhouse gases by this Church and its agencies.
Short title and principal canon
1. This Canon may be cited as the “Protection of the Environment Canon 2007”.
Mechanisms to assist in protecti ng the environment
2. (1) Every diocese which adopts this Canon undertakes to reduce its
environmental footprint by increasing the water and energy efficiency of its
current facilities and operations and by ensuring that environmental
sustainability is an essential consideration in the development of any new
facilities and operations, with a view to ensuring that the diocese minimalises
its contribution to the mean global surface temperature rise .
(2) Every diocese which adopts this Canon undertakes to est ablish such
procedures and process such as an environment commission, or similar body
as are necessary to assist the diocese and its agencies to:
(a) give leadership to the Church and its people in the way in which they
can care for the environment,
(b) use the resources of God’s creation appropriately and to consider and
act responsibly about the effect of human activity on God’s creation,
(c) facilitate and encourage the education of Church members and others
about the need to care for the environment, use the resources of God’s
creation properly and act responsibly about the effect of human activity
on God’s creation, and,
(d) advise and update the diocese on the targets needed to meet the
commitment made in sub-section (1);
(e) urge its people to pray in regard to these matters.
3. (1) Every diocese which adopts this Canon undertakes to report to each ordinary
session of the General Synod as to its progress in reducing its environmental
footprint in order to reach the undertaking made in acco rdance with subsection
(1) of section 2.
(2) Any report will outline the targets that were set, the achievements made, and
Adoption of Canon by Diocese
4. The provisions of this Canon affect the order and good government of the C hurch
within a diocese and the Canon shall not come into force in any diocese unless and
until the diocese by ordinance adopts the Canon.
On Monday 17 May I interviewed William Bourke about himself and his party and his views on the politics of the current population debate. He described concerns about the impact of population numbers since the 1990s, but said that reading the book, Overloading Australia, had really galvanised him to do something about this.
William comes across as soft-spoken, pleasant and focused, with a careful and businesslike approach to the task in hand of building and running a political party, to help deal with a grave national problem which has been kept off the democratic agenda for too long. I came away from the interview with confidence in his ability to represent Australians and head a party.
SHEILA NEWMAN: How are the membership numbers going for Stable Population Party Australia?
WILLIAM BOURKE: We are on the cusp of achieving 500 members. We are hoping to lodge a formal application to register Stable Population Party of Australia in June.
SHEILA NEWMAN: How do you feel that your party’s readiness and ability compares with other parties also looking at population numbers?
WILLIAM BOURKE: We are ticking the boxes and we are well prepared.
SHEILA NEWMAN: Will you be fielding candidates in every state?
WILLIAM BOURKE: We hope to. We will be focusing on that issue after we lodge our registration. We have, of course, been approached by a number of people seeking candidature.
SHEILA NEWMAN: Which state is most strongly represented in your membership or seems to feel most strongly about stabilizing population?
WILLIAM BOURKE: We have a good spread around the country.
SHEILA NEWMAN: Have you found any likely candidates in Victoria?
WILLIAM BOURKE: I must emphasise that we haven’t fully reviewed every possible candidate. We have had contact from possible candidates in Vic – and elsewhere – including some with political backgrounds. In June we will follow up on this part of the process.
SHEILA NEWMAN: You’re not in a hurry?
WILLIAM BOURKE: We have to manage the candidate process properly, like everything else. The good thing is that we know who is genuine and who isn't. We have a good process for selection.
SHEILA NEWMAN: When did you first become aware that Australia's population numbers were getting too big?
WILLIAM BOURKE: I have newspaper clippings from the mid-nineties, when it really started to become a major issue. Those newspaper clippings outline the same problems that we are discussing today but they are now much worse.
SHEILA NEWMAN: How old are you?
WILLIAM BOURKE: I am 39.
SHEILA NEWMAN: What population impacts bother you the most?
WILLIAM BOURKE: I have a business background and the thing that initially struck me is that population growth is an economic disaster. The trade deficits, skyrocketing foreign debt, overloaded infrastructure, and impoverished government budgets – population growth is a false economy. Through my small business, I am in a position to experience the importance of how $12.9b per year is lost in economic activity due to infrastructure overload like congested traffic.
I also have a passion for the environment, especially our native wildlife. One of my favorite activities is bushwalking in Ku-Rin-Gai National Park. I like to think I have a strong environmental conscience, going back to the days where I used to drive my parents mad policing the kitchen recycling program.
SHEILA NEWMAN: What line of business are you in?
WILLIAM BOURKE: I have been in accounting and finance and currently run a small business in marketing and communications. Rising energy costs, water costs, rent costs, car-running costs, negatively impact on my business and these growing expenses are clearly related to population increase.
SHEILA NEWMAN: Where do you think the government is going with its policy on population at the moment?
WILLIAM BOURKE: I think they are trying to neutralise the issue, but we offer a real alternative without band-aids which will contrast well with the government’s patched-up alternatives.
SHEILA NEWMAN: Where do you think the opposition is going with the population issue?
WILLIAM BOURKE: It seems to me that they are trying to mimic the John Howard tactic of muscling up against refugees and hoping that will give the impression that they can manage population growth and immigration. In reality we know that John Howard was the leader of the party which actually opened the floodgates and that Tony Abbott would maintain this.
SHEILA NEWMAN: What do you think of Labor MP Kelvin Thomson's views and his role?
WILLIAM BOURKE: I think he is a true leader and that in time he will be appropriately judged.
SHEILA NEWMAN: What did you think of the Population Reform Forums run on the 7th of May in every state by Kelvin Thomson, Dick Smith and SPA?
WILLIAM BOURKE: Dick Smith was, of course, fantastic to listen to. I also thought that Rob Oakeshott, the Independent for Lyne, spoke very well and is the sort of person we need in Federal parliament.I think the media coverage of the actual event was a little disappointing, especially considering the great speakers – at least those I heard at the forum I attended in Sydney.
SHEILA NEWMAN: Could you name a book or a film or a public figure that has inspired you?
WILLIAM BOURKE: Overloading Australia by Mark O’Connor and Bill Lines made a big impression on me. Reading it was really the straw that broke the camel's back and led me to do something about the problem of Australia’s unsustainable population growth.
Report on the Federation Square (Victoria, Australia) Population Forum on 23 April 2010, where Mark O'Connor debated Marcus Spiller.
Report on the Federation Square (Victoria, Australia) Population Forum on 23 April 2010, where Mark O'Connor debated Marcus Spiller.
Put on by the City of Melbourne at the suggestion of Mary Drost of Planning Backlash to Councillor Peter Clarke, the Forum was a very well attended event.
The hall was almost full and, from the clapping, it was obvious where the majority stood. They heavily supported Mark O'Connor, co-author of the book, Overloading Australia, Enviro Press, 2009, who spoke very well against the rapid increase in population in Melbourne. He said there are actually 3 elephants in the room - population, climate change and economic growth.
He called the 'ageing population problem' a "proveable sham", noting that we all age exactly one year per annum.
There were five people on the panel.
O'Connor's main opponent was Marcus Spiller, formerly of the Planning Institute and now adviser to the Ministers of PLanning and Housing. He is still pushing Centralized Planning, just as he was back when Minister Hulls was in charge of Planning.
He may well have a lot of involvement in the current Review of the Planning Act, which promotes centralized planning. Spiller is totally optimistic about a bigger population.
Another panelist, Charles Berger, spoke sensibly. He said that we must do away with 'bigger is better' and go for quality not quanitity He said we must preserve threatened species. He described how our water usage would have to drop with higher and higher population numbers. He also said that there is very little evidence linking population numbers and successful economies.
Saul Eslake, seemed to have moderated his economic views. He said that Melbourne would be different in 2050 with 8 million - not marvellous, more expensive, and more crowded. He said business grows with population growth, but it does not mean people are better off. At present we are losing factories and exporting very little from Victoria and importing a lot.
Kelvin Thomson had been asked to be there but was overseas so could not accept.
Planning Backlash was officially recognized by Cr Peter Clarke in his welcome as being an instigator in them doing this forum.
Source: Planning Backlash
In his review of "Overloading Australia" by Mark O'Connor and William Lines, Frosty Wooldridge author of #AmericaOnTheBrink">America on the brink who has cycled 100,000 miles across six continents in the past 25 years, refutes commonly held misconceptions that the Australian continent is underpopulated.
With a scant 21 million people on the vast continent of Australia, how could anyone state with any certitude that Oz suffers from human overpopulation? What impudence might that take? How out of touch? How completely absurd? Definitely not 'fair dinkum'!
China features not much more land mass than Oz but houses 1.3 billion souls. The United States--at least the lower 48 states--equals about the same land mass, but houses 306 million people. Mexico, less than a quarter the size of Australia, features 108 million people.
So what's the problem? How could there be a snag? Australia encompasses an endless amount of land. It features 2,970,000 square miles of terra firma. How do I know? In 1984 through 1985, I cycled 17,000 kms around Australia including Tasmania. One Aussie, after learning that I intended to cycle the entire perimeter of Australia said, "Well Yank, you must be dead from the neck up!" I answered, "Yes, but it's a great adventure." He responded, "Do you know what the Nullabor Plains means?" I said, "No." He said, "It means treeless for 2,000 kms and 40 degrees C. every day. You'll fry in the heat!"
None the less, I traveled from Sydney down the Princess Highway to Melbourne; sailed over to Tasmania, up the Great Ocean Road to see the 12 Apostles, to Ceduna and across the Nullabor Plains (treeless) and on to Esperance and then to Perth, onward to Port Headlands and upward to Darwin. From there to Cairns and back down to Sydney! What did I see and how did I feel? I fried in the saddle and sweated while I slept at night under the Southern Cross. Withering heat at 120+ degrees F. daily! I stopped at the Great Australian Bite, saw Bondy's (Alan Bond) boat that beat the Yanks in the Americas Cup, viewed the Pinnacles of Cervantes, rode past the ant castles, witnessed the 'prison boab tree' near Port Headlands and watched the big crocs in Darwin. A frilled lizard scared the daylights out of me near Tenant Creek and I dove on the Great Barrier Reef. I read A.F. Facey's "A Fortunate Life." I'm still friends with John Brown in Kiama and Lance Hill in Perth. I've backpacked with Lance in Nepal and push-biked across the USA with John. I love Oz and its people.
So why does Australia suffer an overpopulation crisis? From my firsthand experiences, I am here to tell you: desert and sand cover 95 percent of Australia. No water and no arable land! It's a wasteland with kangaroos, emus, wombats and stray camels eking out their existences in the devil's horrid heat. When I traveled Oz, it featured 14 million people which it could support. Today, at 21 million, it's on the edge of its own non-sustainable future. Australians might fool Mother Nature in the short term, but they cannot in the long run. Oz doesn't possess water or arable land needed to grow food thus to sustain a large human population. That's a brutal fact!
However, powerful governmental, capitalistic and growth oriented organizations expect to push Australia's population to 50 million tortured souls. Much the same holds true in the United States and other countries where 'growthists' disregard reality and push human populations beyond the ability of the land and water to sustain them. How do they do it? They promote unlimited immigration from other countries that have already exceeded their carrying capacities---and simply exhaust their excess humanity onto the shores of Australia and other countries that possess stable populations. The third world grows by a net gain of 77 million annually, so the line never ends. That alone should give any Oz citizen pause!
The author Mark O'Connor of Overloading Australia, lamented, "I found this book almost impossible to write." He found the fortitude to finish the project only after teaming with his co-author, conservationist William J. Lines.
With electrifying clarity, O'Connor and Lines spell out a sobering future for Australia. Any kangaroo could figure out what the 'kangaroo' government in Canberra cannot seem to grasp! As one man who has seen more of Australia than 95 percent of Australians, I can vouch for the fact that Oz does not possess the farmland or the water to sustain any more population.
"Rightwing growthists demand endless growth of 'the economy' backed by endless population growth," O'Connor said. "Forced since late 2006 to accept a serious public debate about water supplies and about how to maintain 'growth' without increasing greenhouse gases, they are nevertheless determined to scotch any discussion about limiting growth."
I found it exceedingly exasperating that the 'very' people in charge of Australia's future, like Prime Minister Rudd in 2008, did and does not understand the consequences of his/their own actions. He promotes a "Faustian Bargain' on every citizen in Australia that will force a "Hobson's Choice."
"Rudd announced a million new homes would need to be built over the next six years to house the influx [of people] he did not venture to question," Lines said.
Where might that influx originate? Answer: Australia immigrates roughly 300,000 people annually into its dry and dusty desert country.
"There is a powerful lobby concerned not with whether human life or that of other species would be better in a 'larger' Australia, but with profits!" O'Connor said.
What 'growthists' create stems from that "Faustian Bargain" or selling their souls to the devil of growth for the present to place everyone into an environmental and unsustainable 'hell' later. Once another five or ten million Australians manifest on that desert continent, everyone suffers "Hobson's Choice": if you pick door number A---you walk through and over a cliff. If you pick door number B---you walk through and sink into quicksand. In other words, all your choices lead to death of your civilization.
How do I know that? My cycling travels across six continents have given me a bird's eye view of death from overloaded countries. Over 18 million people starve to death or die of starvation related diseases every year. Over 10 million of them are children under the age of 12 years.
"'Business as usual' desires even more people each demanding more from a finite Nature. A sustainable future is one in which human demands on the natural environment are within the capacity of that environment to meet. It means living within a boundary set by Nature. As we are already well beyond that boundary, it means reducing our population and our per capita demand. Both! Not one or the other!" John Coulter, author "Population and Sustainability: A Global Role for Australia." (pdf, 83K)
In the first part of this book review, Overloading Australia, by O'Connor and Lines, we covered Australia's daunting future if it continues on its present immigration-driven hyper-population growth path. We discussed a "Faustian Bargain" and "Hobson's Choice." We discovered that Australia does not possess enough water or arable land to sustain more than 20 million citizens.
Yet, corporations, politicians and immigration groups known as 'growthists', defy all logic while pushing their agenda toward a 50 million population in Australia.
Oz and the United States, where I live, share similar paradigms. Both maintain stable populations via their own citizens, but both find themselves suffering hyper-population growth by immigration forced down their throats by pandering politicians. Both countries don't comprehend their end-result of relentless immigration
U.S. demographic expert Dr. Albert Bartlett said, "A century of 1.6 percent per year growth, which is Australia's current growth rate, would cause Australia to increase to 100 million."
It shows you that if you were riding in a car with Kevin Rudd, he would drive over a cliff and take you with him. Once you arrived in Heaven, and you asked him why he did that, he might answer, "I didn't realize where I was going."
The fact remains, folks pushing growth agendas don't understand where they take Australia, but overpopulation advocates drive Oz over a cliff.
"First, we need to clear away a quite different objection," O'Connor said. "Clearly the writers of this book care about nature. So why, some conservationists will ask us, are we writing about the number of people, instead of worrying about the amount of damage each person does?"
Obviously, like in the U.S., Australian media and politicians deftly avoid the population issue. It's the sacred cow of Faustian proponents. You'll hear about tons of people pushing alternative gardening, alternative energy and all sorts of environmentally feel-good concepts that fail to address the one issue that will negate all their efforts. No matter how many new energy saving light bulbs or 100 kilometers to the liter of gas automobiles or water conservation---when you add another 10 million people, you lose on all counts.
It's simple mathematics, but those devils drive you toward the cliff by spinning the facts into confusion! Amazingly, they assume they are not, nor are their children vulnerable to the consequences.
Simon Grose, writing in the Canberra Times, in 2007, said, "Can we really expect to increase our numbers by about 30 percent over 50 years and keep all fed and comfortable with the hope of a car and a fridge without raising greenhouse emissions? No way!"
Finally, a mind that writes a reality based piece! What a concept! Reality! Deal with it or be swept away by it!
"No one wants to go back to rushlights and mule-back," Lines said. "But there are just two problems. First, any interruption to the power-supply brings chaos and before long, deaths. Second, there seems no way that the planet can provide resources for this lifestyle to be shared by nearly seven billion people, let alone another two or three billion by 2050."
At the head of each chapter, O'Connor and Lines place compelling quotes from experts and world leaders. It doesn't take a Sydney lawyer with an ounce of common sense to connect the dots! Australia already stands in the cross-hairs of terrible environmental conflict with its own human numbers.
Mikhail Gorbachev said, "We are all passengers aboard one ship, the Earth, and we must not allow it to be wrecked. There will be no second Noah's Ark."
What I found most compelling with O'Connor's work stems from the fact that I have witnessed firsthand the ramifications facing other countries that allowed their populations to spin out of control. For example, Bangladesh, not much bigger in landmass than Tasmania, houses 144 million people. Can any Australian fathom Tasmania with 144 million people? That's what's happening worldwide and that's why people flee those countries by the millions.
Instead of absorbing an unending line of immigrants, Australia and other first world countries might help those other countries by NOT taking their refugees, but instead, send them birth control and family planning along with food production techniques and water purification. Help them in their own countries. If they refuse help, then, in the final analysis, they must suffer their own Malthusian overload. If Australia keeps taking immigrants, then, Australia becomes another Bangladesh or variation thereof at some point in this century.
"Most Western elites continue urging the wealthy West not to stem the migrant tide, but to absorb our global brothers and sisters until their horrid ordeal has been endured and shared by all--ten billion humans packed onto an ecologically devastated planet." Dr. Otis Graham, Unguarded Gates
In chapter 5, the authors land, like the shocking wildfires in Sydney and NSW last year, with a savage reality punch: food or the scarcity of it!
"There are several reasons why Earth is failing---but they all come down to the fact that an increasing number of people are making increasing demands on a single planet," Lines said. "The Green Revolution is basically over, it's gains already cancelled by population growth."
To attest to that fact, an average of 18 million people die of starvation or starvation related diseases annually worldwide. I can say, that in my world bicycle travels, I've seen those deaths firsthand. It's not a benign statistic to me; it's a harsh visual reality. If you look at any "Save the Children" program begging to feed the children, you have seen what I have seen. For anyone that really wants to save the children, first world countries should send birth control with food. (www.quinacrine.com)
"Humans will continue to clear the diminishing lands left to other species," O'Connor said. "Wreaking disaster upon creatures already pushed to the margins."
Worldwide, humans cause the extinction of 100 creatures daily via human encroachment on habitat. In Oz, many kangaroos suffer endangerment as well as dozens of other species.
"The debate ought to be about the carrying capacity of the continent---a continent that has lousy soils, fragile soils and depleted and degraded river systems." Bob Carr, writing for Weekend Australian, June 1994
In the third part of this book review, Overloading Australia by O'Connor and Lines, we covered the fact that Australia cannot sustain added population numbers as to food, energy and water. That hasn't stopped 'growthists' in their 'spin' to obfuscate the realities facing the 'desert continent'.
The authors covered the 'refugee' dilemma, but again, the world grows by 77 million annually, which leaves long-term immigration a futile gesture. At some point, all civilizations must come to terms with their own numbers and their own recovery.
How many more people can Australia sustain? Short answer: not many! The most realistic question arises from anyone with a three digit IQ: what's the point of growing more population in Australia when you see what it did to China, India, Indonesia and other hyper-populated countries? Let's face it, the reason those immigrants flee their countries provides the exact reason Australia should stabilize its own population in order to remain within its carrying capacity.
John Coulter said in a letter to the editor in The Age, "If I were a Melbournian, I would not reduce my water consumption until Premier Bracks abandons his crazy plan to bring another million people into Melbourne. Why should I save to have my savings squandered by an irresponsible Premier and leave my children in an even worse situation than today?"
Another writer said, "We have been told that Melbourne must populate or perish and that by 2030 we must absorb another one million residents. The question that Planning Minister Justin Madden should ponder is: how do we cater for increased population given that our rivers, dams and reservoirs are drying up, the drought shows no sign of breaking, one-third of the state is affected by bushfires, and blackouts are becoming commonplace?"
O'Connor addressed the 'shortage of workers' façade that also occurs in the United States. While 2.4 million legal and illegal migrants pour over our borders annually, corporations demand hundreds of thousands of work visas for foreign workers.
However, as of March 2009, the U.S. suffers an 11.1 percent unemployment rate and 32.2 million Americans live on food stamps. Yes, that number 32.2 million is correct!
If Australia's politicians prove as cunning and feckless as my country's leaders, both our countries face being overwhelmed by the third world---again with no end of the line of immigrants fleeing their own misery as they grow by 77 million annually. Once millions of poor established in both our countries, our poverty rates, language chaos and sustainability will not survive.
While you read this book, you can't put it on the coffee table. Every chapter enlightens you to greater understanding. If you feel like it, start yelling at the top of your lungs, because it could put you into a logical rage.
"We know that by mid-century the world population is going to be as high as 10 billion people. The world advice is that, that simply cannot be sustained. We are down to fewer than 50 days of flow-on food availability to meet any great emergency and will be facing a mammoth, chaotic social outcome of too many people with too few resources on the planet in the lifetime of some of us here. That is why I asked the government whether it had a population policy, and I do not believe it does," Bob Brown in the Senate, September 16, 2008
That same applies to the U.S. It causes you to wonder if the patients run the insane asylum. Why can the media and government maintain such a high level of arrogance and stupidity side by side?
One writer said, "How can you kill a planet and still expect to live on it?"
O'Connor and Lines in the final chapters of the book provide a sobering rendition of the consequences of endless growth to the 'desert continent'. I invite every politician, college professor, high school and college student in Australia---to read this book. It needs to be read in boardrooms and bedrooms of parents. It needs reviews by every critic across Australia. It needs to be a best seller in the first world. Every mother and father needs to read it because their kids will be wrapped up in this great 'human dilemma'.
Thankfully, the authors addressed 'racism' in the book. I can vouch for Mother Nature that she doesn't care what your race, creed or color happens to be when your species overwhelms its carrying capacity. Mother Nature kills and cripples without prejudice. As in Chapter 15 of the book, "Fooling people, fooling nature", you bluff Mother Nature for only so long, and then, she will kick your Aussie ass! That blunt, that simple!
The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said, "Twaddle, rubbish and gossip is what people want, not action. Politicians know this. Aided by the media and cheered by intellectuals, they peddle illusion, fantasy, myth, faith and hope."
"But then there is the natural world," O'Connor said. "It's vastly different from politics and our delusions. People can be fooled over and over again, but nature cannot, not even once."
At the end of the book, Lines and O'Connor show how 'green groups' avoid the population equation along with the media. It's a cute and dangerous façade. They address the "Aborigines" guilt complex. They talk about climate change and ecological footprint. They nail it!
"You'd have to be an economist or a fool to think you can keep adding population forever!" said Kenneth Boulding, economist.
While the authors present cogent advice at the end of the book, I found myself laughing out loud at one of their ideas. "Why we should all waste water!" While all the environmentalists and do-gooders cry out to conserve, and the same happens with the Sierra Club in America, all the conservation in the world won't help as Australia adds another 10, 20, 30 or 50 million people. Therefore, start wasting as much water as possible today to force the population issue to the front burner. Frankly, it will power its way into the public's attention either now or later.
As I said at the beginning of this review, I've already seen what's coming in my world cycling travels. It's not pretty. Instead of walking that same perilous path as overpopulated countries, I invite every Australian to read this book, heed its wisdom and change course toward a sustainable nation and bright future for all Australians. Call for an "Australian Sustainable Population Policy" that limits mass immigration to near zero. You cannot save the rest of the world, but you can destroy your own civilization or turn it into a water starved, food scant and quality of life nightmare. Your children will thank you in 2050 and the world will thank you for leading the way for humanity toward a plausible and livable planet. By the way, the rest of Earth's creatures will thank you, too!
Overloading Australia: How governments and media dither and deny on population
Mark O'Connor & William J. Lines
#AmericaOnTheBrink" id="AmericaOnTheBrink">America on the brink: the next added 100 million Americans
By Frosty Wooldridge
Reviewers - Radio, TV, newsprint: for complimentary media copy, call Yvona Doane: 1 888 519 5121 Ext. 5299
"Eye-opening, incisive, brilliant!
"The U.S. has the fastest growing population of any industrial nation, and one of the world's highest consumption rates. Water, topsoil, forests, fish, petroleum... the more of us, the more pressure we exert on our environment. Many discuss our personal consumption patterns, but few dare talk about the underlying crisis of population growth. Wooldridge is one of the few courageous voices warning us about the implications of our current direction, and informing us what we can do to change course."
- Richard Heinberg, author of Peak Everything
"Electrifying reading! This is a veritable cannonade of a book.
"Wooldridge targets the people and institutions, from the President on down, who refuse to look at the consequences of population growth in the modern era. His focus is on the United States, but his range is the world.
"He fearlessly addresses issues that politicians fear to mention, such as the effects of mass immigration on our population future and our social systems. He engages to force population issues into our local and national political decisions."
- Lindsey Grant, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment & Population
"The environmental community may be outrageously AWOL on the important subject of population, but not Frosty Wooldridge. Read this book!"
- Richard D. Lamm, Governor of Colorado 1975-1987
"Wooldridge's powerful indictment of our political leaders for failing to address U.S. overpopulation should be required reading in classrooms and boardrooms.
"To mindlessly add 100 million more people to our nation's population in the next 30 years will put the United States economy and social order at further risk. His challenge needs to be addressed on individual, national and international levels before it's too late."
- William B. Dickinson, The Biocentric Institute
America on the Brink: The Next Added 100 Million Americans --
injects a whole new dynamic facing the United States in the 21st century. While national leaders at every level ignore accelerating consequences, immigration-driven hyper-population growth will become THE single greatest issue facing America in the years ahead.
In adding 100 million people by 2035, every crisis facing Americans today accelerates in harsher consequences -- whether it is water shortages, climate change, energy scarcity, dwindling resources, gridlock, air pollution and a decline of quality of life.
Wooldridge compellingly states the obvious... the U.S. cannot continue unplanned population expansion indefinitely.
He offers Hobson's Choice as a final result of mass denial. If the U.S. adds another 100 million people via immigration, it faces two doors:
-- if the country picks door # 1, this civilization walks over a cliff.
-- If it picks door # 2, it walks into quicksand.
Once that 100 million people manifest, no one, no matter what their race, creed or color---escapes. Americans will endure water shortages, energy problems, crowding and a much diminished standard of living. The American Dream will no longer be available.
However, Frosty offers concrete ways to change the future. In all great social change, it takes a 'conscious shift' that leads to a 'critical mass shift' and finally, a 'tipping point' whereby a civilization turns toward a sustainable and viable future. It's up to each citizen and leader to make sure that 'tipping point' occurs.
The fate of this civilization hangs in the balance.
Author Contact: www.frostywooldridge.com
For those with their eyes open population growth and the immigration that fuels it are never out of the news. ... unaffordable housing drives young families into debt slavery (even pushing some to the less-expensive urban fringe where a number died in Melbourne’s recent fires)... strained infrastructure leading to blackouts, cancelled train services... traffic congestion, draining energy from the economy and from human lives...hospitals that can no longer care for the people they serve... water supplies that dwindle as drought and growth desiccate cities and stretch the capacity of farms... pleasant suburbs degraded by intensive redevelopment; greenhouse gases ...and a natural environment wilting under the burden of numbers.
Click here to purchase book
"Review by Katharine Betts of Mark O’Connor's and WilliamJ. Lines's book,Overloading Australia,"
People and Place, vol. 17, no. 1, page 76.
Australia’s population is growing rapidly. In March 2009 it stood at 21.6 million. The current Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, takes it for granted that it will grow to 35 million by 2051. In 1999 when Philip Ruddock was Minister for Immigration he told Australians that there was no need for a population policy because we were unlikely to grow much beyond 23 million. He added that the ‘nation cannot afford to return to [an immigration] program characterised by big numbers and little thought’.  Nonetheless the current growth surge, keenly embraced by the new Labor Government, began quietly under the Coalition soon after Ruddock’s 1999 statement.
Much of Australia’s growth is directly due to immigration (nearly 60 per cent in 2007–08) and much of the growth from natural increase is attributable to the Australia-born children of immigrants. For example, in 2007, 25 per cent of all births were to overseas-born mothers.
For those with their eyes open population growth and the immigration that fuels it are never out of the news. There is the unaffordable housing that drives young families into debt slavery  (even pushing some to the less-expensive urban fringe where a number died in Melbourne’s recent fires). There is strained infrastructure leading to blackouts, cancelled train services, and to traffic congestion, draining energy from the economy and from human lives.  There are hospitals that can no longer care for the people they serve; water supplies that dwindle as drought and growth desiccate cities and stretch the capacity of farms; pleasant suburbs degraded by intensive redevelopment; greenhouse gases that refuse to abate;[0 ]and a natural environment wilting under the burden of numbers.
But while stories of water shortages and degraded infrastructure abound, few of the public figures who comment on them acknowledge the role of population growth in creating these problems and making them harder to overcome. Here Mark O’Connor and William Lines have done us an important service; they have joined the dots between these social and environmental ills and our rapid growth.
From the picture they create a reader could, at first, believe that Australia’s pattern of growth was promising. It is mainly due to government immigration policy, so shouldn’t it be relatively easy to rein it in? Besides immigration is not popular; support for the post-2000 increase is minimal among both the Australia-born and migrants themselves. But as O’Connor and Lines make clear, immigration in fact makes it harder to halt growth because the businesses that profit from it lobby for it, and property developers with deep pockets appear to have bought the favour of some of the politicians who create it.
High migration means more customers, cheaper labour, and minimal training costs. All of these boons intensify pressures from self-interested groups to keep the numbers coming. As O’Connor and Lines put it: ‘It is no surprise that the housing industry lobbies not for the size of housing industry that Australia’s population needs but for the size of Australia’s population that the industry needs’. The concentrated benefits enjoyed by special interests (on the right of the political spectrum) trump the unorganised interests of the majority who bear the costs.
At the same time many opinion makers on the left are quick to decry criticism of immigration-fuelled growth as scapegoating immigrants, even as racism. As if this were not enough, business interests fund academic research into demography and immigration, naturally channeling their money towards those likely to produce results friendly to growth. This is a chilling circumstance at a time when universities are starved of money and academics are under crushing pressure to bring in research grants. Other sources of research funds include state and federal government departments, most of which are committed to the growth targets set by politicians. Researchers who might otherwise point to the costs of growth are unlikely to win such grants; they also risk the disapproval of their left-liberal peers.
The authors point out that the left’s fixation on seeing criticism of immigration-fuelled growth as racism is ‘a good cloak for elitism … the people must not be given power because their views are barbaric’. Thus even though high migration is unpopular, a pro-growth right and a left that is anti-anti-growth mean that voters are unorganised and voiceless.
The authors marvel at the way in which the motives of the occasional reformer who questions growth are earnestly probed while no one examines the growth lobby as it enjoys the handsome profits brought to them by each plane load of new consumers. O’Connor and Lines assert that left-wing xenophobia hunters are not interested in old fashioned rent seekers despoiling the community for their own advantage; they prefer to enjoy the comforts of their moral superiority.
Why must O’Connor and Lines be the ones to point to the damage done to Australia by this blend of greed and snobbery? Why have the media failed to show it to us? Here the authors have a telling vignette about Ian Lowe, a distinguished scientist who takes population seriously. He is also president of the Australian Conservation Foundation and a frequent media commentator. O’Connor asked him why he so seldom spoke out about population. Lowe replied that he often did but that when he did he was ignored. He also told O’Connor ‘how he was sacked as a columnist from one paper for insisting on it. He [Lowe] found that the most biased media were the grossly pro-growthist Murdoch papers’.
Media silence on the question is not always an accidental byproduct of pleasing pro-growth advertisers while deferring to the sensibilities of the intelligentsia. It can be deliberate. O’Connor and Lines argue that just as other vendors to the domestic market have a product to sell, so too do the commercial media; it is always easier to sell to a growing market rather than to compete for market share, or indeed to export. The commercial media have their own vested interests in growth. While the ABC should be immune from these interests, it is more likely to be infected with the racism virus, the infection that makes its host see any scepticism about growth as racism in disguise. Nonetheless, perhaps because it does not profit from growth, the ABC has proved more receptive to Overloading Australia than have other media outlets.
Both authors are accomplished writers and the book is brief and clear; so far it has achieved a fair degree of media coverage. It was launched in February 2009 by Bob Carr, former premier of New South Wales, and a rarity among Australian premiers in that he is a critic of growth. At the launch Carr said: ‘There is a hardly any significant process at State or Federal level today that is allowed to proceed without an environmental impact statement except the pushing up of population’.
O’Connor’s account of the launch goes on to report how Carr ‘spoke of his frustration, when he was Premier, at having a vastly increased Sydney population forced upon him by decisions made in Canberra. … He was then in the invidious situation of having to destroy amenities and allow developers to invade protected areas. As he put it, people don’t want Sydney to be crowded and built up, but they also don’t want it to expand into places like Kuringai Chase and Botany Bay; yet one of those two things has to happen if a million extra people are put into Sydney’.
Some of the media reports have been neutral  or even favourable. For example O’Connor was invited to write an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald, and the Adelaide Advertiser. He was also interviewed on the ABC Radio National station on Counterpoint, Breakfast  and Late Night Live. But press coverage has been more ambivalent and its tenor bears out the authors’ analysis.
A former Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, said that ‘the extent to which population influenced environmental policy depended on how selfish Australians wanted to be’ and that ‘some people citing environmental reasons for reduced migration were simply opposed to immigration’. Charles Berger, in a generally sympathetic piece in The Canberra Times, wrote that: ‘Overloading Australia … has sparked another round of debate about Australia’s population. Some commentators have been quick to detect a murky agenda of xenophobia hovering behind a green cloak in the population debate. They are right to be suspicious. …’ He did, however, go on to exonerate O’Connor and Lines.
Brigid Delaney in the Melbourne Age was not so generous. She wrote that to rein in growth was to risk ‘the development of our inner lives’ because immigrants energise their adopted countries. But there was worse:
Environmental issues can be a handy Trojan horse with which to wheel in policies and debates about immigration that we are too squeamish to discuss baldly. After all, no one wants a rerun of Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in 1968 that led to race riots across England, nor Pauline Hanson’s polarising comments on immigration that brought Australia to the brink of a spiritual crisis.
But O’Connor and Lines do not advocate an end to immigration, just a balanced intake which would still leave room for refugees. This is a humanitarian position; they write that deliberately ‘pushing up our own population … cannot be justified on environmental grounds. It could only be justified on international humanitarian grounds if we could believe that it would leave us, somehow, very much more able and more willing to help our neighbours’. They also point to the immorality of Australia continuing to pirate doctors and other health workers from poor countries to compensate for our own reluctance to invest in local training. Xenophobia hunters, however, are more interested in displaying their self-righteousness than in understanding and debating an opposing point of view.
How can serious advocates of a moral and sustainable position on population growth cut through in such a climate? One way is to write the kind book that O’Connor and Lines have written, well researched, cogent and readable. Another is put forward a shocking policy proposal.
This concerns both sacrifice and exploitation. We can see its outlines in debate about the Rudd Government’s proposed emissions trading scheme. This will cap Australia’s overall greenhouse gas emissions through the sale of permits to industry, but it will also set a floor under which emissions are unlikely to fall. As community awareness of this has spread many householders are dismayed; their individual sacrifices to lower emissions are not only going to count for nothing, they will actively help polluters to pollute. Private spending on solar panels, solar hot water, and on low-emission cars will do nothing to reduce greenhouse gases; it will just enable dirty industries to emit more. But the same can be said of many sacrifices that individual Australians make for the environment; they are all nullified by the extra people brought in to pander to the growth lobby.
Here O’Connor and Lines put forward their suggestion. Instead of washing up only once a day and letting the garden die, we should all waste water. Saving water just makes it easier for growthists to increase the population. (They do say that would never suggest that we waste a non-renewable resource.) But why struggle to cut your shower to less than two minutes when the Government is bringing in more than 200,000 extra people a year?
The answer? Take a deep bath and bring the crisis to a head. And while you are enjoying your bath you could read this excellent book.
Mark O’Connor and William J. Lines, Overloading Australia: How governments and media dither and deny on population, Envirobook, Sydney, December 2008, ISBN 9780858812246, A$19.95
Available online from , and .
1 See Rudd quoted in M. Franklin, ‘Rudd warns Australia must prepare for emerging arms race across AsiaPM flags major naval build-up’, The Australian, September 10 2008, pp. 1, 6
2 P. Ruddock, ‘The Coalition Government’s position on immigration and population policy’, People and Place, vol. 7, no. 4, 1999, pp. 6–12
3 See P. Kelly, ‘Restocking the nation’, The Weekend Australian, 3 August 2002, p. 28.
4 J. Hewett, ‘Under mortgage pressure’, The Australian, 20 October 2007, p. 21; B. Day, ‘How to plan for a fiasco’, The Australian, 22 April 2008, p. 14
5 Editorial, ‘A tragic week in Australian history’, The Australian, 14 February 2009, p. 16
6 AAP, ‘Heatwave claims lives’, The Age, 1 February 2009; AAP, ‘Qld: Labor plan to cut southeast traffic congestion’, Australian Associated Press General News, 26 February 2009; J. Gordon and R. Sexton, ‘National road chaos looms’, The Age, 8 March 2009, p. 1; C. Lucas, ‘Connex hit with commuter squeeze’, The Age, 5 March 2009, p. 10
7 R. Wallace, ‘Hospitals fail to meet most targets’, The Australian, 3 October 2008, p. 7
8 G. Roberts and P. Murphy, ‘Recycled sewage “will have bugs”’, The Australian, 29 October 2008, p. 9; B. Doherty, ‘Water plan may not go far enough’, The Age, 23 October 2008, p. 1
9 M. Clayfield, ‘There’s a hole in our suburb, dear Labor, oh dear’, The Australian, 7 March 2009, p. 5
10 G. Readfearn, ‘Pollution skyrockets Coal and gas for electricity blamed’, The Courier-Mail, 12 January 2009, p. 11; T. Arup, ‘Emissions heat up in economic meltdown’, The Age, 14 March 2009, p. 4
11 See M. O’Connor and W. J. Lines, Overloading Australia, Envirobook, Sydney, 2008, p. 107.
12 Others may not need persuading. See ibid., pp. 4, 8–9, 26, 88ff, 98, 106, 145, 162.
13 ibid., pp. 125–6
14 ibid., pp. 141ff, 160, 164, 167, 172–3
15 For the role of the Scanlon Foundation with its mission to create ‘a larger cohesive Australian society’, see ibid., p. 82 and p. 205 n. 199. The Foundation believes that the future prosperity of Australia is ‘underpinned by continued population growth’. See accessed 9/3/09.
16 For example academics critical of the high growth trajectory of the Victorian Government’s Melbourne 2030 strategy, and who are likely to apply to it for research contracts, are well advised to keep their criticism to themselves. A public servant conveyed this warning, as a friendly gesture, to a group that I was a member of in late 2003.
17 O’Connor and Lines, 2008, op. cit., p. 144
18 See ibid., p. 145. 19 ibid., p. 171
20 ibid., pp. 38, 133–34
21 O’Connor and Lines devote a chapter to the pro-immigration bias of the ABC. See ibid., pp. 158–164 and p. 141ff.
22 Email from Mark O’Connor to [email protected] 10 February 2009
23 See P. Ker, ‘Population Australia’s “big threat”’, The Age, 24 January 2009, p. 3; P. Ker and A. Morton, ‘Population debate booms’, The Age, 30 January 2009, p. 2.
24 M. O’Connor, ‘Many in denial over rising population’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 December 2008, p. 27
25 M. O’Connor, ‘Australia’s bizarrely high population growth lies behind many of our worst problems’, The Advertiser, 3 March 2009, p. 18
26 Monday 1 December 2008, audio available at accessed 9/3/09
27 Wednesday 28 January 2009, audio available at accessed 9/3/09
28 Tuesday 5 March 2009, audio available at accessed 9/3/09
29 Quoted in Ker and Morton, 2009, op. cit.
30 C. Berger, ‘Aim for sustainable population and generous immigration’, Canberra Times, 13 February 2009, p. 15
31 B. Delaney, ‘Murky agenda behind this green debate’, The Age, 27 January 2009, p. 11
32 O’Connor and Lines, 2008, op. cit., p. 72ff
33 ibid., p. 57
34 See ibid., pp. 69, 110.
35 ibid., pp. 182–184
Australian palm forest (photo by Sheila Newman)
Mark O’Connor and Bill Lines’s Overloading Australia has only been out for a short time and the growthists are becoming hysterical. Their arguments are as hopeless as ever. One Telegraph journalist, Tim Blair, has even attacked Mark O’Connor for being a marriage celebrant. In a sort of three-year-old’s idea of getting married,
“Interestingly, O’Connor is a wedding celebrant. How he combines that with his opposition to population growth is anyone’s guess.”
Doesn’t Blair know anyone who practises contraception?
It must be hard working for the Murdoch Press, where no-one writes sensibly about serious democratic and environmental concerns, presumably because they will affect sales on realestate.com.au which rely on continuous population growth of course.
And just when you thought it was safe to read Fairfax again (after the decent article on page 3 on Overloading Australia) they drag the recent expatriate, Brigid Delaney, in from the cold (she has just spent three years in London) to do a number on O’Connor and Lines.
Just an old-fashioned cringe
Delaney starts out with some very old-fashioned cultural cringe. Holding up her subjective ideals of [battered] New York and [impoverished] London as ‘models of innovative and successful cities’, she stigmatises stopping population growth as ‘stagnation’. She implies that O'Connor and Lines's book calls for no immigration. This is not true.
What stopped her from urging Australia to have cities more like Calcutta and Mexico City, I wonder?
This does not compute
She says that Australians live 'high on the hog', then, instead of suggesting we should be less materialistic, she proposes more economic growth and lauds imported 'work ethics'. Is she really so stupid that she doesn't realise that work and economic growth mean more material production and consumption?
She even tries to sell the idea that failing to surrender our remaining quality of life to overpopulation for ‘diversity’ in order to have ‘economic growth’ may ‘slow the development of our inner lives’!
Frankly, if Brigid’s ‘inner life’ is as bereft of originality and cogency as her writing, I would urge her to seriously review her lifestyle goals.
The article reads as if she fell asleep between paragraphs and woke up forgetting what she had just written.
Fails to address content of O'Connor and Lines' book
Unable to counter the environmental concerns raised by Mark O'Connor's and Bill Lines's book, Brigid instead tries to frighten people away from the serious nature of these concerns, by implying that they are dangerous to articulate because they could be used by people to cloak a dislike of immigration for other reasons. She doesn't dare to directly slur the authors themselves, who are both seriously accredited environmentalists; instead she tries to stigmatise their subject as socially dangerous.
At the end she is conflating environmentalists wanting to reduce population with Nazis in Berlin wanting to stop immigration, because one might provide a cloak for the other! To me, it is Brigid’s arguments that are dangerous, because they seem contrived to polarise people away from their democratic right, of voicing their opinions about unsustainable political, environmental and economic policies.
She talks of how immigrants “energise their adopted countries; they bring new skills, culture, views and work ethic,” then later she describes xenophobia as rife in Britain.
Does she not realize that the people she describes as xenophobic are exactly the kinds of British immigrants we are accepting in droves here? People who will tell you openly that they came here to get away from the high immigration there, and, far from hiding under an environmental cloak, express no environmental concern or interest at all?
Cloaked agenda of mass immigrationists
For one with such Macarthyist ideas, Brigid doesn't seem to care that the mass-immigrationists use their purported love of 'diversity' and 'multiculturalism' to hide their real agenda for Australia, which is to make an enormous amount of money at the expense of taxpayers and grab more political power at the expense of democracy and to hell with the environment. I hate to say this, but those selfish vested interests find most of their support and many of their members, in the mainstream media (which they also own, I forgot to say). Brigid's thesis in her article is unsettling for the reason that she really doesn't seem to know what she is talking about, but she is prepared to slur a seriously documented concern, and by association, the authors of Overloaded Australia, presumably to make a buck.
Australians should all be aware that Fairfax Press makes enormous amounts out of marketing Australian property globally through its domain.com.au, as well as in those forest-destructive pages and pages of real-estate advertisements and consumer lifestyle images.
It is sad that that is about all that the mainstream press can find as a response to widely shared and felt environmental concerns and despair about wildlife, water, soil and democracy. And it is sad that a journalist shows so little human concern for the feelings and intelligence of her fellows. It seems as if, only those who come from elsewhere, might have intrinsic worth. And, only other cities, not ours, might be worth living in.
Right at the end she comes out with what seems to be a bizarre confusion of high immigration with ecological diversity:
"A society without immigrants will be the social equivalent of what's happening to our gardens — less colour and movement, less diversity, a sort of homogenised, sun-bleached patch where the only things growing are the plants we've seen before."
Blind to real diversity
This isn't Shakespeare. And she seems to be a true ecological illiterate. Apart from the counter-intuitive assumption that people cannot bear to live without constantly changing environments, right to the plants in their gardens, her statement doesn't make any sense.
Fruit bats in an Australian garden (Photo by Julia Buch)
What does she mean by there being 'less colour and movement, less diversity' in our gardens? The only way that is true is where we have concreted them, deprived them of water, and where immigrant plants and animals: pencil cyprus, privet, aloe-vera, African agapanthus; Indian mynas and Euruopean blackbirds, European wasps and cane toads, domestic cats and dogs – not to mention the humans, of course - have taken over en masse and annihilated the indigenous diversity; the quolls, potoroos, snakes, lizards, butterflies, microbats, flower-wasps and rosellas, cuckoo-shrikes, honey-eaters, wattle-birds, magpies and kookaburras, which is so much more intense in Australia than in most places – making concrete New York and grey London seem like dead planets.