It’s Population, Stupid
Just got home (Sunday night) after a good day. Good, more like ideal. Started by devouring more of a novel I will shortly review for you, a real treasure, totally out of print, about the Jews of Lodz, which ends up with one capitalist stranded in the Petrograd of 1917. Anyway, more later on The Brothers Ashkenazi by J J Singer (brother to Issac Bashevis Singer) translated from the Yiddish and published by Knopf in 1937. I then ran on the soft sand of Bondi, we had lunch at a little Malaysian cafe and I hit the gym for four sets of six leg exercises, 20 reps each. Then to launch a book rebutting climate change deniers at Glebebooks. As I said, a fine day. More on that book later.
But I said to the big, committed audience that population is at the root of environmental degradation whatever way you look at it. We just made seven billion (got that extra billion in seven years, I’m told) and will reach 10 billion by 2050, despite placatory assurances 10 years back we would plateau out at eight. High hopes, partners.
Human pressure means more power stations and more cars, more agricultural expansion and more chemicals flushed into oceans, and bigger and more lethal dead spots in them.
Population growth means more land clearing and loss of animal habitats. Get rid of those irritating other species, like the great apes of Africa and the orangutans of Sumatra. They can go the way of the fresh water dolphins of China and the white rhinos can follow because more humans means more encroachment, clearing and poaching.
And Australia is bidden to join the happy movement – oh joy, oh wonder – by the business lobby that insists there is only one route to prosperity: pump them in until we hit more than 36 million by 2050. No, make it 50 million, they call, the more the merrier. Until all the East coast is packed tight, wall to wall apartments except for those irksome national parks that Carr declared over headlands and pristine beaches and coastal lakes and, where he could, the coastal ranges. Gee, what a waste. Could squeeze in another half million if we could roll that back – town houses for the lucky, home units with desk-draw balconies for the rest and THE MALLS!
And as The 7.30 Report showed last week, looking at Werribee in Melbourne, high population growth simply means add-on suburbs, with more shopping malls, one after the other, with people complaining that a 20 minute journey to work 10 years ago is now over an hour – and, yes, even with the best planning and with new regional freeways and rail you still get congestion, folks, because with rip-roaring immigration that’s what happens.
Increase population and cities go out and up. And your infrastructure struggles to catch up with the growth no matter how much of the state budget it absorbs. You bring in a tradesman to help with labor shortages and, with his dependents, there is another family seeking housing, and space on transport at peak hour, and new hospital and school resources in the suburbs that are sprawling over what were once market gardens.
The merry-go-round economy. Better than generating wealth in smart ways through research and science, this resort to growing the pie in the most obvious of ways. Easier than being smart and actually increasing GDP per head. Oh, none of that.
The policy released by the Federal government does not endorse Big Australia so beloved of business economists and loathed by Australians. But we had all better watch that annual intake and raise merry hell if Canberra veers again to the sneaky, under-the-table Howard practice of over 400,000 a year.