It’s the Population, Stupid
It’s a relief when you see the message getting through. Today, at Dymocks George St, Sydney, Dick Smith launched Population Crisis, subtitled, “The dangers of unsustainable growth for Australia” (published by Allen & Unwin). It is an argument spun around this basic, undeniable fact of life: human numbers on the planet are growing hugely and this has got to be the starting point for every challenge humanity faces like climate change, hunger, civil wars, political unrest and, at least to some extent, religious extremism and national rivalries.
This year the world’s population has – will – hit seven billion. Writers on population each has a different way of dramatising this elemental fact of life. Dick’s is to say:
It staggers me to contemplate that in less than my life time the world’s population has tripled. There are more people alive today than have lived and died in all previous history. Such is the dangerous mathematics of exponential growth that, if I have an average lifespan, I will also see the arrival of the next one billion people some time in the 2020s. [My emphases]
This means, in turn, that humanity’s consumption of the planet’s resources, our ecological footprint, has doubled since 1966.
But Smith points out there’s another variable being forced here and that is, that at the same time, the variety of animals has declined by a third. This human plague, this explosion in human numbers – this truly crazy experiment – is elbowing other species out of existence.
These are my words, not Smith’s, but the destruction of animal habitats is the biggest cause of species elimination and it’s exploding human numbers that produces that human activity – the pressure for land clearing, the pressure for more cattle ranches and palm oil plantations in the place of rainforests, the growth of ruinous irrigation, the subsequent spread of deserts. It’s a massive dislocation of nature.
Dick Smith said he declined to join the climate change advertisement because he knew the Murdoch press would simply carve him up because he’s rich. See my comments on their treatment of Cate Blanchett below.
Interviewed by the media at the book launch I said the Murdoch papers should contemplate a different approach, one that is not just mischievous and negative. The News Limited papers support market-based action on climate change. They could sponsor their own conferences of economists and scientists to drive their own agenda for such a pricing mechanism. And then use their pages to sponsor it as their preferable alternative to what is emerging from the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee in Canberra.
In the meantime Dick Smith is talking, I believe, for the majority of Australians who know there’s something unsustainable in the madcap drive for an unceasing increase in the human numbers supported by this continent.