A sustainable population can endure indefinitely. It is decided by the carrying capacity of the land on which it lives. It involves numbers, behaviours and technology.
For humans, sustainability is the potential for long-term (intergenerational) maintenance of well-being, which has ecological, economic, political and cultural dimensions. Sustainability requires the reconciliation of environmental, social equity and economic demands.
The population debate - Issue background
The population debate is not the old 'immigration debate'. Population is not about race, religion or culture; and certainly not about coercive restrictions on the size of Australian families.
The population debate is about total numbers (i.e. BOTH net migration AND natural increase), the sustainable use of resources and the ever-growing negative impacts of population growth on our quality of life.
Most fundamentally, the population debate is about a democratic choice for the Australian people.
Population policy affects everything and everyone.
A sustainable population policy is critical to the following issues:
Population growth has many negative impacts. It is now the underlying issue linked to all of Australia's major problems. Politicians can't resolve them until we first resolve population.
We have also developed broad range of policies to support our vision for a sustainable Australia.
Responsible custodianship of Australia is our primary and overwhelming moral responsibility. A stabilised and sustainable population will help create a better quality of life for all Australians, present and future, and provide a positive example for the rest of the world.
Why 26 million?
Australia's recent extreme annual population growth of over 400,000 per annum or 1.9 per cent (over eight times the European growth rate), adds a new Canberra every year!
We are on track to reach the Liberal/Labor/Greens 'big Australia' target of 36-40 million by 2050, growing to well over 80 million by 2100 - way beyond our long-term carrying capacity.
In 1994 the Australian Academy of Science published its findings on population. In considering the resource needs of our cities, and Australia's supply of water, minerals and arable land it concluded: “In our view, the quality of all aspects of our children's lives will be maximised if the population of Australia by the mid-21st Century is kept to the low, stable end of the achievable range, i.e. to approximately 23 million."
As Australians see their quality of life deteriorating due to population growth pressures, this advice has proven to be very sound.
Further, According to the national 'State of the Environment' report chaired by Professor Ian Lowe (formerly) of the Australian Conservation Foundation, most of the important environmental indicators in Australia are getting worse, all of which are being further worsened by population growth. His recommendation is to stabilise Australia's population: CLICK HERE
Most fundamentally, as a sovereign people Australians have a democratic right to choose its population size and quality of life.
Given our current rapid growth, a best case stabilised population outcome would have Australia grow from our current population of around 23 million to around 26 million by 2050, and thereafter stabilise in the mid 20-millions. That's the sustainable choice we still have. Due to our high birth rate, 26 million is now around the lowest point we can reasonably expect to stabilise, with balanced (or 'zero net') migration.
Rapid population growth is not inevitable. The Howard/Abbott and Rudd/Gillard Governments, influenced by big business donors, have deliberately implemented policies that will deliver a disastrous 'big Australia' population.
The 2010 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes found that 72 per cent of voters agreed that Australia does not need more people, and in April 2010 Essential Media found that 87 per cent of people wanted Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to either stay the same size or shrink.
Population growth - and rising consumption - are ultimately constrained by limits of resource availability. The immediate concerns include peak oil and broader energy security, climate change, biodiversity loss, and water and food availability.
Australia faces a precarious future unless we make rapid changes to stabilise our population. It is selfish of us to put the well-being of future generations at risk through foolish and undemocratic population growth policies designed to benefit the most wealthy Australians.
We live in a finite world so can’t grow forever. A sustainable population is necessary, and the sooner we act, the easier it will be to manage Australia's growing environmental problems and resource scarcity.
Our economy is completely reliant on a healthy environment in order to function. Economic sustainability and intergenerational quality of life through the sustainable use of Australia's food, water and energy resources is Australia's only sustainable choice.
We should not be manipulated into using Australia as an overpopulation safety valve for the rest of the world, as this has no positive impact on global overpopulation. We should focus our foreign aid wherever possible on female rights and education, and on opportunities for women and couples to access voluntary family planning services to help prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Stabilising our population is a prerequisite for a sustainable future.
Australia's sustainable choice
According to the United Nations, true sustainability is ‘development which meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. In other words, a pattern of resource use that preserves the environment for future generations, to ensure their economic and social wellbeing.
We must recognise that it is our finite natural resource base that is the true source of our wealth - not the population growth that both dilutes and erodes it, and makes true sustainability impossible.
Growing a bigger population funded by the rapid depletion of Australia's finite mineral and energy resources is a recipe for economic, environmental and social disaster. It is inherently unsustainable. According to Federal Government body Geoscience Australia, at current rates of extraction many of Australia’s major energy sources and minerals will be fully depleted this century. This includes crude oil (2020), LPG (2031), LNG (2074), iron ore (2081) and black coal (2100). But these dates look optimistic as we continue to increase extraction rates in order to fund the imports, infrastructure and services required by an ever-increasing population. What will future generations export to stay in the first world?
The urgency of the issue is compounded by the potential impacts of peak oil production (the end of cheap oil), climate change, diminished water and food security, and biodiversity loss including species extinctions.
In a finite world, a stabilised population focused on sustainable behaviour will help create a more resilient economy, to sustain and enhance prosperity.
#RealGrowth, not ponzi population growth
A stable and sustainable population will also help to divert scarce economic capital away from the relatively unproductive and oversized housing construction industry, and into productive and export-focused industries like manufacturing and agriculture.
We should model ourselves on Germany, for example.
For #RealGrowth economic analysis: CLICK HERE
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