Australia's recent extreme population growth of around 350-450,000 per annum (up to eight times the western world per capita growth rate), adds over 1 million people every three years. We are on track to reach the Liberal/Labor 'big Australia' target of 36 million by 2050. A stable 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.
A stable population would allow us to start resolving our major environmental, economic and social problems, as listed here.
Population growth is not inevitable. The Howard and Rudd/Gillard Governments, influenced by big business donors, have deliberately implemented policies that will deliver a 'big Australia' population, growing to 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. We are now fast approaching this safe upper level, and Australians of all backgrounds are craving a rational and mature debate about population size - beyond the simplistic "stop the boats" and "sustainable Australia" slogans we are getting from The Coalition, Labor and The Greens.
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.
A stable population is a prerequisite for a sustainable future.
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