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Page added on July 25, 2010

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Is Australia’s population a problem?

Is Australia’s population a problem? thumbnail

“Australia should not hurtle down the track towards a big population”. Instead, she called for a “sustainable population”.

Almost four weeks on, however, Labor’s policy has no details — just lots of rhetoric designed to pander to fears that immigration (particularly asylum seekers) is causing a raft of social problems.

Countries with much larger populations than Australia make much smaller greenhouse gas contributions. With a population of 22 million, Australia emitted about 533 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2006, according to the federal department of climate change.

Spain, an industrialised country with a population more than twice that of Australia at 45.5 million, emitted 433 Mt in 2006, according to the United Nations Statistics Division. Carbon pollution is a result of unsustainable industrial processes, not unsustainable population.

Broad-scale land clearing remains the biggest threat to biodiversity in Australia, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature. It also leads to soil salinity and increased carbon emissions.

But most land clearance happens for agricultural reasons, in sparsely populated areas. The problem is caused by unsustainable farming — not unsustainable population.

Beating the drum of “sustainable population” will not make working people’s living standards any better. Lowering immigration, refusing asylum to refugees and reducing fertility rates will not reverse privatisation or force the government to build better public transport, hospitals or schools. The advantage to politicians is that talk is cheap.

Providing the social infrastructure that cities need at their current size — let alone accounting for growth — will cost money.

Green Left

2 Comments on "Is Australia’s population a problem?"

  1. kenz300 on Sun, 25th Jul 2010 11:13 pm 

    Population growth puts a strain on the worlds limited resources. Food, oil and water resources are limited and getting more expensive. Wars will be fought over access to resources. Immigration will move people from areas with fewer resources to those areas with more. We can move toward sustainability or the limits to our planets resources with put limits on population growth that we may not like.

    How many fish can you put in a fish tank before the limited resources restrain the growth?

  2. CSI on Tue, 27th Jul 2010 12:36 pm 

    The central question here is – how does a modern industralized country with an economy optimized for a growing population transition to a stable population, a transition which is absolutely inevitable? Nobody wants to address this.

    All this bickering over whether or not Australia, or the US, is overpopulated or not is a distraction from this extremely important question. Because even if either country isn’t currently overpopulated, they soon will be if their population continues to increase.

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