Australia's population battle.

"After keeping quiet on the issue of population growth for many years the ACF under the guidance of Professor Ian Lowe has begun openly discussing Australia’s exponential population growth and its effect on our country."

by Alicia Melville-Smith 6th March 2009 Email address.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Australia’s current population stands at 21 591 843. With an excess of births over deaths and a ludicrously large immigration program our population increases by one person every ninety-one seconds. Whilst a large country only ten percent of Australia is arable land, this means that only ten percent of our vast continent is capable of growing crops and supporting grazing livestock. Whilst our population increases the capability of our country to feed us all does not.

What many civilians/politicians/economists overlook when declaring that there is ‘no such thing as a population problem in Australia’ is the carrying capacity of the earth. More people may equal more money and a booming economy but what needs to be addressed by our Government is that more people also equal more water usage, more demand for housing and land, more demand for fuel and more pressure on the limited supplies the planet provides. Eventually the earth may not be able to sustain our greed.

Fortunately it seems that some big names are finally connecting the dots that many scientists and concerned individuals have been connecting without media attention for years. In their 2009 Submission to Department of the Treasury the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) outlined their priorities for the 2009/10 Federal Budget listing population increase as a main issue of concern. The ACF want to see a reform of the Government’s annual migration program and a movement towards stabilising Australia’s population at an ‘ecologically sustainable level’.

After keeping quiet on the issue of population growth for many years the ACF under the guidance of Professor Ian Lowe has begun openly discussing Australia’s exponential population growth and its effect on our country. In a news release on their website the ACF stated that it supports the creation of a National Population policy that involves the ‘stabilisation of the Australian population and the resource use at levels that are precautionary and ecologically sustainable’. It also goes on to state that this population stabilisation should be between twenty-five and thirty million this century, however many environmentalists claim this is more than our country can safely sustain.

The ACF believes that a population policy that integrates an annual immigration policy that is ‘based on environmental, social, ethical and humanitarian obligations, rather than perceived economic needs’ is necessary for the wellbeing of our country and climate. They go on to urge the Australian Government to lower the amount of migrant places in other non-humanitarian streams. What many Australians don’t realise is that the Government’s skilled migrant intake not only adds more people to our strained country, it also deprives many developing countries of their own skilled citizens leaving them with skills shortages more dire than our own. The ACF also calls for the Government to scrap the baby bonus and instead invest the money in education, health care, family planning, childcare and aged care, in an effort to begin caring for the current Australian population rather than increasing it.

It’s a big step in the right direction albeit much later than some may like. Let’s put it into perspective, shall we? In the time it took me to compose these few paragraphs Australia’s population increased by fifteen people. That’s fifteen more people who demand on average over 400 litres of water a day to eat, drink and brush their teeth and yet you can only water your lawn between six am and nine am Tuesday to Saturday. Water restrictions are saving water for our drought stricken country though, aren’t they? Look at it this way less people equals less water usage. Perhaps Australia’s chronic water shortage would be less extreme if there weren’t forty new Australians each hour demanding their share?

Now this is not an attack on migrants or families with more than two children. It is a question from a young woman whose future lies with the future of her country to the current Government of Australia. Why do we lack a population policy? Why did the intake of migrants increase by 37,500 places, eighty-three percent in the skilled migrant stream in 2008? Why a net total of 177,600 immigrants in 2008 and a five thousand dollar baby bonus? Why deny that population growth impacts upon our countries fragile carrying capacity and limited resources?

Because let’s be honest no one can create water, oil or arable soil out of nothing and nature’s resources are undeniably finite. Environmentalists and authors O’Connor and Lines inform us that the world’s population is ‘turning resources into waste twenty-five percent faster than Nature can turn waste back into resources’. In other words population increase equals increase in demand for essential resources, which in turn equals a demand in available supplies of these resources.

Remember that old population motto that growth advocates like to declare en masse, ‘populate or perish’? With a growing global population and burgeoning global food crisis perhaps we could more accurately reverse the motto to reflect our current need. ‘Populate and perish?’ It’s a lot to worry about.

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