Henry Lawson's

Mark O'Connor talks on Life Matters ABC radio

The findings of Overloading Australia, the first serious study of Australia’s population debate in the 21st century, may shock. Australia’s population is currently 21.5 million.

As far back as 1994, before peak oil or global warming were clear, the Australian Academy of Science warned that 23 million people should be our absolute limit. Instead we are accelerating, and our emissions.

After a decade of being told our population would naturally cap itself at under 25 million, or might even fall, we now discover it is growing at 1.8% a year, far above the Asian region average of 1.1%, and almost off the First World scale (0.25% p.a. would be more typical). At this rate, we will have over 100 million people by 2100 – far more than the desert continent could sustain.

In the past two years, most of our politicians have ceased being in denial about climate change, greenhouse emissions, limits to water, and peak oil. Yet all these crises reflect a deeper underlying problem: Australia’s and the world’s population growth is out of control.

Contrary to Peter Costello’s claims, there is no “fertility crisis”: we have twice as many births a year as deaths, plus the world’s highest per capita immigration rate. In short, we are being lied to. But how, by whom, and for what profit? And how does our problem fit in the global scenario?

Mark O’Connor was the H C Coombs Fellow in 1999, and thereafter a Visiting Scholar in Archaeology and Natural History. He has published 16 books of verse, and is the editor of Oxford University Press’s Two Centuries of Australian Poetry. He has also published books on environment and on literary criticism, and is an editor of OUP’s and the IUCN’s Protected Area Management (2001).

Mark is co-author with William Lines of Overloading Australia, which Robert Birrell describes as “the most informed and accessible analysis of the implications of Australia's high rate of population growth available”.

Mark O'Connor author of "Overloading Australia" talks to Richard Aedy on Life Matters, ABC Radio Wednesday 17th June 2009 about Australia's population crisis and where we are heading.