29 September 2009

Australia's Population Fairytale

Encapsulated in this question is the entire sustainability conundrum for governments and societies everywhere - the 'eat more' message of economic growth, population increase and consumption undermines the 'eat less' message of use less energy [less C02 emissions], water, resources...can we just admit it and get on with how we are going to tackle this?!

Excerpt from Sydney Morning Herald, 28 September 2009

'Today Australia's population is 21,995,000. Because it is increasing by more than a thousand people a day, we will reach the 22 million threshold on Friday. Maybe even Thursday night.
Which leads me to the only time I have ever asked Kevin Rudd a question in his capacity as Prime Minister. His reply was not truthful. As in, not the truth. I asked him why, when he was committed to a surge in lowering Australia's carbon emissions, he had also committed Australia to a population surge that was one of the largest in our history.

''We're increasing [immigration] off a low base,'' he replied.

Nonsense. The Howard government left behind a robust immigration program of more than 120,000 net immigrants a year...

The Rudd Government promptly ramped everything up. It set a target of 190,000 migration places in 2008-09, a 20 per cent increase over the previous year's target. It increased the working visa program to double its size four years earlier. Not a word was said about this during the 2007 election campaign. Not a word about implementing the largest three-year increase in Australia's population during the Government's first term.

Instead, Rudd campaigned about global warming, climate change, water shortages and the need to sign the Kyoto protocols on reducing carbon emissions...

While the Prime Minister was away, figures were released by the Treasurer in Canberra, and by the Population Reference Bureau in Washington, which showed Australia had the fastest-growing population in the industrialised world, and it is projected to reach 35 million in 40 years...

Without significant immigration or fertility change, Australia's population will be 26 million within 10 years. It will be 30 million within 20 years.

Australia's demographic change is speeding up. This presents Rudd with a dichotomy: he talks a good game about reducing greenhouse emissions, but has only committed Australia to a minimum 5 per cent cut in carbon pollution, at 2000 levels, by 2020. Why? Because in 2000 Australia's population was 19 million, but by 2020 it will be about 26 million, a 37 per cent increase...

Strong population growth...brings strong environmental pressures. Above the greater need for energy and transport and land, the carbon cost of Australia's food infrastructure, with food grown far from where it is consumed, and supposedly fresh produce refrigerated, preserved, packed and freighted long distances, represents a real conceptual challenge which governments - federal, state and local - have not yet seriously addressed.

All this will become evident when the new energy tax, known as the emissions trading scheme, starts to flow through the economy and the cost of food begins to rise, along with inflation, and higher interest rates, the legacy of decisions taken by the Rudd Government.

In the meantime, we are being fed the fairytale that Australia is enjoying world-beating growth that is all gain, no pain.'

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