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Issues paper A Sustainable Population Strategy for Australia

VIEWS: 6 PAGES: 23

									A SUSTAINABLE POPULATION STRATEGY
          FOR AUSTRALIA


           SUBMISSION
INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................................................. 3
BACKGROUND ..................................................................................................................................... 3
    GLOBAL POPULATION GROWTH ........................................................................................................... 4
    SYMPTOMS OF OVERPOPULATION ......................................................................................................... 4
    ROLE OF HUMAN ORGANISATIONAL SYSTEMS ...................................................................................... 5
      Technology ...................................................................................................................................... 5
POPULATION GROWTH IN AUSTRALIA ...................................................................................... 7
    WHAT HAS DRIVEN THIS GROWTH IN AUSTRALIA? ............................................................................... 8
      Migration ........................................................................................................................................ 8
      Longevity......................................................................................................................................... 8
      Fertility ........................................................................................................................................... 8
    PROBLEMS ............................................................................................................................................ 9
SUSTAINABLE POPULATION IN AUSTRALIA ........................................................................... 10
    WELLBEING ........................................................................................................................................ 10
       Economic ...................................................................................................................................... 10
       Social ............................................................................................................................................ 10
       Environmental ............................................................................................................................... 11
    ‘BUSINESS AS USUAL’ ......................................................................................................................... 12
    A REVISED MODEL FOR WELLBEING.................................................................................................... 14
       Standard of Living......................................................................................................................... 14
       Quality of Life ............................................................................................................................... 15
       Measure what matters ................................................................................................................... 15
    POPULATION ....................................................................................................................................... 16
       Size ................................................................................................................................................ 16
       Composition .................................................................................................................................. 17
       Location ........................................................................................................................................ 18
    POLICY APPROACH ............................................................................................................................. 20
CONCLUSIONS ................................................................................................................................... 21
    RECOMMENDATIONS .......................................................................................................................... 23




                                                                             2
      Sustainable Population Strategy Submission
INTRODUCTION
Based on my reading of the material in the Issues Paper and the
Australian Government’s population website, it is my understanding
that a general aim of the Sustainable Population Strategy is to develop
policies and programs to manage population to deliver a sustainable
Australia by maintaining or improving wellbeing, where wellbeing
comprises three components – economic, social and environmental.

This submission has been structured to address this general aim.

BACKGROUND
Life on this planet evolved with two basic imperatives: individual
survival and species survival, where every creature competed daily for
resources to live as well as to reproduce.

Unless exceptional events interfered (such as massive volcano
eruptions or meteor collisions), the planet’s slowly changing
environment provided the means for this process to operate, in which
a form of balance prevailed. Through predation, the limit of natural
resources and the total recycling of all organisms, all life forms were
connected and controlled by the planet’s carrying capacity for all
species.

Species numbers grew and fell, and species came and went, according
to environmental circumstances, for millions, if not billions of years.

In the last few thousand years, humans have dramatically altered this
balance, however.

Through the emergence of humans’ extraordinary intelligence coupled
with the development of agricultural systems, technology and
industrialisation, humans appear to have been able to recast this
balance and increase their population exponentially.

This development has been extraordinary and to date a positive for
humans. In developed societies, standards of living have reached
levels undreamt of and life is no longer just a matter of survival but an
amazing array of choices. Humans enjoy longer, healthier, more
secure, safer and, potentially, more fulfilling lives.

Unfortunately, the ability of humans to increase their population
apparently unfettered by the environmental constraints experienced
by other species now means that the scale of the human population




                                   3
combined with the rate at which we use resources make humans a
force of global significance in their own right.1

Put another way, we have reached the point in ‘the Earth’s history in
which the dominant geological and biological force is the growing
demand of the increasing human population’.2

This is not only impacting adversely on all other species but will likely
adversely affect humans in the near future.

Global Population Growth
The growth in the population of humans has been staggering.

It is estimated that the world’s population reached one billion in 1810.
In the next 120 years (to 1930) it doubled to two billion. It then took
only 50 years to double again to four billion, in 1980. Today, 30 years
on, world population is nearing seven billion (well on the way to
doubling again).3

It is estimated to reach nine billion by 2050.

Symptoms of overpopulation
In the evolutionary scale of the blink of an eye, human population has
radically and possibly irreversibly changed the planet.

Such growth is leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Humanity’s
collective demands have now surpassed the earth’s regenerative
capacity4 and the world faces a crisis.

Some of the many problems now facing the world caused or
exacerbated by overpopulation are summarised below:

    resource depletion
    degradation and loss of prime agricultural land vital for food
     production
    climate change
    biodiversity loss
    pollution
    congestion and overcrowding
    stress

Most of these problems are, not surprisingly, environmental yet we
need the environment for our long-term survival.


1 Lowe, I, A Big Fix, p11
2 ibid p16
3 http://www.vaughns-1-pagers.com/history/world-population-growth.htm
4 Douglas, B, Goldie J, Furnass B, (eds) In search of sustainability p2




                                        4
Role of human organisational systems
Regardless of prevalent organizational system (the economic-
governmental system), humans have been cutting off the boughs upon
which they sit by overpopulating and consuming most of their natural
resources.

While capitalism, the current dominant economic model, has not been
kind to the planet, neither have other systems and this breathtaking
growth has occurred under a range of social constructions and
organisational patterns.

The Mayans, Easter Islanders and the Mesopotamians all brought
their civilizations undone. Forests worldwide were cleared in feudal
and pre-feudal times as populations grew, including the
desertification of sub-Sahara. The socialist Soviet Union did
irreparable environmental harm under its ideologically driven
programs.

So, no single system is to blame. The problem continues to be the
ever-growing population. Regardless of social model, whether pre-
feudal, feudal, socialist or capitalist, humans have created waste,
generated pollution, and decimated, indeed destroyed, habitats and
other species as well as bringing down civilisations as the human
population has become unsustainable.

Technology
Human facility with technology has been a great boon but also
contributed to sustainability problems. Regrettably, technology has
more often addressed symptoms and not the underlying causes of the
problem.

Even when technology offers solutions, the advantages and efficiencies
on offer are swamped by increases in population and consumption. As
Andrew McNamara observes:

     … the failure to appreciate the implications of our exponential
     population growth remains our greatest weakness.

     Our technological improvements make our problems worse,
     not better, as they inevitably allow for more of us to deplete
     our scarce resources more quickly.5

Genetic modification of food is a good example of technology dealing
with symptoms rather than causes. Rather than being a sustainable
solution to future world population growth, the need to develop GM


5McNamara, Andrew; Dissent No 34, Summer 2010/11, Why the city we build will
never be the city we need, p29.


                                       5
products highlights just how unsustainable our population levels are
becoming.




                                  6
POPULATION GROWTH IN AUSTRALIA
Australia is a huge desert edged by fertile strips along its coastline. Its
weather patterns oscillate between extremes of drought and flood. It is
mostly infertile and barren, a harsh and difficult place to live.

Indigenous Australians adapted and learnt to live in these conditions.

As David Kemp has observed:

        Prior to European settlement, Australia’s indigenous population
        provided itself with food for millennia, having evolved to deal
        with highly variable and unreliable conditions present over the
        greater portion of the continent. The culture was attuned to
        the seasonal production of key food plants. In a way,
        population density was regulated by the long term climate
        pattern and seasonality of food supply. A look over the Torres
        Strait to more fertile conditions sees a much higher population
        density and, interestingly, early attempts at what is regarded as
        deliberate cultivation of food plants while the clan or tribe
        remained in one location. In the absence of these conditions,
        Australia’s indigenous people favoured nomadic hunting and
        seasonal food gathering.6

(While no one is suggesting that we return to such a subsistence
lifestyle, there are lessons or principles to be learnt that might be
applied in developing a sustainable balance between the environment
and communities).

With the arrival of Europeans, different attitudes immediately
prevailed, the most crucial of which was the notion of domination. By
dint of hard work and the imposition of engineering solutions as
answers to perceived problems, this fragile land and was bent and
shaped to wishes of the new arrivals, driven by a complete lack of
understanding of how the land worked.

A key to this was the enthusiasm to fill what was seen as an empty
land with people, regardless of the ability of that land to provide for
such an ever-increasing population.

Currently Australia’s population growth rate is above the world
average.7 Every five years, one million is being added to the
population.




6   Kemp, R, Rethinking Australian Agriculture, Griffith REVIEW Edition 27: Food Chain
7   People and Place Vol 17, No 4, 2009, p 20


                                             7
At an annual growth rate of 1.8% Australia’s population ‘would pass
100 million before the end of the century.8

What has driven this growth in Australia?
Three factors have contributed, at varying times, to population growth
in Australia since European arrival. These are:

Migration
Contemporary Australia is a migrant nation.

Except for indigenous Australians, all Australian residents are
beneficiaries of a decision to migrate to this country in relatively
recent times, mainly driven by hopes to make a better life.

After the Second World War the encouragement of migration became a
key nation building policy plank with the cry: ‘populate or perish’.

Central to this policy was the self-deception, noted above, that, while
this land is essentially a highly infertile and relatively waterless
expanse, it was suitable for human development and agriculture
projects.

The failure of scheme after scheme, and the current problems faced by
agriculture in much of Australia, is proof to this folly.

Longevity
A combination of improved public health and diet and greater
affluence has meant that people are living much longer, contributing
significantly to the population increase as the survival rate greatly
outstrips the death rate.

This has also meant that proportionally, older Australians make up a
much larger segment of the population. This generates its own
problems, a matter discussed below.

Fertility
Towards the end of the 20th Century, like many western countries,
Australia’s fertility rate declined, even with increased longevity.

Birth rates have again increased markedly, however, contributing to
Australia now having become one of the fastest growing populations in
the developed world.




8   Lines W and O’Connor M, Overloading Australia, p135


                                          8
Problems
The rapid filling of this infertile, inhospitable continent over the last
200 years with over 20 million people has created significant
problems.

Not surprisingly they mirror the problems being created by growing
human populations around the world, summarised above.

As noted above, at current growth rates Australia will have a
population of 100 million by 2100. What will this do to the wellbeing
of its inhabitants and to this fragile land?

It is really inconceivable that Australia could support such a number.




                                     9
SUSTAINABLE POPULATION IN AUSTRALIA
Central to the Strategy is the link between population and wellbeing,
where ‘a sustainable population’ is one that manages change in
population to deliver ‘positive economic, environmental and social
outcomes’. The Strategy identifies these latter three outcomes as the
components of wellbeing.

This might be described as a triple bottom line approach (TBL).

Wellbeing
If these three components are indicators of a sustainable population,
how then are we currently faring in Australia?

Economic
In this context, economic wellbeing would have to be recognised as the
major positive in Australia.

Measured by increases in household income, productivity, disposable
income and availability of consumer goods, since the Second World
War, Australians have enjoyed incredible economic wellbeing.

While most Australians claim their economic situation is difficult, the
reality is that, for most at least, their economic wellbeing is incredible.
Australia is a wealthy country and we enjoy a standard of living, a
material wealth, undreamt of by even our grandparents. For most, to
have lived here since the Second World War is to have won one of the
major prizes in the lottery of life.

It is time political leaders explained to the community just how well off
it is economically and materially.

However, this whole economic model is based on the growth,
particularly population growth.

Social
Australia is a stable democracy where people enjoy freedom of
expression and action and generally abide by the laws and thus live in
general harmony and peace.

Political parties accept the decisions of the ballot box so that power is
transferred peacefully.

So, there are certainly some positives in the social context.

However, the continued growth in population and economic
expectations are creating significant negative social outcomes.



                                    10
We generally lead stressed, high-pressure lives.

We are extremely time poor. We have little time to spend with friends
and families or to simply smell the roses. Indeed, our materialistic
lifestyle derides many social activities that are somehow seen as time
wasting.

People are always in a rush, often to meet unrealistic deadlines. Our
whole social interactions now seem to be carried out electronically.

Our cities congeal under the weight of people moving daily to and from
work or on the weekends to and from their myriad chores and leisure
activities. Many spend hours commuting in traffic-clogged streets or
on overcrowded and poorly scheduled public transport.

More and more, psychological problems are emerging.

Rates of suicide are increasing in some population cohorts.

People are impatient and inconsiderate. We are losing our ability to be
cordial with strangers and to put others first, readily engaging in
bouts of rage with strangers, particularly behind the wheel.

Much of this behaviour is symptomatic of social pathologies exhibited
by animals exposed to extreme population densities.

None of this, however, is recognised by economic analysis.

It is hardly surprising, in the face of this social dissolution, that many
have considered ‘downshifting’; to get away from the crowds, the rush
and the pressure.

Rather than indicating social wellbeing, what we are seeing is social
malaise.

Environmental
Environmental outcomes in Australia from population growth are
similar to those elsewhere in the world. These include:

   Living beyond our resources (as measured by our ecological
    footprint)
   Urban expansion is consuming prime agricultural land;
   Unsuitable European farming practices, designed to produce
    surplus for trade, are destroying marginal agricultural land
   Fisheries are in decline, as we become dependent on fish farming
    with accompanying risk of disease
   Deforestation - most of the vegetation has been cleared from the
    land since Europeans arrived



                                   11
     Climate change - Australians are the largest per capita emitters of
      green house gases in the world (population growth will contribute
      ’83 per cent to the total growth of greenhouse gases’ projected for
      2020).9
     Species loss (Australia has one of the worst records in world,
      particularly with regard to mammal extinction)
     Water (the need for water for survival and for agricultural to feed
      populations is consuming this scarce resource)
      o      Murray Darling Basin problems are a case study in the
             desperate state of water management due to overuse of this
             precious resource
      o      Cities have been forced to resort to desalination to provide
             water for their inhabitants
      o      Groundwater extraction an emerging problem
     Salinization (inappropriate farming techniques have caused
      massive salt problems)

Clearly, what we are seeing here is an environmental crisis brought
about by population and consumer pressure. We are consuming our
current and future generation’s environmental resources, the very
things on which we depend for our survival.

As with social wellbeing outcomes, environmental outcomes do not
suggest any level of wellbeing; rather they too reflect a malaise.

‘Business as usual’
There is little doubt that, at the moment, we do not have a sustainable
Australia due to a combination of factors in which population increase
is a, if not the, major contributor.

Two out of three components of wellbeing (social and environmental)
are currently unsustainable and show no signs of improving for
current or future generations.

Any wellbeing provided by the economic outcomes is being negated by
harmful social and environmental outcomes.

Many people instinctively recognise this, mostly because they
experience the reduction in their quality of life as governments find
themselves unable to provide proper services under the pressure of
this relentless population increase.

Thus when the former prime minister, Kevin Rudd, told Australians
that he supported a ‘bigger Australia’, there was consternation. Except
for the religious and the economist zealots, people realized that
increasing our population was actually adversely impacting their
wellbeing.

9   People and Place, Vol 17, No 4, 2009, p 27


                                           12
Presently, the driver of our society is an economic model based on the
irrational belief of unlimited growth, fuelled by increased consumption
and population growth. This is the ‘business as usual’ model.

Yet a sustainable population is one that must live within the limits of
its natural world. Unlimited growth, the current economic model does
not accept limits, however.

As the Millennium Ecosystems Assessment report has observed

     Everyone in the world depends completely on Earth’s
     ecosystems and the services they provide, such as food, water,
     disease management, climate regulation, spiritual fulfilment
     and aesthetic enjoyment. Over the past 50 years, humans
     have changed these ecosystems more rapidly and extensively
     than in any comparable period of time in human history … 10

At the moment, economic growth is being confused with total human
wellbeing because social and environmental costs are ignored.

In this regard the comments of former New South Wales Premier
Morris Iemma, and Craig Knowles the new Chair of the MDA need to
be debunked.

Mr Iemma was reported as saying that ‘there is no point in saving the
planet if we ruin the economy doing it’.11 Mr Knowles told the Sydney
Morning Herald that ‘you cannot have [a] healthy river system without
a healthy economy”.12

Surely this must be absurdity of the highest level. I would argue that,
prior to the arrival of Europeans with their ‘healthy economy’, the
Australian environment was much healthier, in much better
condition, that after.

That Mr Knowles holds such a view is particularly disturbing given
that he will have considerable responsibility for resolving the problems
in the Murray Darling Basin, brought about to a large extent by its
unsustainable use in export agriculture.

While the Strategy’s definition of wellbeing goes beyond the simply
economic, being made up of three components – economic, social and
environmental, this triple bottom line approach is inherently flawed
for there is a tension between an economy based on endless growth (of

10 Millennium Ecosystems Assessment, Ecosystems and Human Well-being, Synthesis,
2005 p1
11 Lines and O’Connor, op cit, p16
12 Sydney Morning Herald, January 29-30 2011, p10




                                       13
goods and people) and social and environmental wellbeing. Thus,
while our economic system flourishes, the environment and our social
wellbeing deteriorate.

This ‘business as usual’ model cannot continue.

In terms of sustainability, we have, therefore, now reached the point
where ‘the choices we are making … will determine what sort of
Australia we pass on to future generations’.13

We have to consider not whether we ‘populate or perish’ rather
whether ‘populate and perish’.

A revised model for wellbeing
If the ‘business as usual’ model is no longer an option, what are we to
do?

We need to develop another model, one that focuses comprehensively
on total wellbeing, prioritising those outcomes that most contribute to
that wellbeing. Such a model would consist of two elements that need
not work against one another; these are:

 Standard of Living, and
 Quality of Life

Standard of Living
Standard of living is a measure of the material goods in our lives;
essentially it is economic wellbeing. Many of these goods are essential;
for example, secure food, clothing, shelter, clean water and the like.

Much of our material wealth today, however, is in the form of
discretionary consumerables. There is, however, considerable evidence
that above a certain standard of living, a material wellbeing,
happiness and contentment do not increase. In other words continued
economic growth does not create of itself further wellbeing.

Many of these material goods are then not as essential to our life as
we think they are.

So, while a reasonable, or base, standard of living is essential to a
good life it does not make for contentment or happiness and it needs
to be balanced against other measures of wellbeing.

It is probably fair to say that in developed countries like Australia we
have already reached that reasonable standard of living.



13   Lowe, Ian, op cit p1


                                   14
Quality of Life
Quality of life is the sum of all those intangible elements beyond
material goods that make our life so much better, that allow us to lead
contented, happy and fulfilled lives; for example, leisure time, absence
of stress, good health, interests, friendships and networks, peace and
space, quality food, air and water and viable ecosystem services.

Quality of life essentially combines the social and environmental
outcomes, a vital ingredient, according to the Strategy, of a
sustainable population.

In Australia, our material standard of living, driven by the economic
and population growth continues to rise. Yet our quality of life is
deteriorating.

Our economic future depends absolutely on the capacity of the
natural world to provide food, fibre and minerals for our own use and
for exports. It also depends on the capacity of the natural world to
process our waste’.14

A model that combines reasonable standard of living objectives with
quality of life objectives so that they compliment rather than conflict
with each other is required.

In developed countries like Australia, having attained a reasonable
standard of living our priorities should then be quality of life.

We need to realise that, in terms of living sustainably, less can be
more; that stabilising, even reducing economic and population growth
through introducing a steady-state economy, would not be a bad
thing.

This does not mean that we return to a subsistence life but does
anyone believe that their lives would be materially impoverished if we
reduced GDP to say the level of the 1990s?

In the words of the New Scientist magazine ‘we must switch our focus
from quantitative growth to qualitative development, and set strict
limits on the rate at which we consume the Earth’s resources’.15

Measure what matters
In terms of measuring progress, society stresses the economy by
focussing on the GDP. But GDP is seriously flawed. It focuses solely
on economic activity; much of economic activity that is a social
negative is measured by GDP as a positive, and it does not measure
social or environmental progress.

14   ibid p29
15   New Scientist, 18 Oct 2008 p 47


                                       15
The Strategy rightly recognises this failing and highlights the need to
measure sustainability.

It is important that this new model measure, and then take action to
improve, the things that matter in our life, our quality of life, not just
our standard of living.

This means that measures of quality of life, both social and
environmental outcomes be utilised or developed to provide a basis for
action on population sustainability.

This could include current measures such as ecological footprint.

Population
As a consequence of the above discussion, I will now make some
comments on the specific areas raised in the Strategy relating to:

     Size
     Composition
     Location

Size
Given the relationship between population and consumption, it is
clear that the more material, consumer goods a society wants to
accumulate, the smaller will the population need to be.

For example, Tim Flannery has estimated that, at our current level of
consumption, the long term carrying capacity of Australia is in the
order of 8 to 12 million people.16 If this is the case, then we are
already in considerable trouble and need to take action.

If we want to maintain our current levels of material consumption, we
need to immediately stabilise our population and, in the long run,
reduce it.

However, as I’ve argued above, our focus really needs to be on quality
of life not on standard of living. Quality not quantity should be our
objective.

We need to see that a decrease in population is not a bad thing.

Sweden provides the sort of model we should consider. In 2007, its
population actually decreased but there is no suggestion that it is an
unattractive place to live.



16   Lines and O’Connor, op cit, p 6


                                       16
To make such a change requires a re-evaluation of those factors
contributing to population growth.

Migration has for centuries been a mechanism for solving social
problems and crises as people under stress simply moved elsewhere.
Everyone in Australia has been a beneficiary of migration. But the
overpopulated world is today is different. The days of solving local
problems through migration are rapidly coming to an end, if they have
not already ended.

Since, the ‘bulk of Australia’s projected population increase will come
from net migration’17, to establish a sustainable population will
require the end of, or a significant reduction in, migration.18

Fertility rates need to be reduced. Policies that encourage increasing
birth rates need be phased out, particularly direct incentives such as
‘baby bonuses’.

A complimentary policy relates to the education of women. Women
with higher levels of education have lower fertility rates while,
conversely, women in lower socio-economic groups tend to have the
highest fertility rates. There needs, therefore, to be a focus on
improving the level of education for women in lower socio-economic
groups to provide greater options in their lives beyond simply
reproducing.19

Composition
This includes the age, skills and cultural background of the
population.

For some years now, there have been concerns raised about the
demographic implications of the ageing of the population, which due
to longevity will form a much larger proportion of the population.

As the baby boomers approach the retirement and the end of their
lives, this aged ‘bulge’ will require massive aged care and financial
support. The solution generally offered is to increase the younger
population cohorts to deal with this ageing ‘bulge’, it is argued.

Such a solution is the complete opposite to the notions of a
sustainable population and is inherently irrational. When this new

17 People and Place, Vol 17, No 4, 2009 p20
18 Migration policy has to be seen as separate from refugee policy. We have both
moral and legal obligations to help genuine refugees. We have no obligations,
however, to take in the excess populations from other countries that are not
prepared to reduce their own populations.
19 In terms of our global responsibilities in population stabilisation we need to increase

our international aid with a similar aim of improving women’s education in un-
developed countries.


                                           17
generation itself reaches old age, it in turn will become a problem – its
own ‘bulge’, thereby requiring an another increase in the population to
fund and care for them. And so it will go on - an unsustainable
demographic Ponzi scheme.

We need to look rationally at the nature of this problem (if it is one), to
see just who is calling for a further increase in the population and
develop more rational and sustainable solutions, for they do exist.20

Skilled workers form one of the higher profile groups within current
migration programs.

It is argued that Australia currently does not have the skills base to
manage the resources boom and to sustain this boom it is necessary
to bring in skilled workers under a regulated migration scheme.

While this may be case and be justifiable, above all this problem
highlights the failure of technical and higher education policies in this
country. To effectively have other countries (often less developed than
Australia) train skilled workers, which we then draw on, when we
continue to have unemployment shows the short-sightedness of
tertiary education system.

Cultural Mix of migration. While I argue that we need to reduce
significantly or cease migration in order to move to a sustainable
population in Australia, it is important to realise that this policy
should be applied equitably across the board. This decision is purely
based on the needs of sustainability; it has no relation to culture
priorities and is not an argument for or against any particular cultural
representation in Australia.

Location
Both metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas are being affected by
our by unsustainable populations and practices.

      Metropolitan
The majority of Australians live in cities and the unsustainability of
our population is readily apparent here as the ecological footprint of
our cities shows.

City residents live in constant congestion and stress. Travel to work
for many consumes many hours in the day.



20Time and space prevent me detailing with this but I recommend looking at:
Dr Ben Spies-Butcher, Accounting for the real costs of population ageing, ABC
Unleashed 21 January 2011;
Gittins, Ross, Aged care dilemma: tap wealth in homes, or let taxpayers pay, Sydney
Morning Herald, 27 January 2011


                                        18
Yet these cities continue to grow relentlessly. Urban sprawl consumes
some of the best agricultural land in the country while residents in
these fringe areas have virtually no services.

Cities need to be re-engineered and government policies radically
revamped to deal with some of these problems. However, governments
have shown themselves incapable of delivering comprehensive
wellbeing to residents in the face of continuing population growth in
our cities. Ultimately, population growth will need to be curtailed to
ensure that these urban areas function in the best interest of
residents.

      Non-metropolitan
While population pressures are making our cities unsustainable,
practices in non-metropolitan areas are delivering their own
unsustainability.

For example, over 60 per cent of the water consumed in Australia is in
non-urban activities.

No one doubts the importance of agriculture to our society. It provides
the food and the fibre so necessary for survival, contributing so
significantly to our basic standard of living.

However, the desire to populate marginal farming areas through a
dependence on European farming systems has decimated ecosystem
services, threatening the very basis of that agriculture, as the ongoing
problems in the Murray Darling Basin testify. Sixty per cent of the
food produced in the Murray Darling Basin is exported, yet we irrigate
and grow inappropriate crops, effectively exporting water; this in an
arid land.

For many, agriculture is a lifestyle choice that we cannot sustain in its
current form.

While regional areas potentially provide the opportunity for population
increase, taking the strain from cities, this can only happen through
introducing genuinely sustainable agriculture practices that work
within the limits of the Australian environment and broadening the
economic base in these areas beyond agriculture.

There is a need, therefore, to reassess whether we should be exporting
food from marginal agricultural areas.

In turning to more sustainable agricultural practices, we need to look
at more closed systems such as organic farming or applying the
principles of Natural Sequence Farming. The rollout of the national
broadband network provides a golden opportunity to diversify the
economic base.


                                   19
Policy Approach
The Government is to be commended for putting this important
matter onto the agenda.

However, a troubling note to come out of the documentation for the
Strategy is the rather passive approach to policy suggested by the
material. Terms such as ‘respond to’ and ‘manage’ changes to
population do not give a great deal of confidence that the government
intends to be overly interventionist in this vital area. (Even the term
‘shape’ changes in population is somewhat fuzzy).

Given the scale and importance of this matter, the government needs
to be very active and positive in developing population policies to
ensure sustainability in the long term, not simply remain passive and
manage or respond to population changes as they occur.




                                  20
CONCLUSIONS
By two important measures, social and environmental, our wellbeing
is being compromised by unconstrained economic and population
growth.

There is no prospect of a sustainable society in Australia if the
population continues to grow and we consume at current rates.

As a society we need to recognise that a stable or even falling
population is not a bad thing. Rather it can lead to an improved
quality of life.

Government should measure the things that really matter by
quantifying not only economy activity but social and environmental
wellbeing. Economic activity that delivers social and environmental
negatives needs to be accounted for as the negatives that they in fact
are. Policies then need to be able to respond to the indicators as
measured.

A new model of wellbeing leading to a sustainable population should
be developed. This new model will ensure a high but not excessive
standard of living, based on the introduction of a ‘steady-state’
economy, while at the same time focusing on enriching the quality of
life of all Australians, by improving social and environmental
wellbeing.

The ageing of the population should not be an excuse to continue to
grow the population. This is an avoidance of our responsibility by
shifting our problems to future generations.

Accordingly, Government needs to be positive and active in this whole
area and develop a population policy rather than simply respond to
and try to manage changes in population.

Such a policy needs to articulate ways to stabilise (and even reduce)
our population, such as reductions in migration and the removal of
incentives to have children. At the same time policy should focus,
through improved education, on providing a greater range of life
options for women in our society. Likewise city expansion needs to be
curtailed and unsustainable economic activities in regional areas
ended.

As Ian Lowe has summarised:

    …we should see migration as simply one aspect of population
    and have a minister of population who would be responsible
    for stabilising the population at a level that can sustainably be



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        supported. We could still be generous to refugees,
        accommodate family reunions and bring in skilled people
        where there are shortages, but our overall goal should be to
        stabilise the population.21




21   Lowe, I, op cit, p 62


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Recommendations

   Government develop positive active, policies on delivering a
    sustainable population, not simply be passive await problems to
    arise and then attempt to manage them

   Stabilise and then reduce population through:

    o   reductions in migration
    o   removal of incentives to increase family size
    o   improved education and opportunities for women in lower
        socio-economic groups

   Develop a new form of national accounting to measure what
    matters, especially social and environmental wellbeing, and
    identify activities that are detrimental to society

    o   Consider utilising the ecosystem services model as a means
        to assist in this process
    o   Acknowledge that detrimental economic activity does not
        contribute to broad social wellbeing and should be
        recognised as a negative in such an accounting process

   Increase our overseas aid for the education of women

   Recognise that a decrease in population is not in itself a bad
    thing

   Investigate the potential for the ‘steady-state economy’ to
    contribute to a sustainable population

   Develop policies to address the so-called ageing problem without
    increasing the population

   Urban Growth Boundaries (UGB) be identified and applied to all
    our major urban areas

   Identify and quarantine from development high quality
    agricultural land along the fertile edge of Australia

   Develop and introduce sustainable agriculture systems suitable
    for Australian environment to ensure food security




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