We need to stop the cult of endless growth
Population stability in Australia today is all about immigration patterns and policy, not about some notion of enforced family size.
If it weren’t for sky-high levels of immigration we would already be well on the track to population stability, as are a number of other much wiser OECD countries.
At least the Burke review did not re-endorse Rudd’s “unapologetic” call for massive population growth.
Why does this matter? Well, the numbers of us consuming and making demands on our natural resources such as energy, water and farmland is obviously just as relevant as how much we each consume.
Lots of us living frugally will have the same impact as a few of us living the high life. The trouble is, in the end we all seem to want to be flat-screen-owning, jet-setting top consumers, maxing out our ecological credit cards.
The sight this week of yet another horse dying at the jumps on an Australian racetrack prompted the local South Australian Minister for Racing to emerge and defend the sport, which served to remind us that such ministers exist. Sometimes they are rolled in with gambling.
Queensland’s Russ Hinze was famously bundled with police. But why don’t we don’t have ministers dedicated to the biggest single issue of our times, the slow motion crash of our biodiversity? After all, this emerging disaster is being caused by too many of us wanting too much from our natural resource base – and we can do something about it.
Begun by our well-meaning but ignorant ancestors and continued by generations since, the slow decline of so many of our plants and animals towards extinction over vast areas of Australia is a shocking reality we seem unable to grasp.
The fact that it is occurring over hundreds of years and not a handful is no excuse for such an ineffectual response. In 500 years time we who live today will be remembered more for trashing our biological inheritance, and thus that of future generations, than for anything else.
Rather than ministries for racing, what we urgently need is a scientific program to determine how much of our plundered landscape needs to be returned to native vegetation to arrest this slide of our natural inheritance into oblivion.
It will be a sizeable proportion, but it will still leave plenty of space for farms and cattle stations. We need to work out how to do it on the scale required, and where to begin.
It will not be easy, and in some areas it may not even be possible. $50 million into this research would be a good start, and considered small change alongside a major footy stadium upgrade, let alone beside an NBN roll out or a stimulus package. It would be totally invisible alongside the profits expected from the next 10 years of the mining boom.
The planet has entered its 6th great extinction event, following the five known from the fossil record, but this time caused entirely by the explosive growth of humanity. In Australia at least we have the wealth and understanding and opportunity to turn this around on our patch.
A fine start would be to abandon the prevailing cult of endless growth and seek to stabilise our population – then at least we would stand a chance of holding the line. Only then could we begin to address this most urgent issue with credibility.
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