Environmental optimism (letter)by Suryan ChandrasegaranNews Weekly
, March 9, 2002
I find it ironic that Dr Peter Carter (Letters, February 9) chose Singapore as a country whose population policies we should follow. He might be thinking of Singapore's "two is enough" population control policy which started in the 1970s.
This policy was so successful that the Singaporean Government found that birth rates dropped and the elderly proportion of the population increased. The Government started to ask: Who would support all these elderly pensioners? Who would work and pay taxes? Who would defend the island nation from invasion? The Government is now trying to encourage Singaporeans to have more children and not just stop at two.
While Singapore is a small island nation with limited natural resources, Australia has lots of unsettled arable land and natural resources.
In fact, it could be argued that we are not making effective use of these resources. Professor Lance Endersbee points out that in northern Australia monsoonal rains cause widespread flooding, but most of this water simply flows out to sea and is wasted. His proposal to use reservoirs to capture part of these flood waters for irrigation is a commendable one.
As a nation (to quote our national anthem) we still have "boundless plains to share". The doomsayers of the 1960s were wrong when they claimed all petrol in the world would be exhausted by the mid 1990s.
Today's doomsayers take a similar pessimistic attitude. They lack any faith in human ingenuity or divine providence to solve long-term problems (or perceived problems).
Their vision of the future is so pessimistic that they want to try to put up a "Full up" sign around Australia and discourage children for fear they may "break" the doomsayers' paradise.
The Singaporean example shows that such a narrow-minded approach to population will produce a much more immediate social calamity.
The population issue is essentially a battle between those adopting a selfish 'dog in the manger' approach and those who see Australia as underdeveloped and underpopulated and choose to welcome new Australians with hope rather than hostility and pessimism.Suryan Chandrasegaran,