February 9th 2002


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Articles from this issue:

Cover Story: Water - Australia's most urgent priority

Canberra Observed: Simon Crean faces a horrible year ahead

South Australia: Close contest looms in SA Election

A tale of two legacies

Straws in the Wind: Old crooks and new / Paying the piper

East Timor: Opposition warns of Fretilin power grab

MEDIA: ABC TV 'Media Watch' - Who polices the police?

Letters: Public servants defended

Letters: Population: asset or disaster?

Letters: Harris Scarfe retailing business

DEVELOPMENT: Privatisation and the national debt: what is to be done?

Comment: Terrorism, refugees and the the populist resurgence

The new Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh and The Colonel

Books promotion page

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Letters: Population: asset or disaster?


by Dr Peter Carter

News Weekly, February 9, 2002

Sir,

The article by Peter Westmore, "Population: time for a new approach" (NW, January 12), completely ignores the biological realities of human life. In every situation, there is an upside and a downside. In News Weekly the downside rarely rates a mention.

Human activities have caused major change to the environment. These are now quite measurable quantities and no longer a matter for speculation. Australian scientists 20 years ago predicted the changes that we see now which have resulted in increasing extremes of weather as measured by increased floods, fires, number of extremely cold days and number of extremely hot days.

The situation is set to become rapidly worse. CSIRO predictions for the next 40 to 70 years on temperature change and rainfall are alarming, for example, unless carbon dioxide output is reduced, Melbourne can expect a 40 per cent reduction in rain and south-west WA a 60 per cent reduction.

News Weekly from time to time has published articles denying the effects of global warming. It is not hard to find so-called scientists who for personal aggrandisement or because they are paid by the fossil fuel lobby or other vested interests, to make statements that some people want to hear. Such a person is Danish statistician Lomborg who claims to be an environmentalist and political scientist. He does, however, show an astonishing ignorance of how the world works. Scientists are cautious in their pronouncements, not hesitating to point out uncertainties in the modelling of climate change. Lomborg exploits this honest approach and where research casts doubt on some part of the analysis he has taken this as evidence that climate change predictions are exaggerated.

To suggest that countries, for example, Russia, owe their multi-causal problems simply to declining population is not credible. Seven of the ten richest per capita countries in the world have stable populations of under 10 million. These include Singapore, Switzerland and Sweden. Sweden has a particular world impact in technology, based on having the highest per capita percentage of GDP devoted to R&D. It is now preparing to exploit and export the rich rewards of environmental technology.

Australia in contrast has a third world economy where 70 per cent of exports are primary products, namely minerals and products produced from the soil, both of which are unsustainable. To have more people means fewer food products to export.

People are now more aware of the damage done to Australian soils by salinity and acidification. WA is losing one football ground per hour of agricultural land and salted land will increase three fold by 2050 to 17 million hectares in Australia as a whole. Artesian water that supplies 60 per cent of inland towns will be exhausted by 2050.

Driven by a growth philosophy, Australia is dissipating its energy in building houses and infrastructure that does nothing to strengthen its position in the world except to fill the pockets of those who profit from consumers irrespective of the interest of the population at large and future generations.

Let us have discussion in these pages on population but let it be based on facts and not on the dogma of vested interests that promote the "growth is good for us" story.

Technical innovation and manufacture can provide jobs and profit for Australia and stem the flow of some of the finest minds that leave this land, disenchanted with a society that has become indifferent or even hostile to intellectual achievement.

Convincing arguments why population increase should help Australia are hard to find unless it is to make our circumstances and environment so bad that none would seek to invade us. General Peron was responsible for major population build-up in Argentina, a country that has gone from one of the richest countries in the world to bankruptcy.

Dr Peter Carter,
Berwick, Vic




























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