Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Does Australia have a population problem?

Well after having a look at the colour of Australia on this map, I think you would agree that compared to the US and parts of Europe, we're doing pretty well. Ok I apologise that the theme of this blog is becoming heavily weighted toward politics. I promise I will be more varied after the election this weeked. Its just that I keep learning all this stuff that I feel everyone should think about.

Recently I have heard a bit of talk on how population growth is a major cause of climate change. This is already playing out in federal politics, with Prime Minister Gillard dumping Rudds "Big Australia" policy in the name of sustainability. While this policy was far from perfect, we should be very careful in thinking about what Gillards "Little Australia" idea actually means, especially when this idea can justify the undermining of womens reproductive rights and fuel racist migration and border control agendas. We are getting into shakey territory now...

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Population size, growth and movement is not the cause of climate change. Climate change is a complex global issue driven by over-consumption, unbridled economic growth and our dependence on fossil fuels, especially coal. Restricting the flow of people into Australia does not address any of these global root causes of climate change. Australia's coal industry is the single biggest carbon emitter in Australia, not to mention other nasty side effects such as the impact on scarce water resources and the heath of communities across Australia and around the world. Even the most drastic population control policies will not stop climate change, because it won't stop the coal industry.

The main reason some people are calling for a sustainable population, is that when migrants come to Australia they often adopt Australia's carbon-intensive lifestyles, which increases our emissions as a whole. This is a dangerous argument, firstly because restricting the movement of people into Australia does nothing to stop unsustainable levels of consumption by Australians that is the root cause of environmental damage. More importantly, we have to recognise that our way of living in Australia (a rich, "first world" nation) has created the very reason people want to escape poverty, labour exploitation and environmental problems (see previous post) in their "third world" home lands. We cannot turn our backs on the very people we have exploited to build or carbon intensive lifestyles: we must recognise our carbon debt and act in solidarity to stop the global problem of climate change.

What I'm really worried about is that the people in these countries know that it is us in the richer countries causing the turmoil in theirs, and from their point of view us turning our backs on them is worse than rubbing salt in their wounds. Looking back through history books, wars have been started for reasons much smaller.

Because of climate change, have every reason to confront over consumption and share the worlds resources. Instead controlling the movement of people, what we need to talk about is how to share the worlds resources equitably and sustainably.

As a movement, we should reject population control policies, and instead fight for solutions to climate change that are not only effective, but also just for the global community.
Thanks to Friends of the Earth Sydney for their amazingly well put together articles :)

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