Environmentalists Mark O’Connor and William Lines have written a book called “Overloading Australia, how governments and media dither …” . Barry Foran of the 2002 CSIRO publication “Future Dilemmas” joined Mark O’Connor on Late Night Live LNL, Radio National. It was quite startling to hear the two gentleman defining Australia’s top population, for ever and ever, not exceeding 25 million people. Although their discussion was couched in the terms of 2050, there seemed little room in the conditions they argued, for any increase at all past that. I was startled enough to download and read, “Future Dilemmas”. Again, the argument, although couched in 2050 terms seemed to suggest that Australia will never be able to support a population stronger than 25 million people (give or take a couple of million).
There are a few other problems with the stance on population stalling for Australia.
- Community is seen as a hopeless case in the solution. In fact I began to wonder whether people as a whole are seen as just a problem to these authors. Certainly religion that encourages the creation of a lot of ‘young people’ are bad social organisations. Behavioural change towards a more disciplined lower energy footprint lifestyle was regarded as hopeless, irrespective that education, economic issues, scientific developments have all lead to a decline in birth rates;
- Population is a global problem. The impact of population on Australia is not only about Australia’s population but about the world’s population. Whether any Australian policy can really prevent being forced into a larger population by changes around the world, seems a pipe dream;
- Environment is a global problem. Just as Australia’s reduction of greenhouse gases to zero would not have any effect on world content (although it would reduce our population quite quickly), so all environmental problems caused by the growin global population will encroach on our shores. Fish stock in the oceans is one issue that we won’t be able to sustain just by Australian only management;
“Future Dilemmas” is an excellent analysis of the energy supports for human life in Australia. The paper makes a number of assumptions that come down to, “we don’t believe we can do it any better”. And there lies both the nub and the solution.
As a society, Australian and Globally, we must forever believe we can do it better. Young minds will provide the solution as long as those young minds are given increase access to their potential across the world. Young minds must be raised ever hopeful. We can provide education to the world. We can improve technology to help with energy, water and environmental conservation. We can live together in denser collectives. We can change the nature of agriculture, business, manufacturing.
There seems to be a tendency for science to move toward the nihilistic conclusion. ” We are doomed. Lay down our tools. Lay down our heads. We have lost the fight”. This is not science. This is the tendency for the more objective analysists to depression. Depression is also found in higher numbers among atheists.
There is one field of work that scientists have a particular incompetence – what it takes to stimulate the progress of society. Society won’t progress on the back of a neat set of figures and analyses, although these are imprortant. Society will progress on the hope they are given for a better life. Society support science for the same reason it often supports religion – for a better life. The scientists who don’t give society a better life, a cause for hope, have lost their footing.