I do take issue with the first sentence. Kangaroos breed when times are good and don't when there is drought and a lack of food, that is when they don't exist adjacent to man made pasture crops. It is all about population and I don't believe that economies should be built on the continuing building of new houses to house immigrants or the expansion of population. No more IVF, there are enough people in the world already. We just need to adjust the balance of where they live. Everyone who wants a kiddie can have one. There are plenty going spare in the world. Brown is the new black.
Sian Watkins is a writer for The Age.
WHEN kangaroo numbers rise beyond the land's ability to sustain them, we cull them. When rabbits breed like, well, rabbits, we poison them. Given the terrible damage that billions of humans are inflicting on Earth, why are we not controlling our numbers, albeit in more humane ways?
Now that we Australians are up a dry creek with nothing to paddle in, we're finally starting to think about the big, hot pickle we're in. We're flailing about for solutions to global warming, but no one seems to want to raise a critical, bleedin' obvious source of the problem — there are too many of us.
Instead, we're going to ban inefficient light bulbs and we've mandated half-flush toilets (although we can still build and fill private swimming pools). We might trade carbon emissions (a technical term for buck-passing), or find a way to stuff our poisons underground.
But cut our population here and overseas and blind Freddy could see that we'd consume far fewer natural resources, reduce waste and pollution, and improve everybody's quality of life — from emaciated, exhausted African mothers to Aussies stuck in traffic jams that belch tonnes of carbon dioxide.
In Melbourne, everyone is justifiably whingeing about the cost of urban housing and crowded public transport, and wringing their hands as polar caps melt, eastern Australia gets hotter and dam levels keep falling. Why, therefore, would Treasurer Peter Costello want to crow, as he did recently, about Australia's booming population, which will only worsen the problems?
A report published recently by Britain's Optimum Population Trust said: "The most effective personal climate change strategy is limiting the number of children one has. The most effective national and global climate change strategy is limiting the size of the population."
It warned in its report that each Briton produced nearly 750 tonnes of carbon dioxide in a lifetime, equivalent to 620 return flights between London and New York. Britain is expected to add another 10 million people by 2074. Multiply that figure by 750 tonnes and you get, well, Buckley's chance of meeting well-intentioned emission targets. Just as Australia will have Buckley's chance of meeting targets — and that's assuming that those who masquerade as leaders set any — if its population keeps growing.
Try to raise the issue of population, or overpopulation, and you get shot down as a misanthrope, a racist, a xenophobe seeking to deny others access to the fruits of Australia, or life to the billions of eggs sitting in women's ovaries.
And watch politicians and the business lobby jump up and down shrieking that population growth is essential to maintain economic growth and living standards.
But this doesn't add up. There are not enough natural resources, depleted as they are, to sustain a constantly expanding population, let alone to give everyone cars, two television sets, 20 pairs of shoes and overseas holidays every two years.
And if there is a strong correlation between growth in per capita GDP and population growth, how come most people in the Third World aren't driving around in Mercs and holidaying in Ibiza?
Politicians also insist that population growth, and the revenue it raises, is required to pay for the welfare and health costs of ageing baby boomers. But baby boomers and those who follow them are working longer, and putting more money away for their retirement. Treasury acknowledged this recently when it reduced its projected cost of looking after old baby boomers.
In Australia and other First-World economies, living standards are largely defined by people's capacity to consume by way of higher wages and cheaper goods. The more we consume, and the more of us who consume, the better. But the returns from so-called increasing (material) living standards are fast diminishing. Most of us in Australia now have everything we need and much more that we don't.
In many ways, population growth and a strong, consumption-based economy are diminishing living standards. Sure, we've got dishwashers and we're no longer vulnerable to the black plague or death in childbirth but our lives have not been improved by owning excessive amounts of stuff, or by the social and environmental problems generated by an expanding, ever-consuming population.
Traffic congestion is awful and affordable housing is on the ugly, barren, car-dependent city fringes. We cannot swim or fish in many of our creeks and rivers. Geelong just about meets Torquay. The Gold Coast, a paradise in the 1950s, is now one, long, depressing suburb choked with cars and drug addicts.
Yes, a bigger population generates more revenue, but also a great deal more social problems and related costs in terms of civic infrastructure, health, education, law enforcement and welfare, let alone more greenhouse emissions and environmental damage, which politicians and industry keep refusing to count as a cost in their stocktaking.
I'm no economist, scientist or engineer, but I would still bet $1 million that the sky would not fall if we had a lot fewer people in the world. I would bet another $1 million that we'd all live a lot better if this was the case. But we won't, and not much else will, if we keep breeding the way we are.
Sian Watkins is a staff writer.