Environment, population and the state: Ethical considerations

HSV Public Lecture by Jill Quirk, Sustainable Population Australia, at Balwyn Library on 24 April 2014

Jill Quirk opened by defining the environment as land, surface water and atmosphere. We are currently not caring for it ethically. The ‘rock’ is all we have. The earth, particularly island continents, are suffering deteriorating resources including water, both surface and artesian, arable land, desertification and above all population explosion – from one billion to seven billion. She acknowledged the contribution of Kelvin Thompson, MLA, as an advocate for population control.

Australia’s Aboriginal population was like so many others suffering from invasion and decimated by smallpox and colonists. With the use of coal farm work was mechanised and urbanisation spread. The world’s population increases by 80 million per year and Australia’s doubling every 39 years.

The government’s promotion, particularly under Peter Costello’s influence on pro-natal policies and the baby bonus gave impetus to encourage births resulting in the baby boom. But the result is more consumption and more damage to the environment. We have to think of comfort to other creatures and coming generations. The environmentalists can do better. Suzuki says we may lose our battle for good.

Some of the concerns are Bastion Point, the Tasmanian forest  deal, rising land pressure (stress), intensive farming and its impact on native populations of like Southern Brown Bandicoot which are being reduced as well as loss of bio-diversity. The Act to preserve nature is not very active.

Resource scarcity is increasing because we don’t know how to overcome it. The media is not interested and the current vested interest is in property growth, mining and logging.

Asylum seekers should be integrated with planned immigration, the quota ethical and sustainable. Refugees went from 13,500 to 20,000 under Gillard. Mao’s one-child policy in China led to productive results. India’s population booming, Europe’s is steady or declining, while the US, England Canada’s is slowing and despite 100,000 suffering hunger. Meanwhile climate change is increasing despite oil and coal being finite resources. Fracking as the current alternative is using more energy to extract than it produces.

There followed vigorous discussion on various ways to improve planning. Birth control was one way to reduce unwanted children and thus consumption. Many thought attitudes were dominated by custom and more particularly religion where Catholic and Muslim backed procreation. In that case education was the only alternative. Certainly over-consumption was taken for granted in our lifestyle. Others thought nature would right itself over time.

Report by Howard Hodgens

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