The population lobby’s ‘we’re all doomed’ diatribes against modern capitalism and the environment are a gold mine of sociological perversity but they may also attract a protest vote at the next federal election.
An Adelaide-based political party called Stop Population Growth Now (SPGN) is attempting to field a Senator at the next election if they can get the party registration numbers.
The executive of the SPGN is comprised of former members of the Australian Democrats, scientists, accountants and IT professionals. With the demise of the Democrats, they have morphed in to a millennial ‘save the earth’ party.
The SPNG is supported by the Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) whose president, Sandra Kanck, was a former South Australian upper house member. Ms Kanck has called on the Australian Government to implement a one-child policy in Australia while the SPGN wants to stop all immigration.
The SPNG’s aim is to “Reduce Australia's rate of population growthto zero as rapidly as possible. If the resulting stable population is still environmentally unsustainable then work to reduce the size of the population until we achieve environmental sustainability.”
This astonishing statement means they want to use individual consumption data to determine one’s sustainability on the earth. So if you have an open fire, drive a six-cylinder car and have a high power bill, you’re in line for a visit from the eco-fascist police. The SPNG are hit men for Mother Nature.
The appeal of the SPNG is emotional, visual and psychological. The SPNG ask us to envision humans as vermin ravaging mother earth, much as the Nazis depicted Jews as rats.
Here are some facts. The SPNG know that population across Western Europe is falling and is leveling off across most of Asia. Below is a 2010 UN graph of global population by area.
Notice how global population trends off for all regions except Africa. Why does it do that?
The first reason is that contrary to some socio-biologists, humans are not rabbits. Humans create schools, plant crops on terraces, make their own fertilizer and grow food to ensure survival. Humans have memory, technics and planning skills to maximize crop productivity. Rabbits don’t. Malthus didn’t realize that, nor did he take in to account the value of education, the benefits of trade or technological advancement. Plus, to be honest, Malthus wasn’t much of a mathematician.
The central reason why global population trends down in Asia is improved education. From about the end of World War Two there has been a concerted effort to raise the educational standards of the Asian people. This is one of the great achievements of mankind in the last 50 years and Australian universities played a part in this. Smarter people have less children because their options are greater.
Source: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, World Population Prospects (2010)
The population debate in developed nations is a furphy but in Africa, population is still rising at an alarming rate. The fertility rate is on average five children per female. In Australia it is less than replacement at 1.9 per female.
One of the main problems with the anti-people theory is that like a drunk, looking for his lost keys, they look where it’s brightest – in their backyard. They lost the key to this argument by concentrating on Australia and not Africa. But it’s hard to grab power in Australia by campaigning for population control in Namibia.
Australia’s current population is about the size of New York City and will grow to the approximate current size of Mexico City by 2050. Australia’s population would be below replacement if it were not for immigration. What we have in Australia – and especially in Sydney and Melbourne – is an urban design problem – not a population problem - but that’s another story.
Polls versus truth
The anti-people clique love news polls. They cite them frequently. What exactly does it mean when it is reported that 61.3 percent of people are in favour of population control? They are in favour of population control if it happens to someone else.
Q1. Are you in favour of population control if we sterilize immigrants from non-Anglo Saxon countries? You bet.
Q2. Should we select females under 30 by lottery who earn less that $35,000 a year for sterilisation? That would fix the single mothers defrauding welfare.
Q3. How about something less dramatic? Are you in favour of an educational voucher system for people under 30 who would be entitled to free university education as long as they only have one child? Sounds great.
How about we start with you. Back off!
Schoolteachers and university lecturers get these arguments all of the time. They are called argumentum ad populum. They are appeals on probabilistic terms so that for example, if 61 per cent of a population answer A to a question where the answer is unknown, is it reasonable to assume that the answer is indeed A? No. It is logically fallacious because the mere fact that a belief is widely held is not a guarantee that the belief is correct. The methodology of polls is fascinating area, too large to cover here.
Effects of immigration
Much of the anti-population rhetoric is based around what they falsely believe are the deleterious effects of immigration on the economy. Their most studied thinking can be espoused in one simple comment – immigration is an ecological drain on our natural resources and does not improve productivity. Here they join theAustralia First Party
The Australian Government’s Productivity report (2006) on the ‘Effects on immigration – Economic Impacts of Migration and Population Growth’ was inconclusive about the contribution that immigrants make in terms of gross domestic product due to the number of variables involved.
It suggested that first generations may take some years to find their feet and may be an initial drain on the welfare system. But if they were skilled migrants, with a fair to good command of English and numeracy, it was noted that they generally do well and make significant contributions to national accounts through the tax system.
As the paltry anti-pops are fundamentally anti-growth, anti-capitalism and for high trade tariffs, it beats me why they talk about productivity. It’s like expecting a child to understand how a Land Rover works.
Immigrants have been key players in building modern Australia. The anti-growth and anti-people gang favour national deconstruction. There would be no Snowy Mountains Scheme, no Ord River scheme and no mining in Queensland and Western Australia in the 1970s without immigrants.
Drive along the Pacific Highway and you will see immigrants working on the roads, they work in our hospitals, aged care centres, restaurants and it is their drive to succeed, to get ahead, that worries the anti-people lobby. Like the poor white trash in the south after the defeat of the Confederacy in the American Civil War, the eco-fascists think of immigrants as freed black slaves – they consider them with envy and contempt.
Are we running out of food? This is an SPNG favourite.
According to the National Farmers Federation, there are approximately 134,000 farm businesses in Australia, 99 per cent of which are family owned and operated. Each Australian farmer produces enough food to feed 600 people, 150 at home and 450 overseas. Australian farmers produce almost 93 percent of Australia’s daily domestic food supply.
Australia’s farm exports earned the country $32.5 billion in 2010-11, up from $32.1 billion in 2008-09, while the wider agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors earn the country another $36.2 billion in exports. About 70 per cent of arable land is currently under crops. Of that 70 per cent, farmers keep about 10 per cent fallow for rotation.
Australian live cattle exports totaled 694,429 head in 2011 (down 21 per cent on 2010 due to Indonesia cattle ban), valued at A$629.4 million, according to ABARE (2012). According to Australian livestock export industry statistics review (2011) the nation exported 2,458,448 sheep in 2011, valued at A$328 million.
We import about a little under $10 billion in foodstuffs per year – mainly packaged goods - and about one third is due to reciprocal trade agreements with New Zealand and other nations.
The anti-people faction say that we are running out of food or that we will run out of food. This is blatantly false. If in a moment of madness we decided to drive our exports on to the domestic market, every man, woman and child would be required to eat about $500,000 of meat, grain and vegetables per year, every year. Bon apetite.
So why all the talk about population?
Over the last 20 years or so there has been shift in radical thinking. The hardliners in the environment movement decided the era of revolutions was over and the era of catastrophes had begun.
They took Francis Fukuyama’s book, The End of History (1992) toliterally mean the end of history rather than the end of a dialectical tussle between capitalism and communism. With the communists vanquished (although they really just resigned) the idea of progress lay dormant.
In what must still be one of the strangest pairings in modern ideological history, the now bored far left put down their highly abstruse books by French post modernist writers and joined forces with the far left of the environment movement. Their mission? To save the world. The enemy? Babies.
Their ‘meta’ thinking – of rolling psychology, sociology, biology, climate analysis, Marxist economics and mathematics in to one discipline to explain everything - is an embarrassing nonsense. Their real weapon is fear mongering.
End of the world stories make great copy for Saturday papers (and polls) as they appeal to the core news values of impact and conflict and give pictorial editors a chance to run apocalyptic pictures of Planet of the Apes, Volcano or The Day After.
While much of the anti-population thinking and ‘policy’ is little more than a dogs breakfast of news headlines and dodgy self-supporting references, they have hit on a technique to garner attention which works – at least until the press turn on them.
A time-honored strategy of cataclysmic discourse, whether performed by preachers or propagandists, is the ‘retroactive correction’. This consists of accumulating a staggering amount of horrifying news, then tempering it with a slim ray of hope. First you break down all resistance – then you offer an escape route to your stunned and relieved audience.
The crux of green asceticism is to attribute a wildly exaggerated importance to ordinary human behaviour. The appeals to fear desperately try to awaken us to alleged planetary chaos but at the same time it deaden us. If the earth is a single, enclosed system of finite resources, full of rabbits like us, why bother?
I am not greatly concerned about the anti-population movement. I think of them as I did the followers of Erik Von Daniken and his alien conspiracy theories in the early 1970s: gullible. I am more concerned with the right wing ideology buried within their systems thinking. Their instrumentalism heralds the rise of a right wing green theocracy. Ask yourself these questions:
Is it not odd that a movement that allegedly supports democracy actually wants to reduce the number of democratic participants?
It is not bizarre that as the speed of Australia’s population growth slows, that the SPGNwant to drive birth numbers even lower than the 1.9 per female average?
Is it not the height of audacity that a bunch of blokes with science, engineering and accounting backgrounds want to meddle in women’s contraceptive rights and sexual health?
Is it not strange that although the radical anti-people faction hate technology (‘the root of all evil’), they still warm their cars in the drive on a cold Adelaide morning and take their kids to the doctor when they get sick?
The miserable anti-life bloc represents the worst form of ‘anti-logic’ that passes off for much debate today. Their self-righteousness has more in common with the agenda setting of TV current affairs, where selective sources are used to foster specific emotions such as hatred, fear and outrage.
Malcolm King works in generational workforce change. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University. He also runs a small PR business called Republic.