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Anti-populationists - the new imperialists

By Malcolm King - posted Monday, 1 June 2009

This is a story about the rise of anti-humanism and imperialism in the Australian environmental movement. The anti-populationists represent environmental politics gone mad. And they are coming to a forum or blog near you.

The national president of the Sustainable Population Australia, Sandra Kanck recently called for a one child per family policy to avoid “environmental suicide”. She wants the population to fall back to seven million people - about what it was in the Great Depression.

“Population stabilisation and then reduction has to be part of a suite of measures that ensure the cuts in emissions the Government has promised,” the former SA Democrat said recently.


It’s the population “reduction” part of Kanck’s comment that has interested media commentators, academics and bloggers.

For liberals and humanists there are serious problems with the anti-pops thesis. It is founded on the proposition that we will not be able to feed the world’s people or cope with the pollution generated by about 9 billion people in 2050. Currently the world’s population is 6.5 billion.

This is blatantly untrue. There is enough food to go around - although try tell that to people in Africa. The main problems are high first world consumption (20 per cent of people consuming 80 per cent of resources) creating high carbon emissions and high birth rates in Africa.

The anti-pops “theory” is based in socio-biology and systems theory. It states the world and all life forms on it are finite and are bound together in an ecological web. All life and all energy can be measured in units and from these units we can determine how much human beings will consume in the future.

They support their spurious arguments with second- and third-hand sources such as websites that carry anti-pop research or YouTube and Facebook sites. They are creative in sampling and citing their sources.

One of their key calculations is that the carbon footprint of every American uses 9.4ha of the globe, each European 4.7ha, and those in low-income countries 1ha. Adding it all up, we collectively use 17.5 billion hectares. Unfortunately, there are only 13.4 billion hectares available. The anti-pops say we are eating the future.


They presuppose that technology, imagination and creativity cannot alter human destiny and that human technological progress and the capitalist system, as it stands now, will irreducibly lead us to ruin. They hate capitalism, science and progress.

When I was a young student studying Marxism at Flinders University in Adelaide in early 1980s, the enemy wasn’t capitalism, it was socio-biology.

The sociobiologists say that we are ruled by biology and, like ants, our society can be deconstructed (as we would a hive) by examining and measuring our chemical processes and our relationship with the environment. Humans are units. This places the locus of control beyond human agency. For the anti-pops, we are lemmings heading pell mell towards a cliff.

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About the Author

Malcolm King is a journalist and professional writer. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University in Adelaide. He runs a writing business called Republic.

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