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Questioning Dr Liz Allen's False Dichotomy - Article by Mark Allen

The latest film clip by Dr Liz Allen via the ABC explains why we apparently shouldn't be worrying about Australia's population size, because the real issue is in fact social inequality. But what Dr Allen is doing here is creating a false dichotomy. In doing so she is attempting to channel all discussion on what is actually a highly nuanced issue into one where those involved are forced to pick a side.

In reality we can play a major role in reducing inequality at a global level by providing universal access to education, family planning and healthcare. That is, of course, what many people who care about the issue of population, advocate for, because this is the most effective and least coercive way to enable populations to stabilise over time.

In Australia rapid population growth is compounding social inequality, as it is a catalyst for urban sprawl and the over-priced, poor standard high-density development that is springing up across our conurbations. This has the impact of both gentrifying and slumifying communities at the same time and, in turn, it has the knock-on effect of pushing people on lower incomes out to the increased social isolation of the urban fringe.

Life on the urban fringe has huge ramifications in terms of social inequality and this translates into increased reliance on driving, a lack of walkability, a lack of access to non-human nature and major difficulties in services and infrastructure keeping up with demand.

The environmental impact of urban sprawl is also significant and as the sprawl increases, so does our average per capita carbon footprint (and this challenges another false dichotomy).

As we are experiencing a climate emergency, anything that adds to the problem of climate change will have huge ramifications for those who are living in poverty because they will be the first in the firing line.

The environmental impact that medium to long-term rapid population growth is having, and will continue to have, is significant, especially at a time when we need to be tackling this emergency head on. This is why the education and empowerment of women (and men), as well as access to family planning, plays such a major role in climate expert, Paul Hawken's seminal book, 'Project Drawdown'.

Therefore, continuing to rapidly grow Australia's population to suit our GDP driven ponzi economic system makes no environmental or social sense, especially in face of the enormous challenges that the world is facing.

Dr Allen also perpetuates the myth that we must grow in order to counteract an ageing population. This has been disproved so many times and much has been written on this topic. For any population to stabilise, it is inevitable that there will eventually be a larger than normal cohort of older people (for a while). This is not something that we need to be scared of. Delaying the ageing population issue by a few generations will only exacerbate the challenge further down the track.

While we need to seize the opportunity to allow our domestic population to start to stabilise, an effective way of tackling population growth at a global level is through a system of mutual aid, where we share knowledge and expertise with as many different cultures as possible.

This mutual aid will not only help to provide access to education and medical services where they are needed, it will also help countries such as Australia to lower their per-capita emissions through learning resilient methods of land management and climate specific architecture.

Of course migration wouldn't have to end but it would be driven by a different paradigm; one that understands that we need to work to non coercively stabilise populations both at a global and at a local level in tandem with a much greater emphasis on retrofitting our existing built stock.

In short, the time has come to have an ongoing discussion about population; one that understands that it is complex and that it intersects with a whole range of hugely significant issues.

Mark Allen is an ex town planner and is the cofounder of Population Permaculture & Planning and Holistic Activism & Behaviour Change.

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Comments

Regarding the ageing population I have just had look at the Australian Bureau of Statistics population pyramid which shows the numbers in the population by age. I looked at the main bulges and took the higher number in each bulge to give a snapshot of the situation. The highest number in any one years age group were those aged 27 in 2017 at total of 375,834 (187,771 male and 188,063 female) The surviving post WW2 "Baby Boomers" show up as a visibly higher number of those who were 70 in 2017 - 237,140 total. There is a "bulge" of those in their mid 50s, for example aged 55, there are 313,505, more at 46 (347,297) and at 34 there are 362,776 total. There are fewer people between the ages of 0 to 16, the most "scarce" being those who were 14 in 2017 at 282,879. Looking at the under 10s there were 319,655 7 year olds and 321,115 one year olds. It's easier to look at the diagram than to visualise this but the big population "bulge" is actually from mid 20s to mid 30s. I think Liz misrepresents the ageing "problem" in portraying shadowy unflattering aged figures in her propaganda piece. The "problem" in Australia would appear to me to be in the future and would be exacerbated by significant migration of people in the 25-35 age group.

You are right, Quark. It is so obvious that we need demographers to tell us not to believe our eyes. Liz is paid to tell us nonsense; she should be ashamed of herself. Rather refreshingly, the NSW treasurer, Dominic Perottet, has written truthfully about immigration today in the Australian (p.12) "There's room to grow, but we need breathing space." Despite the title it paints a truthful picture of the costs, although it does not mention the horrendous sacrifice of native animals and wild spaces to the god of population growth:

"[...] We can't pretend that high immigration comes without a cost, and we believe growth should not impose an unfair burden on those already here. Excessively rapid growth puts downward pressure on wages and upward pressure on housing prices, both of which have sorely stung workers and aspiring home-owners in Sydney and other parts of NSW for a decade.

It also means more people on trains, more cars, more students in our schools and more patients at hospitals. And it's the NSW government, not the federal government, that is responsible for providing the necessary support for the surging population.

When you look at the numbers, it's no surprise communities in Sydney are feeling the pressure. In 2006 annual net overseas migration to Australia increased to roughly double its average pace across the preceding 25 years. After the mining boom, the bulk of those migrants have come to NSW, as our annual share of national immigration rose from 25 per cent in June 2012 to 38 per cent. [...] Even if the NSW population stayed at today's level it would take time to complete the work so that our communities could be more livable [sic] [...] Instead, extraordinarily high rates of immigration risk pushing those outcomes beyond our grasp. "

Dominic Perottet goes on to state, incorrectly, that this is "a problem state governments are powerless to solve on their own because we have no say in the national immigration rate."

That is not true; state governments have been egging on the immigration rate, visibly, with their state immigration portals, constantly advertising for more people to come and live in their cities and states. This is the first time that the NSW government has stood on its hind legs and said, "Enough."

Unfortunately, in Victoria, the government is really just another form of the property development lobby, and they never say enough. We should say, "Enough," to them.

Mark, quark and Sheila I echo your sentiments regarding rampant population growth in Australia, Sydney and Melbourne in particular. Furthermore, the arguments of “Demographer” Liz Allen, the Coalition, Labour, the Greens, the property and finance sectors and the mainstream media are deliberate misinformation if not a lie!

However, they are not the only culprits in this saga as the same parties at Federal level are also complicit in this deceit. And what is not mentioned in this argument, all too often, is the knock-on effect of social well-being including the lack of jobs and thus under and unemployment. With the looming Victorian State election both major parties with assistance of MSM are running a tough on crime agenda despite data showing a drop in crime levels.

As of 2014 Roy Morgan Research had the total jobless for 18-24 year olds at 18.9% and rising slowly, of that cohort registered as for looking for work. It’s not hard to understand that a small percentage of 18-24 year olds are slipping into crime via drugs, gambling and/or thrill seeking. Our jails are full to overflowing with our so-called leaders baying for longer, mandatory, lock ‘em up and throw away the key sentencing.

Improved pathways to employment would help solve this problem. Many of our youth have good qualifications and ready and able to work, but their opportunities are greatly diminished by extremely poor government policy. With the Fed’s migrant policy the equivalent of Australia’s greatest ponzi scheme bringing hundreds of thousands of people of working age into the country, poor education policy combined with pitiful skills training (see the privatisation of the TAFE system), making older Aussies work longer before they’re eligible for the pension, intransigence on worked hours, a deeply flawed taxation system with the likelihood that it could be made worse and an economy based on neoliberal principles. It’s not hard to see why we have this problem and treating the symptoms is not going to make it go away.

The RMR report also recorded that anxiety, stress, depression and panic attack levels in that 18-24 year old cohort. Expressed by percentage they were 23.0, 33.7, 19.4 & 9.9 with the first 3 rising quite rapidly. This report exhibits the problem of both unemployment and mental health within our community. However what is not shown is the same of other cohorts within our community and we desperately need to know. The link between mental health and employment is very real!

Rapid population growth is leading to all sorts of problems within our society that most of us cannot imagine. Those mentioned above are only a couple, there are many more as Mark, quark and Sheila have touched on. Global overpopulation is careering out of control leading to domestic violence and social upheaval, poor health and educational outcomes, civil unrest and war with a handful of winners and far too many losers. Overpopulation in Australia is undermining the land of a fair go.

For the Federal and State Governments and the pro-growth lobby to pursue a Big Australia and thus a Big Global Population is counter-intuitive to the fact that we live on a finite planet. Australia, too, is a finite country and many of the minerals and energy we use are finite. Fresh water is finite as is the air we breathe! In order to put the fire out, it is best not to pour petrol upon it, which is tantamount to what we are currently doing.

During the Wentworth by-election the biggest issue for the electorate was climate change. The biggest driver of climate change is overpopulation. It will be interesting to see what the voters of Victoria install as their biggest issue later this month. With still high housing costs despite the recent decline, traffic and commuter congestion, lack of educational and health facilities, the runaway cost of utilities, overflowing correctional facilities – all symptoms of rampant population growth; how will the electorate react?

The following was posted as a comment to Nigel Farage lashes out at Angela Merkel, as Chancellor attends EU Parliament debate (Video) (13/11/18) by Alex Christoforou | The Duran :.
Unfortunately, many other otherwise informative web-sites take the supposed high moral ground on refugee and immigrant rights that Nigel Farage has so conclusively demolished (I would have appreciated knowing that Nigel Farage's speech began 3:59 minutes into the video). Explicitly or implicitly they condemn those who try to defend national borders, including Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Marine le Pen and the German AfD.
These web-sites include the Iranian http://presstv.com/ and the Venezuelan https://www.telesurenglish.net/
In turn those media and countries which own those media are vilified by some of those listed above, notably President Trump, when, in reality (as argued recently by Paul Craig Roberts) they could be Donald Trump's allies.