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Letter to Geraldine Doogue re her incompetent treatment of the infrastructure problem

"Your program and so many on the ABC ignore the real prospect of widespread social, economic and environmental breakdown consequent on a human population having exceeded the long term carrying capacity of Nature. The ABC in its general coverage assumes a continuation of Business as Usual. Climate change, if present trends continue leads to a world 3 – 4 degrees warmer at century’s end. (David Attenborough in his recent TV program on climate change used the figures 3 - 6 degrees.) Together with declines in soil quality, water availability, food shortages and massive biodiversity loss these things have many scientists foreshadowing an imminent reduction in the global human population and a world in chaos."

Dear Geraldine,

Your program re infrastructure on [16 August 2019] yesterday's 'Breakfast' program did a great disservice to your audience. It perpetuated myths not supported by facts and failed to mention the real alternative context in which matters like this must be considered.

As a former medical epidemiologist I am very familiar with statistical analysis. Among OECD industrialised countries there is no statistically significant correlation between rates of population growth and per capita growth of GDP. Among poor countries there is a significant and strong negative correlation between population growth and growth of per capita GDP. It is therefore misleading to claim that population growth is causing increases in per capita GDP, i.e. making the average Australian materially better off. This myth serves the interests of those who do benefit from population growth.

GDP and per capita GDP are themselves misleading indicators of real benefit. The costs, yes costs, borne by people as a consequence of growth of population and expenditure on infrastructure are added to GDP. Travel times are reported to have increased by 23% with increases in fuel costs, car maintenance, insurance etc. These are real costs but are added to GDP. The costs of a growing economy have exceeded the benefits for many years for ordinary people explaining why it is that so many feel worse off even while governments and programs like yours keep telling people they have never had it so good.

Your program and so many on the ABC ignore the real prospect of widespread social, economic and environmental breakdown consequent on a human population having exceeded the long term carrying capacity of Nature. The ABC in its general coverage assumes a continuation of Business as Usual. Climate change, if present trends continue leads to a world 3 – 4 degrees warmer at century’s end. (David Attenborough in his recent TV program on climate change used the figures 3 - 6 degrees.) Together with declines in soil quality, water availability, food shortages and massive biodiversity loss these things have many scientists foreshadowing an imminent reduction in the global human population and a world in chaos. Despite this evident danger every government in Australia and most around the world continue to make decisions based on an assumption of business as usual, that they can go on driving both population and economic growth, the two primary causes of our worsening situation. How do you reconcile that prospect with a continuation of unquestioned population growth in Australia. Climate change is likely to impact Australia's ability to grow food quite severely. We may have difficulty even feeding the present population let alone a much larger one before century's end.

Australia's ecological footprint has varied between 4 and 5.6 Earths over the last decade. Do you really think it morally right for us to go on increasing the total size of our demand on Nature by seeking both to increase our population and our per capita demand (growing GDP as our main goal)? I invite you to do the sums which show that we could achieve more human welfare by massively increasing our foreign aid and addressing that aid primarily toward education for girls, family planning and contraception than spend that some money on more infrastructure in Australia for the purpose of accommodating a much larger population.

Here is a much saner voice on the issue of infrastructure from a fellow journalist, Crispin Hull.

http://www.crispinhull.com.au/2019/08/16/treating-symptoms-no-help-to-australia/

John

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Comments

Thanks John,

The real shame is that all the increase in population is being placed on our prime farm land - as many people have pointed out before. Also development is increasingly encroaching on the Eastern Treatment Plant (ETP) - the regional sewerage farm - which is already struggling not only to process waste, but with complaints about smell - it was supposed to have a large farm buffer area to prevent this problem, but that is rapidly disappearing.
I note in my own area - Seaford, - that backyards that kids used to play in have disappeared as they have been developed - I wonder how this will flow on to obesity and other problems in children who no longer can just go outside to play. Also the traffic has increased phenomenally - Seaford used to be a quiet village area - now parts of of it have become major thoroughfares - and soon lights will be needed on roads that not long ago were pretty quiet. Finally, large tracts of Seaford - especially around the station, have been converted to car parking for commuters - no doubt from many surrounding areas, and Seaford North Reserve (a large area of soccer fields) - whose car park used to be used during the day for school buses full of kids to use the playing fields there - that car park is now turned over to rail parking, and is completely full during the day, and into the evening so that soccer players (kids with mums and babies in tow) need to park in surrounding streets and walk to the park.

I cannot see that so-called positives are outweighing the complete destruction of the Australian way of life - nor can I see how it helps globally to be destroying farm land when Australia is a net exporter of food to other countries - at this rate we will consume all we produce (through producing less and consuming more locally) and that must impact on the countries that rely on us to feed their own nations (particularly the middle East and China I think).

Matt