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Population growth:where is the environmentalist community?

When SPA National President Dr. John Coulter responded to ABS figures showing record population growth by denouncing political leaders for continuing to promote such a suicidal policy, he could have used the same speech, with minor editing, to attack Canada's parliamentary leaders. Delete references to water shortages, but add some other insuperable challenges.

But at least Dr. Coulter has one ally in his corner. Ian Lowe and the Australian Conservation Foundation. They are doing what one expects of an environmental organization: looking out for the environment. In North America, on the other hand, our flagship environmental organization, the Sierra Club, and its Green clones, is essentially a feel-good yuppie organization which, in deference to political correctness, chases peripheral targets rather than address the core cause of our crisis---economic and population growth. As we are being swept away in a population tsunami the Sierra Club and the Greens throw us a beach ball called greener lifestyles and renewable technologies. Apparently, if we all live like Ghandi and install solar panels, we can have as many people as we like. "Population is a red herring" said one Frank de Jong, who doubles as a club member and Ontario Green Party leader. It was when one of them spoke on behalf of the "environmentalist community" that I felt compelled to react. His name was Andre Maintenay of the Ontario Chapter of the Sierra Club, and this was my letter:

Andre Maintenay mentions "the environmentalist community" for whom he presumes to speak. Where is this environmentalist community? When the Census Report was released to the media in the second week of March revealing that Canada suffered the highest population growth of any G8 country and numerous studies have been done demonstrating the damage that such growth has done to biodiversity in Canada, this "environmentalist community" said boo. The names of people who are paid to lead high-profile environmental organizations were notably absent from the letters sent to the media outlets complaining of their pro-growth bias and even euphoria. Instead, it is ordinary, individual Canadians, who endure more congestion and pollution and see more farmland and wetlands paved over for subdivisions to accommodate this constant diet of forced population growth, who must carry the ball.

It used to be that an environmentalist was somebody who accepted Paul Ehrlich's IPAT formula. That is, environmental degradation was the product of population level times average per capita consumption rates times technology. Now he is somebody who completely ignores the "P" in that formula and simply focuses on reducing consumption, or in contemporary parlance, reducing our "footprint". This is the environmentalism of the willfully blind and the blissfully ignorant, of people more concerned about political correctness and avoiding taboos to curry favour and popularity rather than addressing root causes. Like the Moonies they boast of their many good works, but their various good causes that beat around the bush of runaway population growth amount to no more than, to use Albert Bartlett's metaphor, "polishing the wood furniture in a burning house."

It was Dickens, I believe, who said that without courage, all other virtues are of no avail. Whatever virtues these Green organizations possess, they are of little value if their leaders do not summon the courage to acknowledge the Elephant-in-the-Room, explosive population growth in Canada and the United States, as a major factor in environmental erosion.

"There is a minefield in the American environmental movement, and its name is population. Because negotiating that minefield is so dangerous, many environmental groups and leaders have stopped trying to cross it. But to ignore population as a central issue while talking freely about sprawl, air and water pollution, loss of biodiversity, agricultural land and animal habitat, global warming and many other crucial environmental issues is to deny reality." Jim Motavalli E/The Environment Magazine Jan. 2004

Tim Murray October 5/07