The disconnect between the Western and Russian narratives in the current conflict could prove fatal to the world, writes Scott Ritter.
This article or essay is a response to some typical growthist responses to the question posed by Mikhael Bornstein on a Quora forum here: "How long before our species realizes that overpopulation is the root cause to almost all of our global problems?. I describe how growthists narrow the range of their argument, what they leave out, and I analyse how they mistaken the hypothetical for the actual, acting as if the solutions they propose for obvious overpopulation problems, were already happening, when most probably never will.
The arguments I explore came from a US computer science professor, who wrote that he did not worry about population growth because he believed that the world is not overpopulated. His reasons for this were that human population is predicted to 'top out around 10 to 11 billion later this century', that there is plenty of food, energy and natural resources for 9-11 billion people, because these natural resources do not leave the earth and with advanced technology and inexpensive energy, we will be able to recycle them - except for fossil fuels, which he believes won't be needed beyond this century. He thinks that some 'under-developed' countries have an over-population problem because many of their governments are corrupt or anarchistic, impacting on food distribution and education. And, if women are not educated, they do not know about birth control or affordable birth control is not available. He thinks, however, that, in a few decades, most underdeveloped countries will be developed. [This is a belief that people have held since the 1950s or before,that it will all be fixed in a decade or two.] The professor thinks that the developing countries risk population decline and need immigration to maintain them. Those that are not growing, like Japan, need more adult diapers than baby diapers, he adds. He expresses concern that a bigger problem will be maintaining the world population in developed countries, without it decreasing too rapidly.
With all due respect, I find that Prof Farrages’s answer survives on the narrow range of values it canvasses. It is the values it leaves out that bring it down, along with the theoretical perspective that ignores how things are actually organised.
Other species and the natural world
A major value it fails to take into account is the natural world and other species. This part of the world is suffering terribly because of human expansion and it cannot cope. Our species had close relationships with other species and the natural world for almost all of its existence. Now we are being deprived of that due to human population growth and expansion, along with the constant growth in consumerism that our modern economies rely on. This is my number one complaint about population growth.
Inhuman mechanised farm production
There is also the terrible inhumanity of feedlots and battery farming, which are 'justified' economically because of the scale required to feed vast human populations. The effluent from this intensified farming wrecks rivers and the animals are often kept permanently on antibiotics because intensive farming raises infection risks.
High rise myopia and other health problems
Humans living in high-rises in dense cities are similar to battery hens in a number of ways. Their lack of outside activity causes myopia in children. High density means exposure to more infections, especially gastric, cold and flu. When these are treated with antibiotics they give rise to secondary problems, including antibiotic resistance and clostridium difficil, which can kill people, is becoming common, but often overlooked, especially in the elderly.
Food distribution and the profit motive
In theory there might be plenty of food, energy and natural resources for 9-11 billion people, but theory is not actuality. Food is not distributed according to need, but to income in our modern systems. Man does not live by bread alone, either.
Materials and energy resources, war and occupation
There are many resources that are scarce, for instance rare earth elements. Cobalt is a major driver of criminal international exploitation and environmental destruction in the Congo. New ways of producing cobalt won't stop that because people can still make money by using slave labour and violence to get the cobalt cheaply. Except in a command economy, new technologies are only taken up when the old are exhausted if the old can be exploited cheaply.
Petroleum is not as plentiful as it was; much of what is now classed as petroleum is actually lease condensate, coal-oil, vegetable oil, and the last two have major consequences, one with pollution and the other by wrecking wildlife habitat and landscapes. We are destroying orangutan habitat for palm oil, just to name one horrendous consequence. If petroleum were plentiful in relation to our population growth and consumption, then we would not have petroleum wars in the Middle East, but we do, with US-NATO the main cause, because it does not want Russia, China or Middle Eastern Countries to have any control over fossil fuels, even those on their doorsteps. The US does the same thing to South American oil-producing states and US-NATO sponsors wars and warlords in places like Somalia because US-NATO presence there means they are close by the petroleum producing states.
Coal is being exploited at a rate and scale never seen before - because it is there, because it is cheaper. Cheap is what drives most economic activity, using slavery, stealing land, and creating wars. (By the way, my quals on this is that I am Sheila Newman Ed. The Final Energy Crisis, Pluto Press, UK, 1st and 2nd edition (co-edited), which were collections of different scientists writing about future prospects for energy.)
Non-fossil fuel energy resources
Yes, there are non-fossil fuel technologies, but they are not 'cheap'. Also they carry a lot of embodied energy in the materials that must be mined to create them. The reality is that they (a) require organisation that the desire for cheapness in the Anglosphere makes impossible (b) they can produce for smaller, lower consumption populations, but the savage capitalism that characterises the Anglosphere demands more and more people to consume more and more stuff - and that needs fossil fuel - so that brings us back to the lowest common denominator again.
Population and democracy
Population growth costs in all kinds of ways. A bigger population means a smaller you. The discouragement of nationalism in favour of open borders by globalists means that nations cannot organise properly to take charge of their population numbers so that they live the lives they want, with the values they want, rather than suffering the consequences of theoretical arguments for more population growth.
The writer characterises third world overpopulation as partly caused by corrupt governments, but the governments in the first world are increasingly corrupt as well, hell-bent on inflating the cost of resources by driving up population growth. Democracy is disappearing in the Anglosphere, as I have implied already.
The Aging population
The writer repeats an old furphy of the 'aging population'. The aging population argument completely ignores the fact that the world's population, including that of almost all 'developed' countries, is bigger than it has ever been, by an order of magnitude. These huge numbers reflect the availability of cheap fossil fuels, which is now in question.
Once again there is a theoretical perspective that pretends that it is reasonable, cost-free, democratic and desirable to engineer population growth to not only maintain this unprecedented population behemoth, but to try and increase it! At some stage the number of children has to go down in proportion to the number of aged: other wise we grow forever and life will become more and more unaffordable.
Population pressure on land and housing prices pushes up the cost of living so high that it becomes too expensive for anyone who does not have high wages - which includes elderly people. This problem resolves itself if you stop importing economic immigrants and allow populations to adjust themselves downwards naturally. Then the prices of all vital resources, including housing and land, come down, and the cost of living with it. This is what has happened in Japan. People are actually returning to Japan because it is becoming such a nice place to live and the cost of living is going down.
One more thing: comparing children from 0-15yrs old with say, people over 65 is an unreal comparison, because it generalises between two cohorts of unequal size. Furthermore, as many young people would know, especially in 'developed' countries, young people may spend much longer as 'dependents' either on their parents or on the state, because they cannot get enough work and because education is increasingly expensive.
Educating girls and immigration
In my country girls are relatively well educated, but our population keeps growing due to mass economic immigration, invited by government and growth lobby.
This is also happening in the 'third world', for instance, Africa. African tribal borders and an associated orderly Africa have been destroyed and there are constantly immigrating and emigrating populations, many of them going in and out of cities, adding both to marriage and fertility opportunities (previously limited by need to find partners within your tribe) in much the same way as is happening in the countries of the first world that are receiving mass immigration.
Immigration is a fundamental driver of population growth. Natural populations in most species, including our own, are small and endogamous. That is, tribe members marry other tribe members. This endogamy is a fertility opportunity limiter. Mass immigration is a fertility accelerator because it stimulates exogamy - which means marrying outside your tribe, which means increasing the proportion of people in a society who reproduce, which was usually limited before our era of globalisation. (See Sheila Newman, Demography Territory Law: The Rules of Animal and Human Populations).
The problem with the theoretical perspective
This theoretical perspective is common to the growth lobby, which tries to minimise problems by talking about how they might be fixed one day as if that were actually happening. Where I live, population growth in Australia is causing massive problems and 74 % of Australians want government to stop artificially engineering population growth (60+ % fueled by mass economic immigration and 80% of New South Wales' last year). See Betts & Birrell: Australian voters’ views on immigration policy: Full Report. One of the main reasons people want population growth to stop is due to exponentially rising traffic congestion, housing prices, homelessness, and changes to laws to remove peoples' right to object to draconian unbelievably expensive infrastructure 'solutions' that don't even solve the problems, but make engineering firms rich and cause engineering technofix ideology to dominate. The growth lobbyists (property developers and financiers - plus upstream and downstream industries) now dominate the mass media and the government and constantly pretend that all this can go on if we 'provide infrastructure'. Part of what is wrong with that is that property development is carried out on bushland and green spaces because they can be bought more cheaply and then rezoned. It also competes with things communities created for themselves. For instance there has been a rash of closing down 50m community swimming pools because population growth has forced up the ‘value’ of the land and developers think that they can make more money by building for more intensive occupaton, using what was public land.
The reality is land-speculation, although the theory is 'smart growth'. And we don't want more infrastructure or more population, because infrastructure is closing in on us even though inadequate to cope with the growth. There are actually systems that deal with planning better, such as France's, but those systems also discourage population growth, which is rightly seen as a cost to the state, which develops the land and subsidises the housing. (On France see Sheila Newman, The Growth Lobby in Australia and its Absence in France:
Every day, ordinary men and women, climb into the driver’s seat of machines capable of high speeds where a collision with each other, an obstacle, or a living thing, can cause serious injury or death. These people, when they start their engines, could be feeling calm, stressed, angry, sad, or confused. The extent of these feelings may or may not be sufficient to impair their ability to drive safely to their destination. Even if their feelings are sufficient to affect their driving, most times they will be lucky enough not to encounter any problem and will live to drive another day. The same applies to the extent to which they may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The viability of our cities, commerce, societies, relies on the trust that people behind the steering wheels of motor vehicles will behave themselves, will not endanger others, and they that they will not use the full potential of the engines they control.
With the best of intentions there will still be collisions most of which we term “accidents”. Most people do not want to incur damage to their vehicles do not want to be injured, themselves and do not want to injure others. In the best of all possible worlds we respect and value our fellow citizens and their property. We are not used to thinking in terms of our fellow citizens being in charge of a weapon that could be used to do us deliberate harm. As long as I have lived in Melbourne we have trusted that, although moving cars can kill us, that they will not be deliberately aimed towards us.
What social capital was it that we had and hopefully still to an extent remains that gave us the complete confidence to know that we could trust our fellow citizens to stop at pedestrian crossings to let us cross the road , that the cars on the road would not suddenly steer towards the footpath?
It is clear that the powers that be believe that things have changed as they are not treating the two episodes in one year of deliberate carnage in the centre of Melbourne as chance or one-off events. Their immediate response after the January event to was to install bollards. An expert on the ABC in recent days suggested raised footpaths at the first floor level as in Hong Kong. Another suggestion was to ban cars in the CBD of Melbourne. Obviously more of this is expected.
So what is it that has brought about this change in the level of alert in Melbourne, a level which takes the city from the comfortable and ordinary to being some sort of target?
Firstly let’s look at Melbourne as part of the country in which it is situated - Australia. Melbourne has had two bad events in one year - 2017. In Sydney a man held people hostage in the Lindt Café in 2014. As a result, three people died,including the perpetrator. So Melbourne is are not alone.
Comparing the Melbourne of 2017 to the Melbourne of 1987 - 30 years ago - what is different?
In 1988 we had emerged from the war in Vietnam, which had resulted in a wave of refugees from that country. There was a procedure for settling new arrivals: They were provided with hostel accommodation and free English classes on arrival. Australia’s population was then sixteen and a half million (16.5m). Corporatization and deregulation of the economy had not really taken hold. Jobs were fairly secure. In that year Prime Minister Bob Hawke gave his famous speech, swearing that, “By 1990, no child will live in poverty.” 1987 was the year the film Wall Street was released with its famous speech, "Greed is good.” In Melbourne you could still buy a decent house within striking distance of the city for under $100,000.
Fast forward to 2017: Australia has been at war in the Middle East, against Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Our governments have developed draconian policies and practices regarding the fallout from these ongoing conflicts, the most famous being the way we deal with asylum-seekers who try to arrive by boat. Any policy attempted has proven extremely divisive within our society.
The treatment of refugees selected from camps and settled in Australia has deteriorated. They do not receive the attention and care afforded the Vietnamese and others arriving in Australia in the 1980s. They are thrust into Australia's cut-throat job, housing and rental market with little preparation, although some of them come from quite different cultures or have grown up in the dog-eat-dog world of international refugee camps.
Australia’s population today in 2017 is teetering towards 25 million. That is 9.5m more than in 1987 and this additional population is being squeezed mainly into the two largest cities in Australia: Melbourne and Sydney.
Many government authorities have been corporatized or privatized, leaving people at the mercy of corporate greed and the profit imperative. Bob Hawke’s 'promise' that no child will live in poverty now looks just ridiculous, with ever increasing polarization of wealth in Australia. Job security has vanished and home-buyers are now expected to gamble on the unforeseeable, borrowing to buy a house but with no guarantees that they will be able to hold on to it.
Demand, supply and finances are now at a crisis point, and Australians are being urged to lower their expectations to aiming for a long-term rental apartment. The ultimate evidence of the housing crisis can be seen in Melbourne CBD and suburban streets with people, young and old, sitting on the pavements begging, holding cardboard notices that they are trying to collect enough money for a night’s accommodation. To buy a house within range of the CBD where you might work will set you back $1 million at least.
These are just some of the differences in our society that have come about over the last 30 years. Conditions have deteriorated and problems have become intractable: symptoms of what appears to be a systemic malaise.
Mental health issues have been mentioned in both car rampage instances and this is another area which does not cope as well as it used to. It is a system that operates from crisis to crisis against a background of housing and job insecurity. The states have sold off to private property developers the green, treed, public estates that were once reserved for the mentally ill. People with psychiatric problems are now given short-term beds in crowded add-ons to public general hospitals, with views of endless carparks, impermanent staff too busy to talk to them, and a 'therapeutic' drug regime with awful side-effects. If their problem involves drugs and alcohol, most will only receive short-term dry-outs and respite, before being plunged back into the poor-man's alternative world of ICE, burglaries, alcohol, prostitution and violence.
Refugees and other immigrants from the Middle East must today wonder how they can respect a country that supports continuous violent racist intervention overseas, whilst preaching multiculturalism at home.
Which of these aspects of our society explains the very different situation in which we now find ourselves? Maybe there are others I have not mentioned , but as a machine, our society is running poorly. Where there is the greatest stress, things will break down and people will be hurt - badly.
Our leaders need to look far more deeply into the Australia they are in the process of engineering, deliberately decreasing grass-roots input. Bollards, car-less areas in the city, and raised footpaths, just will not cut it, in my opinion. The problem will simply emerge anywhere else that it can, like a liquid under pressure. The time has come to reinvest in some social capital and to take advice from the whole community. Our politicians are simply not qualified or competent to operate without proper advice – and it shows.
This article provides a quick analysis of the 128 page document, Creating Liveable Cities in Australia. Although it does not provide a complete picture, it finds many obvious flaws which suggest that it should not be accepted at its face value.
Creating Liveable Cities in Australia [download from http://cur.org.au/project/national-liveability-report/] bills itself as "the first “baseline” measure of liveability in Australia’s state and territory capitals. It represents the culmination of five years of research." It warns that, "by 2050 Australia’s urban population may double, increasing pressure on transport, congestion, infrastructure and housing affordability. Planning that creates compact, pedestrian-friendly and inclusive cities is essential since liveable cities are recognised as part of the solution to chronic disease and health inequities."
The full report is at: http://cur.org.au/project/national-liveability-report/
This report also contains a summary of the key points of ‘Creating liveable cities in Australia: Mapping urban policy implementation and evidence-based national liveability indicators,’ October 2017.
The government asserts that:
• Governments in Australia and internationally recognise the benefits of urban liveability.
• Liveable communities are good for the economy, social inclusion and environmental sustainability, and promote the health and wellbeing of residents. They have affordable housing linked by public transport, walking and cycling paths to workplaces, public open space and all the amenities required for daily living.
• The ‘Creating Liveable Cities in Australia’ report details the first measurement of liveability in Australia’s state and territory capital cities.
• The report maps policy standards designed to create liveable cities and seven domains of urban liveability that also promote the health and wellbeing of Australians – walkability, public transport, public open space, housing affordability, employment, and food and alcohol environments.
• The report also assesses policy implementation.
• In many cases government planning policies are failing to deliver liveability equitably across our cities. Measurable spatial policy standards were identified for only three of the seven key liveability domains.
• Current policies and guidelines do not appear to be informed by the growing body of evidence about how to achieve healthy, liveable cities.
• No Australian capital city performs well across all the liveability indicators, with many failing to meet their own policy targets designed to create liveability.
• There are geographical inequities in the delivery of liveability policies within and between cities, with outer suburban areas generally less well served than inner-city suburbs.
• Evidence-informed policy and practice are needed to maintain and improve urban liveability, improve the health and wellbeing of residents, and ensure that people’s quality of life is maintained as our cities grow.
• All Australian capital cities appear to value walkability and liveability, but there is little evidence that the policies reviewed are sufficient to create, maintain and enhance urban liveability in Australia.
There is also little evidence the policies are informed by the growing body of evidence on how to create healthy, liveable and walkable cities.
• No measurable spatial policy standards were identified in any capital city for promoting local employment, housing affordability and access to healthy food choices, or limiting access to alcohol outlets.
• Policy standards for walkability, public transport and public open space varied markedly in the specific urban characteristics measured and their level of ambition (e.g. residential density targets varied from 15 dwellings per hectare to 30 dwellings per hectare, in the case of urban areas in Brisbane).
• Some states had similar policies but different targets. For example, WA’s target for access to public transport is that 60% of dwellings should have access to nearby public transport, while NSW’s target is much more ambitious and less achievable i.e. that 100% of dwellings should have access to nearby public transport with frequent services.
• In Melbourne, nearly 70% of dwellings had access to a nearby public transport stop in line with the policy. However, once half-hour service frequencies were included, this dropped to only 36% of dwellings having access to a frequently serviced stop. How our cities are performing
• Cities with less ambitious policy targets were meeting their targets, but generally not performing as well as other cities with more ambitious targets in terms of creating healthy liveable communities.
• No city performs well across all the policy and/or evidence-informed liveability indicators. For example, Perth has some walkable neighbourhoods on the urban fringe, but these areas have poor access to public transport.
• There is also substantial variation within cities, with inner-city areas (and many middle-level suburbs) substantially better served than outer suburbs by the urban design, infrastructure and land use planning policies needed to create liveable communities.
The study identifies many problems, such as the need for access to public open space and the excess of fast food and liquor outlets (which are not seen as a health problem). (In Perth, Sydney and Brisbane, on average, there are more fast food outlets than supermarkets within 3200 m of residents’ homes, see p.78 of the report). The report does not mention our large gambling industry which is able to manipulate planning deals gaining access to public land.
Competition among commuters
There are many references to walkability in cities, which should include all forms of active transport, such as cycling, which was mentioned only once. However these all have different requirements. Cycling is better for commuting than walking and should be isolated from vehicles on dedicated cycleways. Shared paths create problems as human densities increase. No mention that the higher the density, meaning more people, the more important transport systems, including cycleways, will become, and the harder it will be to find land corridors for all forms of transport . There is also a need to address the requirements of new technology especially when it comes to defining what is “active transport,” since there are now a large variety of electric powered devices like scooters, skate boards and segways, all of which are fast and incompatible with walkers and cyclists.
Pets left out of this ‘vision’
There was no mention of the health importance of pets and their requirements, such as leash free areas, poo bag dispensers. Nor was there mention of the benefit of domestic animals like chooks, ducks, and even goats. These bring benefits both as pets and as providers of fresh food but become difficult or impossible in high density areas.
Dangerously overcrowded footpaths
The report also argues that “walkability” [ hence liveability] in cites is directly related to densities and that this requires densities higher than 15 dwellings/ha. While this is true in terms of accessing shops, cafés and other venues, it ignores the casual walker who simply walks for pleasure. Nor does it address the issue of congestion which will deter walking or lead to increased risk of injuries. New York State averages nearly 300 pedestrian fatalities annually because footpaths have become so crowded that people are forced to walk on the roads. See, for instance: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/01/nyregion/new-york-city-overcrowded-sidewalks.html and https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/11/opinion/unjamming-the-sidewalks-of-new-york.html and NYC Bill Would Improve the City’s Dangerously Overcrowded Sidewalks.
Public Open Space (POS) set to decline
While admitting that, as our cities increase population densities, they will need more public open space to avoid a decline in the amount of POS per person, they do not say how this can be done, except in new suburbs. For inner suburbs with ever increasing densities there can only be a decline in POS/person.
Housing unaffordability acknowledged but main cause avoided in this public discussion document
The health impacts of housing affordability were discussed but there was no explanation as to why houses were expensive, nor was unaffordability linked to population growth. The report also failed to cover the increasing rates of psychosis and depression associated with increased densities. See, for instance, Kristina Sundquist, Golin Frank, Jan Sundquist, “Urbanisation and incidence of psychosis and depression: Follow-up study of 4.4 million women and men in Sweden,” The British Journal of Psychiatry Mar 2004, 184 (4) 293-298; DOI: 10.1192/bjp.184.4.293 and Lederborgen, F. et al. 2011. “City living and urban upbringing affect neural social stress processing in humans,” Nature 474, 489-501, 23 June 2011, cited by Tony Recsei in Health, Happiness, and Density, New Geography, 2013..
No mention of danger of developer-related money-laundering or corruption in safety
There was no mention of how densities, height limits or heritage restrictions can be changed by developers or how some suburbs seem to remain immune from consolidation. Importantly developer-related corruption was ignored even though this has created many of the problems that have arisen including shoddy buildings, money laundering, and even buildings that are unsafe, a situation made worse by government policies of de regulation and privatization.
Failure to consider heat-island climate impact
However the biggest flaw in this research paper must be its almost complete failure to consider the effects of climate change on cities even though they are already apparent. There was one mention of the Urban Heat effect which could see temperatures reach 50 degrees, enough to cause breakdowns in important facilities like power supplies , fires to become uncontrollable, and cities unlivable According to a UN report
The effects of urbanization and climate change are converging in dangerous ways. Cities are major contributors to climate change: although they cover less than 2 per cent of the earth’s surface, cities consume 78 per cent of the world’s energy and produce more than 60% of all carbon dioxide and significant amounts of other greenhouse gas emissions, mainly through energy generation, vehicles, industry, and biomass use. At the same time, cities and towns are heavily vulnerable to climate change. Hundreds of millions of people in urban areas across the world will be affected by rising sea levels, increased precipitation, inland floods, more frequent and stronger cyclones and storms, and periods of more extreme heat and cold. Source: “Climate chage – UN-Habitat, https://unhabitat.org/urban-themes/climate-change/
To combat climate change cities need to become more energy efficient and less dependent on external services like power, water, food, waste disposal and sewerage. Increasing density through high rise apartments does not do this. In fact, it increases reliance since they lack enough roof area to collect rain water or solar power for all residents. They often are impossible to design with flow-through' ventilation and thus become dependent on air-conditioning, while the exhaust from the condensers pushes hot air into the streets or other units.
The above comments were a quick analysis of the 128 page document and do not provide a complete picture. However considering the importance of the report there are enough flaws to suggest that it should not be accepted at its face value.