President's Message July 2017

Wow. What a week it’s been. Popular academic news blog, The Conversation, has run a whole series on population titled “Is Australia Full?”, with several of the articles included as links in the eNews below. This includes an article led by SPA’s Peter Martin (President: SA branch); Peter’s article attracted over 360 comments, and was then re-posted on The Guardian news site, where it drew a further 1,000+ comments. I recognised some names in there, so thanks go to SPA members for contributing to that discussion. It also led to radio interviews in Adelaide, Perth and Sydney, and even triggered an article being published in the Murdoch press.

It’s hard to say exactly what triggered such strong interest but I suspect it was the novel approach taken by Peter to propose a smaller population for Australia, based on maximising human wellbeing rather than discussing environmental constraints. This certainly seems to have struck a chord, and comes at a time when we are seeing more and more media coverage of the downsides of population growth, in the context of quality of life – liveable cities, affordable housing, etc.. One example of this is that on 8th July, The Age ran an article titled “Crammed: Ten ideas for dealing with Melbourne’s booming population growth”; granted, only one of the ten ideas actually proposed curbing population growth itself, but I note that this was contributed by SPA’s Michael Bayliss (President: Vic-Tas branch). Thanks Michael!

Obviously, as an environmentalist, I am somewhat disappointed that more people aren’t motivated to talk about over-population based on the intrinsic value of the environment. However, if good old-fashioned self-interest is what it takes to motivate people to discuss this critical issue, then let’s go with it – at least for now!


James Ward