President's Message September 2017 | Sustainable Population Australia

An independent not-for-profit organisation seeking to protect the environment and our quality of life by ending population growth in Australia and globally, while rejecting racism and coercive population control. SPA is an environmental advocacy organisation, not a political party.

President's Message September 2017

I write this note from a hotel room in Melbourne. There’s a lot going on around here – I’ll be keen to see it when it’s finished.


The people I met with yesterday (a community group interested in urban agriculture – one of my fields of research) mentioned that many of the high-rise apartment blocks in the city are half-empty, while we passed multiple sites that were scheduled to be demolished to “make way for more housing”. Weird.


We also passed a 3,000 square metre (three-quarter acre in the old language) site that has been proposed for a six-storey, 500-student school. It is completely surrounded by dense development so there is zero open space – none on site, and none nearby. I guess the “vision” (using that term loosely) is for students to eat their recess and lunch while sitting down staring at screens. I am trying to imagine the bizarre, pale lifeform who concocted such a vision, and I’m picturing Gollum from Lord of the Rings.


On a more positive note, I met a like-minded academic, Samuel Alexander, from the Uni of Melbourne. Sam is heavily involved in the Simplicity Institute, which essentially holds that human civilisation cannot be sustained, and we need a positive vision of a future without rampant consumerism and high per capita resource (especially energy) use. To that end, they’ve created a demonstration project – an ecovillage in Gippsland – where a small community of people are experimenting with “tiny” housing and other aspects of “sufficiency”. (I deliberately didn’t say “self-sufficiency”.) I recommend thumbing through their publications and watching their award-winning documentary film. (And if you’re wondering where Sam stands on population, see page 9 of his article “Policies for a Post-Growth Economy”.)


By the time this is sent out, I will have met with Kelly O’Shanassy, CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation. My hope, from that meeting, is not to get ACF to launch a population campaign or publicly endorse SPA. That may disappoint some of you, but what I’m hoping is to gain insights – from one of the biggest environmental organisations in the country – as to why our advocacy seems to fail at engaging the mainstream environmentalist movement.


But enough from me!