16 September 2011

Changes to overloading Australia 2nd edition_090913

The first edition of Overloading Australia  was largely sold out in under a year, and our publisher Envirobook has decided to go ahead with a "Second Edition, Revised 2010". Copies of it should be available in February 2010, with probably some advance ones earlier.  (My co-author Bill Lines was working all hours as a foreman, but was able to approve and in some cases improve the new material.)

To keep the price the same, the publisher’s terms were fairly restrictive. No increase in page length, and only very limited changes to pagination or the index. In practice, new material could only be added at the expense of something removed, but statistics could be updated. 

Below for your interest, are some of the passages that have been added, in various chapters, in an attempt to better reflect where the debate is now. I have put some salient phrases in bold print.

p. 39

In a speech in federal Parliament on 17 August 2009 Kelvin Thomson remarked: ‘Our cities are too large. They dwarf people. The sheer scale of them is overwhelming for some, who lose the plot and fall victim to mental illness or drug and alcohol abuse. And for the rest of us the madding crowd swells every year, giving us that little bit less room. … In my home city of Melbourne, a lot of people of goodwill have supported high-rise as preferable to urban sprawl. What they don’t realize is that it isn’t halting any urban sprawl at all. Suburbs continue to march out onto the horizon. Property developers are having their cake and eating it, too.’

p. 116

… There is no central register of these ‘diffuse costs’ to our quality of life, and no easy way of summing them up.  As a result, Green groups have done little to protect established suburbs from rapacious developers. Indeed they often help them by leading debate away from population growth (‘not the real issue’) towards speculation on whether decentralization (i.e. sprawl) or densification (destroying the human scale and amenity of a city) is ‘the solution’. But if you put an extra million people in a city you will not get one or the other of these problems: you will get both. And neither will prevent the extra million people greatly increasing the city’s demands and impact. True, denser suburbs permit better public transport, even as they ensure a multiplication of cars; but the energy costs of high-rise, and of re-building existing suburbs piecemeal (with great nuisance to residents) often outweigh any energy savings on transport.

p. 130.

We replaced details re the Stockholm Institute with:

Great self-deluders of the C21st may yet include politicians that accept rule by the rich as, de facto, legal. Thus the Victorian government ignores howls of protests while its pursuit of population growth and its deals with developers are destroying Melbourne. It has become, in Sheila Newman’s words, ‘virtually a commercial property development corporation in its own right’.

True, a party that ceased to accept donations from big business, and to pretty much do its bidding, might not have funds to win office or return its members. Yet the whole donations ‘joke’ has only a bare fingernail over the rim of legality. It is illegal for company directors to donate funds to political causes unless they are getting real benefits for their shareholders ­ in other words unless they have reason to think the donations are effective bribes. Yet politicians think they cannot be prosecuted so long as the party’s bagmen account properly for the funds and put them to party purposes like re-election. But getting a party re-elected is of direct personal benefit to individual politicians; and to take bribes as part of a group is still a crime.  A surprisingly small shift in public opinion and legal culture could see most of our state premiers in jail, especially if phone taps show they have let donations affect their decisions.

On p. 132 we replaced

Australia’s population will explode to more than 30 million by 2050, that is by about 40%.


[At its current rate of increase] Australia’s population will explode to more than 45 million by 2050, that is by more than 100%.

Endnote 252 has been replaced with the following:

45 million Australians by 2050According to figures from Peter Costello’s, Intergenerational Report 2007, at www.treasury.gov.au/documents/1239/PDF/IGR_2007_final_report.pdf, Australia’s population was projected to reach 28 million by 2047, a 38.5% increase over 2007. This figure, on which much government planning was based, was even when it was produced, pure fantasy. Gordon Hocking in www.crikey.com.au on 3 April 2007 pointed out that Australia’s then population growth rate of 1.32% would produce not 28 but 36 million by 2047. But the figures get worse. With the advent of the Rudd government, population growth rates soared, according to ABS, to 1.6%, the figure current in late 2008 when this book’s first edition was finalized, then to 1.8% as shown in the graph on page 135. By June 2009, ABS (which always works several months in arrears) reported 1.9% for the calendar year 2008. Tim Colebatch has since calculated a mid 2009 figure of 2% ­ a rate at which population would double every 35 years and (if it continued) produce 44 million Australians in 2045.  Rudd himself admitted in December 2008 that even a 45% increase in our population from 1990 to 2020 would all but negate painful per capita cuts in  greenhouse gas emissions: ‘Our 5 per cent unconditional target is equal to … a 34 per cent reduction for each Australian’. See http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/rudds-defence-of-target-contains-some-telling-omissions-20081216-6zwa.html

On p. 175 we added these comments about Chevron’s advertisements:

No such passivity was shown by the Chevron company. In 2009 before the federal government sold off the Gorgon gas field (which might have given Australia energy and food/fertilizer security for decades) Chevron spent, in Perth alone, some $200,000 on full-page color advertisements. These sang the praises of population growth as a ‘solution’ to energy shortages because humans are a ‘source of energy’. (Not really. You would have to peddle hard for three working months to produce as much energy as each gallon of Chevron’s product contains.) ‘So join us in tapping the most powerful source of energy in the world. Ourselves. And watch what the human race can do. Chevron: Human Energy’, burbled the advertisements. Chevron knew that more people in Australia or Western Australia meant more hostages for growth. Sure enough the Rudd government justified its decision by saying our population desperately needed more “jobs, jobs, jobs”, even while it justified its high immigration follies by claiming we were short of workers.  Few Greens seemed to see the contradiction. 

p 128

Andrew McNamara, who was until the 2009 election (when he lost his marginal seat) Queensland’s Minister for Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation, was prepared to quote the American biologist Edward O. Wilson: ‘The rampaging monster loose upon? the land is over-population. In its presence, sustainability is but a fragile theoretical construct.’ He also cited with approval Bob Carr’s remark that ‘Australia must begin to think of itself as a country with a population problem.’ Since leaving office McNamara has spoken out even more clearly. In a July 2009 speech he remarked

Why does the bizarre suggestion that population growth is necessary for economic growth persist in the face of unambiguous evidence that it is simply not true? Why do we cling to the absurd proposition that we can lessen our impact on the environment, while continuing to tear it down to make way for more of us? … Whether the shock/horror de jour is traffic congestion on our roads, overcrowding on our trains, waiting lists in our hospitals, housing affordability, social alienation in urban sprawl, declining koala numbers, reef runoff, food security, water security or global warming; there is only one problem – us… I watch billions of dollars being spent treating the symptoms of the one great problem we face –overpopulation, when the treatment is all designed to enable greater population growth, not to stabilise or reverse it.

This ends the list of major changes made to the 2nd edition of Overloading Australia.

For changes to statistics and to the debate since the 2nd edition was finalised, see the other update pages on this site.


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