16 September 2011

Endless growth? (Canberra times 20100213)

David Barnett writes a compelling message (“Need for hard thinking on immigration as population rises”, CT Feb 11, p19). Recent statements by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd reveal that he thinks we are powerless to prevent Australia’s population growing endlessly at a frightening rate.

This is hard to believe because the Rudd Government has contributed greatly to Australia’s rate of growth. Financial inducement to have more babies, an enormous intake of legal immigrants, and a program that only pretends to deter illegal immigrants, are the main accelerators of growth.

All animal populations grow until their numbers are controlled by predation, disease, or starvation. Few predators now threaten the human race, disease has been cleverly suppressed for the present, and the world produces almost as much food as people need. But there is no hope of endless growth in food output, so it will be starvation that eventually limits our numbers.

Homo sapiens did offer a possible escape from this gloomy prediction. With our brainpower and ability to foresee and avoid widespread famine, nations could perhaps collaborate to stabilise world population at a sustainable level (which would have to be much less than our present numbers). Sadly, there is little evidence that this will happen. It seems that people are too selfish, too competitive, and too aggressive to agree on joint action to halt population growth .

Few nations even acknowledge the danger, and the Rudd Government‚s policies are the exact opposite of what needs to be done.

W. Hugh Oldham, Curtin

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