A ‘million-person Canberra’ would quickly run out of water

Peter Cain suggests that Canberra could carry a population of 1 million (Planning for a million-person Canberracanberratimes.com.au, January 14).

We may assume he is unaware of Liebig’s Law of the Minimum, which states that growth is dictated not by total resources available, but by the scarcest resource. What is Canberra’s scarcest resource? I suspect it is water, though space could fit the bill, especially if Cain eschews high-rises and wants more traditional suburban blocks.

Climate change may well throw a spanner in the works of even the best-laid plans. In the southeast of Australia rainfall has declined by around 11 per cent since the late 1990s. It may well be that, should the trend continue, Canberra may not be able to support even the half-million it will reach in around 2028. Desalination is not an option; the city is too far from the coast.

Mr Cain should consider whether growth is desirable anyway. If we have traffic jams now, how much worse will they be if the population doubles? Perhaps he should read Julian Cribb’s excellent opinion piece “The end of politics as we know it” (canberratimes.com.au, January 14).

Politicians, Cribb claims, are denying that civilisation is in peril. Instead, they “have managed to bury the facts under a fantasy of never-ending growth”.

Cribb is correct to argue that we face a number of existential crises. Cain ignores the fact that we cannot go on as we have. Things have changed. Sustainability – not growth – is what is required – though, bless his heart, let’s heed Cain’s call for more public transport.

Jenny Goldie The Canberra Times 22 January 2022