Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor from SPA members, supporters and others are a rich source of community insights and concerns about population issues. The SPA web site maintains an archive of published letters.

2 September 2020

Growth has limits

Sue Dyer (Letters, August 24) doesn’t like the ACT Property Council’s wish for we Canberrans to pay local businesses $5000 for each new Canberra resident arriving from Sydney, Melbourne, etc. Neither do I. She thinks there are better ways for the council to attract newcomers, by ensuring Canberra is a great place to live.

What Sue misses here is the council’s motivation. Its website frequently lauds population growth, which increases demand for houses and business premises, the beneficiaries being the property industry. We see the negative impacts of many years of growth in Sydney and Melbourne. Do we want that for Canberra? One problem is that growth temporarily creates artificially large commercial groups that are dependent on that growth continuing. One example is our construction industry which is attuned to pre COVID-19 annual national population increase of around 400,000.

If the impossibility of never ending growth is not publicly recognised our cities will become crowded, overpopulated centres struggling to survive economically, socially, and environmentally; not “great places to live”.

For Canberra as an inland city, its future growth (and that of other large Murray Darling Basin towns) must be measured against the availability of MDB water during droughts.

Vincent Patulny Canberra Times

2 September 2020

Save the planet

Saturday, August 22, was Earth Overshoot Day. This is the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. Clearly, we are in overshoot: there are too many of us, using too many resources, producing too many wastes.

We need to stabilise our numbers everywhere, and then reduce them voluntarily, before nature does it for us. We need to use fewer resources, apart from those needed to lift the poor out of poverty. And we need to reduce our wastes, not least the greenhouse gases that we release into the atmosphere and cause global warming. This last one is critical.

Back in 2011, Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute and climate adviser to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and to the EU, said that in a 4-degree warmer world, the human carrying capacity was less than one billion people. We are at 7.8 billion now.

Jenny Goldie Canberra Times

31 August 2020

Populate and perish

In the chummy confines of The National Press Club, Population Minister Alan Tudge (“Inner Sydney fast growing before COVID”, August 29-30) can burble about a speedy return to the “normal” of “fast population growth”. It’s not “normal”. It’s a radical imposition on the electors and the environment. Australia’s historical average for annual net migration is lower than 80,000. The post-2005 average is more than twice that number. Akin to a giant Ponzi, it is a manipulation of mass migration. Victoria was the state most dependent on a “big Australia”. That stage-prop gone, it’s no surprise – notwithstanding the pandemic crisis – that its economy lags all other states.

Stephen Saunders Sydney Morning Herald

26 July 2020

Shrinking demand will soon hit construction sector

Construction activity, like everything else, responds to demand. It has been driven in large part for many years by high annual population growth of 400,000 including immigration at 240,000 people a year. COVID-19 has stopped that immigration. Nobody knows if or when it will ever resume.

Those earning a living in construction may soon experience shrinking demand. There’ll be too many land and property developers, project managers, architects, engineers, surveyors, builders, tradesmen, real estate agents, conveyancers, and suppliers of materials and appliances.

Is COVID-19 forcing upon Australia an ultimate inevitability, the end to impossible, unlimited growth in human numbers?

Before COVID-19 arrived the weather was already messaging us; more frequent droughts and water supply crises in the Murray Darling Basin – evidence we were exceeding our environmental limits. Only economists and madmen would deny that and seek a return to it.

Vincent Patulny Canberra Times

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