Population growth root of much conflict (JUL)

16 February 2009

Media Releases 2016

Jul 9, 2003

Population growth is the root cause of many of the world’s conflicts, according to Sustainable Population Australia (SPA).

SPA National President Dr Harry Cohen says a prime example is the situation in the Solomon Islands where Australian troops are being sent to keep order.

“This small island nation has a fragile resource base yet the exploding population gives rise to increasing competition for these resources,” says Dr Cohen. “Ethnic conflict is the result.

“The economy has contracted by about 26 per cent since 1998 but with annual population growth of around 3 per cent, GDP per capita fell by about half over this period.”

Dr Cohen says increasing conflict between groups over falling per capita availability of resources is a global phenomenon, and no resource is more critical to human survival than water.

“In Israel, for instance, the daily allocation of water is 350 litres per head but for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and on the West Bank, it is only 70 litres per head, well below the World Health Organisation’s recommended minimum of 100 litres per day.

“This already causes tension between the two groups, not least because Israel has drawn heavily on the aquifers of the West Bank. Both populations are getting larger, but because growth rates of Palestinians are much higher, allocation per head of water in 2040 will be 187 litres for Jews but for Palestinians a mere 18 litres.

“The situation is already explosive and will get ever more so as there are more people drawing on this finite, precious resource,” Dr Cohen says.

“Recently there has been more violent conflict in Liberia in West Africa, where nine years ago, Robert D Kaplan wrote his now famous essay “The Coming Anarchy”. In this, he alerted the world to the connections between rapid population growth, competition for natural resources and breakdown in societies.

“Kaplan described how disease, overpopulation, unprovoked crime, scarcity of resources, refugee migration, and the increasing erosion of nation-states and international bodies are well demonstrated in West Africa.

“Liberia has a fertility rate of 6.8, even higher than that of the Solomon Islands’ 5.3,” says Dr Cohen. “In a world of finite resources, these are clearly unsustainable. Conflict is almost inevitable when populations grow too large for the resources needed to sustain them.”

Further information:

Dr Harry Cohen, Ph (w): 08 9381 9729 Ph (m): 0407 426 987 E:president@population.org.au

John Coulter Ph: 08 8388 2153


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