Population growth threatens sustainable development (OCT)

14 February 2009

Media Releases 2009

Oct 22, 2000

Continued population growth in the developing world is a threat to sustainable development, according to Australians for an Ecologically Sustainable Population (AESP).

Referring to World Development Information Day (October 24), AESP National President Dr Harry Cohen said 97 per cent of the world’s annual population growth of around 78 million occurs in the developing world, in the very countries least able to absorb growing numbers of people.

“The Brundtland Commission of 1987 concluded that ‘sustainable development can only be pursued if demographic developments are in harmony with the changing productive potential of the ecosystem'”, said Dr Cohen.

“Yet because of the pressure to grow ever more food for expanding populations, the ecosystems which are meant to sustain development are being threatened.”

“Overpopulation leads to overgrazing and destroys rangelands, causing people to move onto marginal, even more fragile lands. When too much water is taken from aquifers, water tables fall, making it uneconomic for many farmers to pump water for their crops. When too many fish are taken from fishing grounds, irreversible losses may occur,” he said.

Dr Cohen said agricultural development was central to overall development since food and fibre surpluses can be sold and the money used to buy other goods or services.

“It is foolhardy, however, to assume that food production in the developing world can be increased by adopting western methods of agriculture,” he said. “Western agriculture is heavily dependent on petroleum, yet by 2008-2112, demand for petroleum products will exceed supply, causing prices to rise.”

“The present furore over petrol prices will be mild in comparison with what is to come. The rich will continue to have access but not the poor. Those countries that have been persuaded to use western industrial methods of food production will not be able to afford to continue. Nor will they be able to import as food produced in rich countries will be too expensive,” said Dr Cohen.

“Instead of Australia building more infrastructure for a large immigrant intake, we should devote much more to foreign aid, directing that aid to all aspects of sustainable development in developing countries,” he said.

“And we should stop the unethical practice of poaching the best and the brightest of those who have been educated in poorer countries instead of spending more on education of our own.”

Further information: Dr Harry Cohen, Ph(mobile): 0407 426 987 E:president@population.org.au


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