Population: the forgotten environmental issue (JUN)

4 June 2001

Media Releases 2001

Population growth, combined with rising individual consumption, is pushing the planet beyond its natural limits, according to Sustainable Population Australia (SPA).

Global population is still growing by 77 million a year, mainly in developing countries, despite the transition to low birth rates in most western countries.

Speaking on the eve of World Environment Day, SPA National President, Dr Harry Cohen, said there were many indicators of severe environmental decline. These included:

Water tables falling on every continent
Oceanic fisheries at their limits or beyond
Earth’s temperature rising indicating unpredictable climate change
Rate of species extinction greatest since loss of dinosaurs.

“Limits to sustainability are being surpassed, or are about to be, on a number of fronts,” says Dr Cohen. “Grainland per person has been dropping since the mid-1990s and, in many countries with high population growth such as Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and Pakistan, this will fall to less than a tenth of a hectare per person by 2050. Many of these countries will not be able to feed themselves.”

Pressure to feed growing human populations puts pressure on environmental resources such as water.

“We have already seen in Australia with the Snowy and Murray Rivers, the battle to maintain environmental flows,” says Dr Cohen. “Too much water is being taken for agriculture, industry and domestic use and too little left to maintain freshwater ecosystems. This is happening on all continents.

“While some demands on resources, such as paper, can be attributed to rising affluence, others are accounted for by population growth,” he says. “These include grain, fuelwood and water. For fossil fuels, the growth is evenly divided between population growth and affluence.”

As populations grow, more waste products flow into landfills and waterways. “The environmental effects of waste disposal will worsen as another three billion people are added to the planet by 2050,” says Dr Cohen. “And as environmental health deteriorates, so does human health,” he concluded.

Further information:

Dr Harry Cohen, Ph(h): 08 9386 5268 Ph(mobile): 0407 426 987 E:president@population.org.au

Jenny Goldie (SPA National Director) Ph: 02 6235 5488 E: info@population.org.au


Media Releases 2001
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