Peter Strachan is one of our stellar WA members, having been involved in the population debate for many years. Currently, he is making waves through his well read Twitter account. Not least, he will be the new national president of SPA following our AGM in April. Peter caught up with SPA for a QandA for our February 24 newsletter. The interview was edited down for the Newsletter to fit space requirements, so we reprint the interview in full below.
SPA: Peter, tell us a little about yourself, including your professional background, interests and passions.
I completed a BSc in Metallurgy and Geology at The University of Melbourne then travelled the Hippie Trail though Asia and on to Africa. I calculate that I have hitch-hiked 62,000 kilometres during my travels, meeting and staying with people wherever I went.
I worked on copper mines in Zambia and Bougainville, interrupted by 7 months running a restaurant in Dublin, before changing tack to become a stockbroker and corporate analyst in Melbourne.
After 4 years working in the City of London, I found myself in Perth.
For 17 years I managed a subscription based, independent analyst’s brief called StockAnalysis, which was run under my Australian Financial Services License.
I regularly cycled to work in Melbourne and Perth and yoga has been a big part of my life, as a student and teacher in remote mining communities. I worked with The Hunger Project (www.THP.org) and went on tour of Bangladesh with it in 2009. I have Previously served on the National Committee of SPA and I am a volunteer firefighter.
SPA: Why is population sustainability, within Australia and abroad, an important issue for you?
I became a part of the fabric of the regions through which I travelled in the 70s, meeting and observing people and cultures, but had always been aware of the concept of carrying capacity. I saw the most horrendous results of overpopulation when travelling in India, when its population was half its current level, with scenes reminiscent of a Hieronymus Bosch nightmare.
In response to news that the then Pope had called for people to bake more bread when confronted by concerns about human overpopulation, I submitted a letter that was published in The Economist in 1979 pointing out the error made by the Pontiff
While workers in Zambia felt that they needed to have 6 or more children to care for them as they grew old, my foreman in PNG, who was one generation removed from subsistence farming, held out hope when he told me that he would stop at two because he wanted to educate them.
SPA: You are based in Perth and South-West Australia. What are the specific issues affecting Western Australia, with regard to population growth?
In 1996, Perth’s population had just past one million. Now, with over 2.3 million the quality of life is declining as open spaces are infilled and giant towers arise in once leafy suburbs. Over that time, commuting times have doubled and the cost of building public infrastructure is crippling while access to services has declined dramatically.
A recent 5.6-kilometre addition to the freeway north, cost the taxpayer $36 million per kilometre, which will look like a bargain when the bills come in for projects that are now underway, all due to population pressures on roads, rail and water supply.
Like other capital cities, house prices have doubled every decade for over 50 years, leaving younger folks in housing poverty.
The Southwest of WA has dramatically dried over the past 20 years because of climate change and water is now over pumped from aquifers, topped up with desalinated ocean water.
SPA: How have you communicated and advocated for changes to population policy to date? We see, for example, that you are very active on Twitter.
I have been invited to speak on population issues on local ABC radio programmes, at Curtin University’s Institute of Public Affairs fora and given addresses at CEDA events, Women In Mining event and several resource conferences where population was a driving theme. All to great audience approval, judging by the feedback I received.
Most importantly, I stood for public office in two Federal elections and one State election representing the Stable Population Party and later Sustainable Australia.
SPA: What recent SPA campaigns or initiatives have struck a chord with you?
I like the quirky, catchy, simple message that hits home immediately. The simple messages that Martin Tye delivers on Twitter do well, and most people really do understand carrying capacity.
I have seen work by Population Matters and New Zealand based activist that also make clear sense. Sometimes we can bang-on about technicalities, but at the end of the day, if I say we must be smarter than Amoeba, the penny drops.
SPA: Why should people join, support or volunteer for SPA?
We face a sickening biophysical environment, growing social and political turmoil and a stretched, debt fuelled economy that will rapidly destroy the human civilisation that has evolved over the past 10,000 years, if nothing is done.
Humans have become an energy hungry, mindless superorganism that is eating and heating the planet.
If people want to leave a world that is fit for their great grandchildren to inhabit, they will need to advocate for change.
We can either shrug our shoulders sit back and flick the lint out of our belly buttons while the situation deteriorates, or we can take a stand. How will we face our young of today in 20 years’ time if we do not act today.
Want to get involved? You can SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER and ENEWS. You can JOIN SPA AS A MEMEBR. In the meantime, if you haven’t done so already, help SPA say ‘no’ to a Big Australia by SIGNING OUR POSITION STATEMENT.