Friday, 27 April 2012

Dick Smith's Population Crisis

Dick Smith's book, Population Crisis is an easy read on the level of comprehension, but it's not easy on any other level. He's encapsulated the ennvironmental impact of our growing population and our consumer habits very neatly, and I must say, rather humbly. As per usual, I read the doom and gloom with a sense of underlying panic and eagerly await what the author sees as being the way to move forward... and hope like hell he has a vision for a world without reliance on oil. And he does, to some extent posit strategies, and where he leaves off he provides a $1 million Wilburforce Award to an under 30 year old who can show leadership and can effectively communicate that we cannot always have growth in the use of resources and energy and by removing this addiction we could see the emergence of a more equitable world with an improved quality of living.
Educating women around the world, as wherever women are educated there is a drop in fertility rates
A carbon scheme where to offset our emissions individuals may buy credits off, for instance, Africans, thereby increasing their quality of life and creating greater equality.
Changing our way of measuring national success - converting from GDP to GPI (Genuine Progress Indicator)which looks at social, environmental factors and the happiness and health of our population, not wealth.
Moving away from acquisition of products, particularly those superfluous items that we're so addicted to accumulating. Somewhere near $25 billion dollars worth of unwanted Christmas gifts are dumped each year around the world.
Changing our migration policies (and letting in more genuine refugees rather than handpicking the world's skilled and depriving developing countries of their means to progress).
He was also very supportive of Kelvin Thomson's (Labour backbencher)succinct 14 point plan for population reform. (google it) which, among 13 other things - abolishing the baby bonus.
Population Crisis has certainly stirred me up again. We decided to only have one child (Trev had already reproduced before he met me) but I'm not sure that's the end of my contribution to the population crisis... hmmm. What are your thoughts - especially now you know that Australia has one of the highest population growths in the world and the highest carbon emissions (yes, we beat the USA) and with no clear policies around what is sustainable and how it can to be sustained?


Em said...

Very interesting but complicated issue. I just went and read Kevin Thompson’s plan and there are a lot of good points in it. I definitely agree with limiting immigration of skilled workers, reducing numbers of overseas students and eliminating the baby bonus and putting that money into educating our own population. The only addition I would make is that if you are reducing parenting payments, make a clause so that parents with kids under school age can get Austudy if they are only studying part time. I have started uni this year (B. Ecological Agriculture) but because I am only doing 2 subjects I am not eligible for any education payments (I do get parenting payments though). I think this would be a good way of ‘killing two (or more!) birds with one stone’ – instead of paying parents to have kids, support them to study while they are home raising their children – for people like me who never went to uni after school, this is the ideal time as I can be at home with my daughter (and a second on the way) and use my time to educate myself and increase my earning capacity. Perhaps parenting payments should attract similar requirements as people on the dole – either you have to be studying an approved course or you have to do a certain amount of community service a week such as helping at a local aged care centre or something (which would also take care of yet ANOTHER problem! Drastically understaffed nursing homes!)

Ravs said...

Thanks for reviewing this book Linda -
It's nice to know there is something written from the Australian point of view. I'll put in a library request straight away.
You might be interested in a couple of books I have reviewed recently (if you haven't read them already) such as The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler. See if you are interested.
I read your book from the no money experiment in Gympie a couple of years ago. It was inspiring.
Best wishes.

Linda Cockburn said...

Absolutely Em! Such a great comment I think you should suggest it to Kelvin!

Linda Cockburn said...

Thanks Ravs, I'll try nab a copy of the Long Emergency. I find I have to limit the number of these types of books otherwise I go off the deep end and do things like go six months without spending a dollar. Somehow a mix of reading and reacting in a positive way has to be reached.

I've gone from working as a family to trying to work on a community level.

Much harder :-)

Krist y @ SeeMyFootprints said...

I do think population is obviously ~part~ of the issue but (and I say this not as the parent of more than one child, rather as a matter of maths) as Paul Gilding's 'The Great Disruption' points out, even if we completely stopped reproducing today, we'd still be up that same creek.

It's the IPAT equation (a quick google will give you that) but essentially boiling down to:

population x resources consumed x growth or something along those lines. All three have to see positive change, for overall change to happen iykwim.

Other than that, yes, good to see another Aussie author and more people at least looking for and exploring solutions.

Ravs said...

I don't think The Long Emergency will send you off the deep end Linda. But it might provide back-up arguments for your community advocacy. It certainly supports the premise (though not explicitly) of Transition Towns.

Rebecca said...

There's also Prosperity without Growth, which also discusses this.

Can't say that I've read it yet, but I've caressed it fondly for a few seconds!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately in my line of work I see far too many children who suffer the negative consequences of being born into a "family life" mired by a combination of mental health, drug & alcohol issues, domestic violence, welfare dependancy etc. Unfortunately for the vast majority their conception was not the result of a planned discussion between two adults to undertake to (a) get pregnant, and (b) take on the huge responsibility of raising the child. The environment and child welfare would both benefit from more pro-active steps - no more baby-bonus, the offering of financial & other incentives to engage in family planning, such as getting ones tubes tied, having a long acting contraceptive implant & educating our own teenage girls to avoid getting pregnant until they are in their mid-twenties.

Chris said...

Smith suggests people around the world (how many people exactly) throw away 25 billion worth of Christmas gifts combined - but one millionaire can give a cool mill away at whim, to one person for singing his vision the loudest?

If we're talking about Australia's population crisis, no clarity comes from a global combined tally of waste. I'm not sure if clarity was the aim, just a big number to concern people with.

And this book (to me) represents the inflated love-affair we have with BIG. Australia has a love affair with wanting to have big problems on our big land mass. Only we don't have a lot of people, so we need to talk it up to generate interest.

Such as the baby bonus being part of the population "crisis", when since it started our National birth rate has not increased. Talking about it more might make it more menacing. Or throw in the only media coverage being those of the young, having babies, they wouldn't have the sense NOT to have any way.

This population crisis on such a large land mass, looks to be a predominantly white, anglo-saxon, first world country dilemma. Supposedly diagnosed by a dying industrial economy that needs barren women to buy all it's "green" goods, they now offer with carbon off-set feel good emissions.And I say this as a white, anglo-saxon, first world country citizen, by birth.

To the first point: off-setting our carbons through buying credits from Africans, simply moves pollution overseas. Africans live under a dictator who has been known to kill parts of the population for business. What we believe in our democracy won't translate to a dictatorship.

And how do we measure GPI (General Progress Indicator) and who sets the indicators? Would it be anyone like the politicians who've been known to stretch the truth according to agendas? Let's not pretend it's about us, when it's about winning the primary vote every time.

I also think moving away from the acquisition of products, will probably result in what Smith doesn't want, which is more educated women having babies. Because without acquisition driving them to the workforce, women will start to long for something more meaningful - family.

Employers would also like an intake of genuine refugees who (according to Smiths perception) are less educated than the hand-picked ones coming through normal migration. Refugees will work any job for little, whereby we create another low socio-economic labour force in our economy. Good for business, resulting in more cheap products.

As for abolishing the baby-bonus, it's a mute point. All political policy is about getting money flowing in the economy. The baby bonus did that, while not raising our National birth rate. Shifting money again, will keep the same ball in motion over a different issue.

All this book really does is get the concerned masses, agitated. Getting worried about a set magical number of population to make the world turn happily on it's axis again (or at least in Australia) is a delusion that will only lead to more disappointment. We don't seem to grasp more of the same doesn't change a lot. We need to choose happy in order to be happy. If we can't do it under current policy, we never will find policy or an "Australia", we'll be happy with.

We don't need BIG problems to stop spending money, but we do need them to shift our spending habits to a different "flavour" this year. I don't think people want to stop spending money - they just want to feel better about it. And there's plenty of millionaires (or wannabe millionaires - hello Wilburforce) to convince us to buy.

Ravs said...

Interesting comments Chris. I have the book beside my bed, ready to read & will keep your points in mind as I read it.