With Australia Now Returning to Pre-COVID Population Growth Rate, More People Than Ever Are Wondering How Much Australian population should grow up.
This can be a difficult conversation to have as the far right is used to using the population issue as an excuse to pursue its own xenophobic agenda.
However, it is counterproductive to use this reason for not discussing the issue at all. Otherwise, we will miss out on providing vital information that can lead to a more progressive immigration / population policy.
In the current Australian model, immigration policy is to support the housing / development / real estate sector, reducing foreign aid, using refugees as scapegoats and forcing family members out of business. existing migrants who are currently living abroad, to wait decades until their visa applications can be processed.
So how can we have conversations about people that don’t lead to racism and instead lead to better outcomes for all the peoples of the world and the ecology of the world? After a few years of discussing sustainable planning and its relation to population policy, I have proposed some approaches.
Show from the start that you take a nuanced approach to the problem
I find it best to stress that the population is only a problem and that it should not be a distraction from the fact that per inhabitant consumption in the Global North is considerably higher than in the Global South. To paraphrase George Monbiot, any discussion of population should be part of the recognition “Structural poverty”, “Third world debt”, ‘tax evasion’ and “The extractive industries which drain the wealth of poor countries”.
This will help ensure the conversation does not degenerate into a population versus consumption debate by reassuring the listener that you are taking a nuanced approach.
High fertility rates are a symptom of deeper issues that most people agree on
I find it useful to point out that high fertility rates are a symptom of deeper societal problems that lie in social inequality. If we tackle these underlying issues, fertility rates start to drop anyway. For this reason, it is not necessarily necessary to agree on whether the population is a problem or not in order to collaborate with the people who are doing it.
For communities to become strong and sustainable, we need empowered women who can afford to choose how many children they want to have. For example, farmers should play an essential role in ending hunger in the world.
Universal access to education and family planning is not a population control
Instead, denying access to these services is population control.
Some say environmentalists who call for universal access to health care and family planning are demanding population control. However, the opposite is true.
Fertility rates have fallen in all countries where near universal access to these services has been ensured. It’s because it’s something that people all over the world are eager and demanding.
Therefore, it is in fact the obstacle to access to these services that is population control, which is why the pronatal law often cuts funding for family planning services when they take office.
Embrace people’s desire to pick a certain number of children for a steady state system
The same growthist ideology that advocates ever-increasing consumption is doing everything in its power to deter populations from potentially stabilizing / declining because there is a limit to how much per inhabitant consumption can increase, especially as debts increase and wages stagnate.
For this reason, many myths are perpetuated by neoliberal interests and this is partly why the mainstream media often views falling birth rates as a bad thing.
It is often said, for example, that we must continue to grow in order to cope with the aging of the population. However, for a population to stabilize, it will need to have a substantial older cohort for some time. Otherwise, we end up with an even bigger demographic crisis down the line.
Companies can adapt easily to an aging population, as many older people make a positive contribution to society well into old age. In addition, many existing jobs in fields such as construction, real estate and childcare can be funneled into the care sector.
By resisting political pressure to reverse the stabilization or decline of populations, we can deprive the current machine of unsustainable growth of much of its oxygen and better progress towards a steady state system of life.
Is the impact consumption multiplied by population?
Some people say that the impact is the population multiplied by the consumption, so from this point of view, it is good to tackle both. This means that in some parts of the world, reducing fertility rates will be more of a priority than reducing consumption.
Again, it’s important to stress that this shouldn’t be a distraction from the massive amount of work the Global North needs to do in order to reduce its emissions. It just means that on a continent like Africa, which is currently in the process of to double its population Over the next 40 years or so, the need for increased access to family planning may be more of a problem than reducing per inhabitant consumption.
If we want to see a fair redistribution of the world’s resources, it is likely that per inhabitant consumption will actually increase in Africa as the global North shrinks. At the same time, the world will have to collectively reduce its exploitation of these resources.
The unsustainable nature of immigration in our current growth-based system
This is a path towards less racist and more inclusive approaches to immigration in a stable state system.
By understanding how immigration is currently used to increase GDP, we can develop a less racist and more inclusive approach in a stable state system. In this way, we can better develop approaches to population, immigration and housing that are not motivated by growth / development interests.
Instead, we can focus on modernizing our existing built stock while regenerating brownfields for more homes and more nature. At the same time, we can work in collaboration with our overseas partners to ensure communities around the world are doing the same. This, combined with universal access to health services, will lead to a broad stabilization of populations at all levels.
The population should be an integrated component of a larger movement of movements
Whatever cause we stand for, be it population, clean energy, reduced meat consumption or regenerative grazing, we can tackle it in collaboration. much more complex integrated system that has systemic change as its heart.
In this way we can develop a integrated network of movements and ideas, that all work for the systemic and behavioral change essential to adapt to a low-carbon world.
As long as this change in behavior includes the desire to be compassionate, embrace nuance, and think critically, people can be part of the conversation.
Mark Allen is a Melbourne-based environmental activist who focuses on holistic activism, sustainable urban planning and food ethics.
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