CLIVE HUXTABLE is a Beaconsfield resident and a member of Sustainable Population Australia, an eco-group which thinks other feel-good greenie groups have slotted over-population into the too-hard basket. In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED he says Perth is going to come a cropper if developers’ dreams of untrammeled population growth are allowed to come to fruition.
BRUCE MORIARTY (“New energy”, Thinking Allowed, July 6, 2013) enthuses about the rapidly growing population of Perth and all the entrepreneurial opportunities he envisages will spring from its continuation.
His viewpoint is widely shared but is seriously flawed by its neglect of inconvenient truths.
Western Australia is well on track to being the first region in the nation where overpopulation will bear down heavily.
The Moriartys of WA seem wilfully blind to the precarious state of our water resources and our deteriorating agricultural land as rainfall declines and the climate warms.
They also shrug off the social impacts of too rapid urban growth.
Perth’s water will increasingly have to be supplied by desalination and pumping from aquifers with some contribution from recycling.
Should the population continue its rapid expansion, this energy-intensive option will become very expensive and will steadily deplete the aquifers, which in turn will impact negatively on the southwest hinterland.
Despite the unprecedented receipts from the mining boom the state is struggling to provide for our city’s current needs.
It’s easy to find examples of the stresses and social problems flowing from the population explosion of the last decades.
Perth is growing up to be a big-time city with increasing traffic gridlock, air pollution, road rage and car-jacking.
Violent assaults on the streets are frequently reported. Drug and alcohol abuse is widespread; the ppolice commissioner having recently publicly identified this as a major problem.
There is a deplorable shortage of affordable housing and increasing numbers of homeless people.
Our hospitals are bursting at the seams, as are our jails.
The declining standards in education are linked to the crumbling physical and human resources in the state school system.
Reports come in of increasing unruly and anti-social behaviour in schools and many teachers now entering the system are themselves academically and professionally substandard.
Mr Moriarty will be pleased to see that the state government’s newly released strategic plan (www.planning.wa.gov.au/publications/6561.asp) envisages a doubling of the population over the next few decades.
While it acknowledges “the ecological footprint of Western Australians is one of the highest in the world (measure of consumption per capita)”, nowhere does the plan consider the question of what a sustainable population might be.
In essence it boils down to marketing blurb for unlimited growth.
It should instead have produced considered analysis of what population can be sustainably supported.
It should have included strategies for capping both total population and per capita consumption.
This would of course have to be done within a national population policy.
The problem with the thinking of people like Mr Moriarty is that it reflects a tacit acceptance of never ending population growth.
Whatever size the city reaches, their arguments for even more people will persist, but WA is likely to be the place where the overpopulation chickens will first come home to roost.
We should all be giving this issue urgent attention now while there is still some time available.
The notion of endless population growth is an absurd delusion and high priority must be given to devising an economic system that is not dependent on it.
The challenges involved are very difficult and should be enough to inspire any number of entrepreneurial spirits.