Saturday, 14 August 2010

Doing the maths

Probably the only good thing about this election campaign is the emergence of the population debate in a serious sort of way.
If the recent Q&A showed anything, it showed that the unthinking and unintelligent commentary of those who advocate growth at any cost (see my recent blog here) just will not do any longer.
I have been particularly impressed by the discussion that says that we now have to work out the specifics.
It does not seem to me that this is impossible. It may be complex...but life is complex...but the sums just require imagination and some forethought.
It might include:
  • An accurate accounting of the amount of water that is required per head of population. This will include such issues as personal hygiene, food production, industrial needs, agricultural requirements...and so on.
  • The second half of this sum (which needs to balance) is where can this come from...both natural and industrial sources. This also is not impossible to calculate, though again it is important to be realistic and not just wishful (rather the problem of the 'growth at any cost' devotees...or the "climate science is crap" group. If we are realistic then
  • the cost of water begins to emerge in a realistic sense. The truth is, as we have been told for a decade, is that we are addicted to cheap water...indeed most of us think water should be free...but there is no such thing as a free lunch or free water!
  • the cost of energy has parallel questions
  • there needs to be serious analysis of age profiles and their trends and movements None of this is rocket science, even if it does require careful thought. What it probably requires more than anything else is that we are serious and frank. We are not always good at this!
  • what sort of services, and standard of living can we realistically expect in (say) 2050, 2100, 2200. Not an exercise in 'wishful thinking' but a balance between how much this costs and what we can afford to pay and where this comes from
  • From the interplay of these (and other) questions the issue about how these variables influence outcomes we can begin to discern the key issue...what sort of population can we afford. And what price is too high...for energy, for water, for housing...indeed for wages
I am not suggesting that these questions have never been asked. They are often ignored! I heard Elliott say the other night that "This was just rubbish!" when Bob Brown was raising these very questions.
While we maybe need to not be unduly pessimistic. We also need to be sensible. Good stewardship demands such.
There is more, much more to come in this debate.

1 comment:

Cecil said...

Just look at the massive amount of frozen vegetables in all Australian supermarket that Australia imports from China.
We are unable to supply enough of our own produce to feed our people without encouraging a bigger Australia.