Dick Smith’s Population Puzzle

Dick Smith’s Population Puzzle

(PG) ABC DVD

To some it might seem bleeding obvious but no-one wants to talk about the pachyderm in the chamber.

Dick Smith wants to get population on the agenda and in this documentary, through conversations with politicians, economists and demographers, asks why the political parties won’t address what he sees as enormous risks in Australian and global population growth.

He says Australia — last year increasing its population by the size of Tasmania’s — is setting a poor example in a world already struggling with too many people.

Economist Ross Gittens says he’s not confident that Australia has enough food, water, roads, buses or houses to cope. The economy might boom for some but there will be less wealth per head.

When arable land is such a small proportion of the continent, Smith is bewildered that prime farmland is being turned over to developers.

Developers blame governments for not releasing enough land and, with that industry responsible for nine to ten per cent of the Australian economy, there is no consideration of an alternative to the growth treadmill. Especially when property developers contribute to political campaign coffers.

Smith finds one politician who will talk about it. Kelvin Thompson says all of the problems — food prices, housing affordability, traffic congestion, overcrowded concrete jungles, carbon emissions — come back ultimately to population.

Sitting in gridlock and observing cities spreading beyond the horizon, Smith remembers when he was a free-range kid and his father grew a vegetable garden. In simpler days people were much happier, he believes.

Now, with the obvious impact population growth has on a stretched health system, environmental destruction and food and water supply, he is concerned for his own children and grandchildren.

Let’s have a plan, he pleads.

The DVD contains extended interviews and Dick Smith plugging his Wilberforce Award — to save the world from population growth he is willing to pay $1 million to someone under 30 who comes up with the best solution to stop society’s capitalist-driven addiction to consumption growth.

Stephen Webb

 

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