Errors and omissions in population commentary by Jeff Sparrow in his book ‘Crimes against nature’
Jeff Sparrow’s book Crimes against Nature argues that business has corrupted society, that apparently benign and even good things like anti-litter campaigns can mask more sinister actions by business, and that personal responsibility should not diminish corporate responsibility. Fourteen of the fifteen chapters give an excellent account of the malign influence business has on public policy. The only bad chapter is People, people, people. There he critiques the sustainable population movement but omits the biggest issues.
Presumably there is some reason that Jeff is so unsettled by sustainable population activism that he wants to give an account that misses its central features, highlights not only the worst but some of the least representative features. What follows is an exploration of those areas in the hope that the shortcomings of Jeff’s analysis is laid bare so that Jeff decides to tell us what his real grievance is with the population movement. This will then hopefully lead him to apply his considerable platform to the more pressing matters in population: the social and political reforms of the day.
The key questions about population are what is the right population and what are the political pathways there given that growing the population is aligns with the interests of business and religion. These are the real, current and interesting questions.
Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) is the leading sustainable population organisation in Australia. SPA has spelled out an agenda in its Position and Policy Statement and is advocating for it. If Jeff honestly believes that sustainable population is a malign force, he should engage openly with the falsifiable claims made by the leading proponent of the cause in the country he lives in. I give a heap of time to SPA and if they are wrong I want to know.
I have arranged the shortcomings of Jeff’s position on population around some of his key claims. They are as follows.
- Sustainable population activists are racist, eco-fascist, coercive, eugenicists.
- Sustainable Population activists oppose immigration.
- Sustainable population theory led to coercive practices in the developing world. Jeff cannot see how population reduction can be implemented other than through repression.
- Malthusian forecasts of catastrophe have been wrong. The world’s population increase continues to slow and numbers will stabilise by the end of the century.
- The absolute number of people is less important than how society produces and allocates resources (consumption more than population etc).
- Sustainable population activism is misanthropic and attributes blame and guilt to people.
- Sustainable population theory robs people of agency — they can have no kids, campaign for birth control, and discourage large families — but they themselves are the crisis.
Introduction — why I am a sustainable population activist
The world’s interests would be well served by a population policy that aimed to match the human population with the world’s capacity to support them indefinitely. The precise number of the optimal population and the ways to get there are technical questions of microscopic significance compared to the political challenges arising from the fact that both business and religion are vigorously pro-natalist.
If we can somehow beat or bypass business, religion and other pro-natalists, we can slow, halt and eventually reverse population growth and vast, profound opportunities open up. Instead of working out which bush to let property developers turn to houses, we could say we won’t be destroying any bush at all because we have enough houses. Without having to build those houses, we don’t have to fell the bush. The animals in that bush that would otherwise be made homeless then starve to death (with a level of suffering we would never visit on our dog) would instead get to live out their lives and die of natural causes.
Instead of our reductions in emissions cuts per person being steadily neutered by population growth, our per person emission reductions could be multiplied by drops in the number of people. Instead of the environmental movement chasing the survival goals of stopping certain species going extinct, we could be aiming for concrete exciting outcomes like more acres of bush in absolute terms. This would be coupled with making housing cheaper. A falling population means less competition between tenants, between workers and between animals. We can do all this by speaking frankly about population, celebrating small families, expanding access to family planning and ending economic migration.
All of the events detailed in People, people, people happened before I was even born so I will accept their veracity but I reject their having much relevance to modern policy and politics. The central questions of population and sustainability are what are the best settings for our population policy and what are the political pathways to them. In choosing our population policies choices we make will be ours and reflect our values, not a book in England two hundred years ago or some concert in the seventies.
Population is upstream of every question in sustainability. Population matters because the smaller the population, the lower the ecological footprint, all other things being equal. Critically, the lower the population the lower the amount of political capital required to build a sustainable society. Shutting down a coal fired grid will be easier on a planet with nine billion people than ten billion because there will just be lower aggregate demand for electricity. Building a clean grid for nine billion people will require less labour, capital, land and minerals than building one for ten billion people. Eating only as many fish as are spawned is going to be easier with fewer people in the first place.
Population denialists hide behind the false choice about population or consumption despite the fact that no sustainable population organisation anywhere on the planet says it is only population. It is both. Critically, the solution requires both regardless of the cause. We need big changes to consumption patterns (degrowth) and to roll out better technology to produce with less pollution (decoupling). Neither of these things will completely beat overshoot, so slowing and eventually reversing population growth is in the mix too.
So long as the population is growing, the environmental movement is running to stand still. Take construction as an example. We can do important stuff like making the construction of buildings less polluting. We could, theoretically, hopefully, maybe, get all people at scale to agree to smaller homes (we haven’t yet and have even gone backwards since COVID). But we will never get industrial pollution to zero and we will never get people to need no housing, so business will always have a constituency for more construction with a growing population. This basic phenomenon is repeated in every environmental issue. This will always damn the environmental movement to a dead end because there will always be a constituency against them for the provision of even basics.
On the other hand if the world could adopt the policies Iran rolled out from 1990–2006, (massive, cheap family planning, promotion of small families by the state, acquiescence by religious leaders) we could see a falling population with no harm done. If countries in the Global North ended economic migration they could still admit all the spouses and refugees they currently do but slow, halt and reverse population growth and pull the plug on so called economic growth. Both of these phenomena would put strong downward pressure on every environmentally damaging practice. Instead of the environmental movement arguing for greater biodiversity we could be realistically arguing for a permanent end to any more land clearing.
The problem is that business and religion are belligerently pro-natalist and pro-growth. Business wants more people because it means more customers and more competition between workers. Land-owners want more population because it makes land more expensive. Religion always wants more adherents. Into this mix Jeff has written a book whose main contribution is cataloguing the worst things anybody in the population movement has said without applying the same lens to the business and religious pro-natalists.
Jeff has written an important book detailing the ways in which apparently good things like campaigns for picking up rubbish mask business’ malign influence on public policy. Yet he somehow fails to see precisely the same phenomenon at play with with putting family size and and migration levels outside the overton window.
Sustainable population activists are or were racist, eco-fascists, coercive, eugenicists.
Social movements have many people spanning decades and continents which provides an effectively infinite constellation of options for guilt by association. Any movement can be slandered in this way. It is political nihilism that precludes all action.
For example, there are earnest, thoughtful, non-violent democratic socialists who are somehow ‘guilty’ in the eyes of the right by a tenuous association with violent anti-democratic socialists. So too the population movement includes both people who say all the things Jeff has said and there are also organisations who say none of them. The latter organisations, the ones arguing for a non-violent, non-racist reduction in population are the ones accepted as leaders by the population movement, they are not mentioned in Jeff’s book.
The sustainable population movement’s leading organisations in countries with comparable political landscapes to Australia — Sustainable Population Australia, Population Matters (UK), Population Balance (US) and Population Institute Canada — all explicitly and unambiguously advocate non-coercive and non-racist policies.
If the sustainable population movement is doing harm with our work tell us. What we need though is specifics about our current work rather than personality assessments of long dead people. Jeff can say whatever he wants about Malthus or Ehrlich because nothing they can say will change anything sustainable population activists are actually doing now.
Notwithstanding Jeff’s focus on historical figures in the sustainable population movement I am sure even among contemporary population activists some of our supporters somewhere are saying something awful. Yet this is the case with every single organisation and movement. To engage seriously with a movement there should be some analysis of what its actual platform is. Most of all, how do they impact public policy — by that measure the words of religion and business would seem to be relevant to a discussion about population.
There is nothing that Malthus, Ehrlich, David Attenborough or anybody else could say that will change the fact that getting the number of fish caught to equal the number spawned will be physically and politically easier if there are fewer people.
As a sustainable population activist, I do not care if a eugenicist or racist agrees with something I say for the same reason I do not care if my accountant cheats on their spouse or my uber driver lies. It is not a good thing but I cannot fix everything at once. Moreover, my opponents in business and religion never ever apply a purity test. I care a lot if there is a direct, causal link between something I am doing and harm to somebody and encourage anybody to tell me if that is what I am doing.
As a short sidebar by way of illustration. Jeff is a Marxist, Marx said some plainly antisemitic stuff and Stalin and Gomulka did some plainly antisemitic things. Yet Marxism includes many insights that remain useful in modern politics and policy regardless of what he said about Jews while Stalin and Gomulka were only two variants of socialism and not definitive. For this reason, the socialists as antisemites claim is only of interest to those looking for a fig leaf for their pre-existing grievance with socialists. Everyone would be better off if they reflected on what in fact is underneath that fig leaf. There is something both true and uncomfortable which is always best excavated. Why is Jeff pushing such a flimsy attack on sustainable population?
It is wrong to call for lower migration
In Australia (as the Productivity Commission has said,) Australia’s immigration policy is its de facto population policy, because of low fertility. Sustainable population activists in Australia therefore call for lower migration.
The most obvious benefit of lowering migration is the slowing and eventual reversal of our own population whose consumption levels are problematically high. However, we will also end the current situation where pro-natalists in the Global South can point to the pro-population growth tendencies of the rich countries as evidence of the merits of larger population. It is unlikely that those arguing for expanded access to family planning in the Global South will be aided in their conflict with the Church by Jeff’s insinuation that concerns about population are a racist, eugenicist, white supremacist plot.
Australia performs very poorly on most environmental indicia and has for example, the tenth highest carbon emissions per capita. Almost by definition, economic migrants will increase their personal environmental impact when they move to Australia. While it would be great if Australians would reduce their environmental impact per person, I am not holding my breath. The politics of degrowth are really hard work and activism is not a renewable resource. Australia has, like in 2007, had a successful climate election and still there not a single Member of Parliament who is talking prominently and directly about reducing individual affluence at scale.
Lowering migration lowers the Australian population and that is good news for the environment. Australia’s emissions per capita are about 17.1 tonnes per person whereas our main sources of migration have much lower emissions (PRC 7.4; India 1.9; UK 5.55; Philippines 1.2; Viet Nam 2.2). The average migrant is not the average citizen and carbon accounting across countries is very hard anyway but in general, people coming to Australia are likely to increase their carbon emissions.
People have a tendency towards loss aversion. Loss aversion means the person whose lifestyle emits 17 tonnes of carbon a year will be more resistant to a five tonne of carbon a year person lifestyle than the person who was last year emitting one tonne of carbon. Loss aversion is a gigantically important challenge in social and political reform.
Applying that to sustainable population and migration, we need people to stay in lower emitting countries not because it is fair but because the politics of a lower carbon lifestyle is hardest in high emitting countries. Fewer people with an expectation of a seventeen tonnes of carbon a year lifestyle is useful for the politics of making our planet sustainable.
There is a valid argument to be had about what balance to strike between different migration levels and how their costs and benefits weigh up against other public policy objectives. We might for example, choose to accept greater harm to the environment from population growth and urban sprawl in Sydney to avoid even greater harm befalling refugees in Dadaab. Spouses, like refugees, have a moral dimension to their migration to Australia.
Economic migration on the other hand has a morally neutral character. It is completely fine but it just simply is not a tragedy if it does not happen as it is with refugees and spouses. Economic migration includes the skilled stream (from any country) and some component of the migration of New Zealanders. Anybody in a developing country who can pay the transit and education costs of becoming eligible to migrate to Australia is at least solidly middle class in those countries. While their migration to Australia will be a good thing for them, their not migrating to Australia will be no tragedy. The poor people in those countries are really poor. The thing is, they are not the ones who will ever access Australia’s skilled and temporary migration pathways as they currently operate.
Migrants who come to Australia through the economic streams are doing nothing even remotely wrong and something that many, many Australians would themselves do in their situation. However, it has about the same moral valence as a job promotion, so Australians are completely free to dial it back in the interests of other concerns like reducing urban sprawl.
Australia’s population and migration plans are detailed in the five yearly Intergenerational Report, annual budget papers (BP3, appendix A) and migration program planning levels. Net overseas migration is forecast at 235,000 a year for the next 40 years (and only stops in 2060 because that’s when the records end). Permanent migration is currently set at 160,000 (110,000 skilled and 50,000 family reunion) 13,750 refugees and the remaining 61,250 is effectively a forecast that there will be more Australians and temporary migrants coming in than going out.
The spouses and refugees constitute a minority of our migrants. Our migration program, and so our population policy, is principally about skilled migrants and New Zealanders — there is nothing wrong with them not migrating. There may even be some benefits as any unfulfilled desires they have in their countries of origin will only add useful pressure to domestic political reform.
We could very significantly reduce our intake of skilled and temporary migrants, slow our population growth massively and still take in every spouse and refugee we currently do. Moreover, the slower population growth, better environment and cheaper houses would make Australia so much more hospitable to those spouses and refugees.
Most environmental organisations already censor any criticism of migration and/or censor discussion of population (given its nexus to immigration). Sustainable Population Australia and the New South Wales Conservation Council are the only major organisations who do not.
The institution that does lobby vigorously for migration is business and it lobbies, surprise, surprise, for skilled migration most of all. We know this because they say it. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Industry Group, the Business Council of Australia the Housing Industry Association and the Property Council of Australia are all seeking immigration and/or population increases as soon as possible and all focus on migration of skilled migrants and de facto low skilled migrants through the university and working holiday schemes.
The Australian Financial Review wants to triple Australia’s population to 75 million. The LNP plans for migration range from 235,000 a year from the Morrison Government to 400,000 a year from the NSW Perrotet government. The Prime Minister who smashed the wharfies in 1998, introduced work choices in 2005 and resisted climate action was the same guy who more than quadrupled skilled migration from 24,100 in 1995–96 to 108,540 in 2007–08.
These entities have all argued against every tax increase, wage rise, environmental protection and/or housing affordability measure ever out of their own self-interest. It is likely that the same indifference to the public good underpin their support for high skilled migration and consequent population growth.
Australia’s political financing and integrity is very opaque so we have no idea of knowing exactly what is going on. However, we do know that the source of nearly a quarter of the ALP’s donations and more than a third of the Coalition’s over the past twenty years are unaccounted for so some people with a lot of money have a lot of influence; business has a strong desire for very high migration and population growth and the money to make big donations; 70% of Australians want an end to population growth; Prime Ministers across the aisle (Gillard in 2010 and Morrison in 2018) make big noises about population before doing nothing about it and our migration policy reflects the desires of business better than the community’s. It is highly plausible that Australia’s immigration and population policies reflect the will of business, not the community. The fact that I cannot prove that is an intended feature of our political financing system. This is the real nature of Australia’s migration landscape.
Jeff’s writes ‘people were a liability — and that was a message which both companies and governments could agree’. His insinuation that his position on population is at odds with business is fantasy. The thesis that Jeff develops elsewhere in the book, that personal responsibility can be weaponised to end corporate responsibility, is a cogent and important contribution to sustainability but is not what business is doing with immigration and population.
Business buys influence in Canberra, lobbies furiously for high migration, the government gives it to them, knows the public hates it so buries it in the budget papers on budget night. At this point it then becomes inappropriate for the community to express an opinion on it. Jeff is not Nelson Mandela here, he is a babe in the woods. While he would not willingly aid the Property Council, that is the effect of what he is doing.
It is only through coercive family planning that populations can be made sustainable. Jeff cannot see how population reduction can be implemented other than through repression
Arguing for lower population does leave open the possibility that this will lead to incredibly serious consequences if done incorrectly. This happened in China, India and other countries and could happen again if done in the same way in future. This is an important thing for the population movement to be reminded about. It just is not even remotely the full story.
Social and political reform involves making mistakes. The related analysis involves reviewing what happened, rejecting what failed and repeating what worked. The idea that appears to be the conclusion Jeff would have us draw — that because coercive violent population reduction was bad, population reduction in its entirety is a bad idea — closes the door to the possibility of the profoundly good outcomes that have arisen from voluntary population reduction.
The correct response to the atrocities committed in the name of population in the past is to learn from the mistakes of the past and not repeat them but instead look at what has worked and repeat those. Just as socialists look to repeat what was done in democratic Scandinavia and ignore the authoritarian USSR, so too sustainable population activists look to non-violent, non-coercive examples of population reduction.
The coercive practices of various governments in pursuit of slowing population growth is only part of the story of sustainable population and its impact on public policy. There are countless other examples of slowing population growth in developing countries through voluntary means that are almost entirely unknown by the general public in Western countries.
The history of sustainable population includes both the coercive practices of Indira Gandhi and Deng Xiaoping and the non-coercive practices of leaders such as Ali Khamenei and Habib Bourguiba. The latter will always be muted by a commercial media that sees, correctly, that population reduction is also customer reduction so must be smeared. Any successes will also always be muted by the same commercial media because they need longer, more complicated and less sensational stories than late term abortions in China.
The coercive and violent family planning systems were the exception not the rule. While China and India deployed coercive family planning, more countries cut their fertility through voluntary means. Examples include Costa Rica since the 1960s, Iran from 1989 to 2006; Indonesia since 1970; South Korea from 1962–1984, Thailand since 1969 and Tunisia since 1962 to name just a few. Not only was fertility cut by the governments of these countries, they all did so by expanding their citizens’ rights and access to health and education.
Indira Gandhi and Deng Xiaopeng did great harm with their violent, coercive population policies. They also did great harm with violent, coercive actions that had nothing to do with population, such as the massacres at Amritsar in 1984 and Beijing in 1989. The problem was the coercion and violence not the family planning. Absent the violence and you get the stunning success of places like Iran, Thailand and all the others and the sustainable population movement is only arguing for the latter.
It is entirely forgivable that Jeff was unaware of the many successful voluntary reductions in population as few Australians are aware of them outside academia and the relevant expatriate communities. He now knows. Given Jeff’s platform and reach it would be open to him to tell the whole story in future.
The most consequential position ever in the history of population is that of leaders of religious organisations arguing against the safe, legal and affordable family planning because they are having an impact on people’s lives. At the same time the Christian right has been frustrating family planning access throughout the world. Yet the words about population from religion, from powerful actors that have a direct, malign and significant impact do not feature in People, people, people. In a book about capitalism and and the environment could religion’s stifling of family planning be relevant when slowing population growth would do so much to slow economic growth?
Malthusian forecasts of catastrophe have been wrong. The world’s population increase continues to slow and numbers will stabilise by the end of the century.
Jeff notes correctly that previous forecasts of Malthusian catastrophes have been proven wrong and that birth rates have been falling but he incorrectly attributes this solely to countries becoming richer.
Countries becoming richer is only one part of the equation. Another is the success of family planning activists from Tunisia to Iran to South Korea bypass, overwhelm or co-opt religious pro-natalists in family planning reform.
It is correct that the population growth rate of the world has slowed but this is cherry picking the available statistical data. While the population growth rate is slowing this is of tiny relevance compared to the fact that the population is still growing. Absolute numbers are relevant to environmental stress, not the growth rate. Every year for the past 50 years the population has grown by between 74 and 92 million people a year, including exceeding 80 million every year since 2005, that is an extra population of Germany every year. However, Jeff draws our attention to the drop in the growth from 92 million a year in 1989 to 81 million a year in 2020 and the Pew research centre’s expectation that population will nearly stop by 2100.
This ignores the fact that any population growth at all means more demand for environmental destruction to feed, clothe and house extra people. It also ignores the fact that we might cook the planet well before the population reduction by way of industrialisation based prosperity rescues us in the way Jeff expects.
Environmental destruction is more a function of the way we produce, allocate and consume than the number of people
Jeff provides a misleading account of the sustainable population movement because he omits the fact that all major sustainable population organisations are saying it is both numbers of people and consumption per person.
Population organisations across the world such as SPA regularly, clearly and formally state (see paragraph 1.7 of SPA’s position and policy statement) that consumption patterns are part of the sustainability equation.
Population Matters (UK) say in the second paragraph of their ‘facts’ page, ‘[types of environmental destruction] are all exacerbated by our huge and ever-increasing numbers. Our impact on the environment is a product of our consumption and our numbers. We must address both.’
Population Balance (US) say on the front page of their website, ‘We educate about — and offer solutions to address — the impacts of human overpopulation and overconsumption on the planet, people, and animals.’
Population Institute Canada’s vision says, ‘a global population size enabling decent living standards for all and environmental sustainability at home and abroad. The central issue is numbers, but also differential resource use and associated environmental impact due to ever-increasing over-consumption.’
On the question of size or shape; population or consumption; footprints or feet; the modern population movement’s answer is always, ‘both’. We do not consider that consumption is not important or even just less important than population. Both are important and we wish every other environmental organisation would publicly say so as well. We have to keep talking about population more than consumption only to give the public the full picture, so long as some mute discussion of population.
Jeff’s argument is about the relative weight of consumption vs population. Resolving that question precisely would require a fairly complicated cost-benefit analysis requiring a large amount of extremely dynamic data and still change little on the ground. So long as the number of people plays some part in overshoot it is worth talking about. The fact that consumption may play a greater role than population would be an argument for giving population less significance, not for giving it none.
The importance of the difference in the relative impact of population vs consumption is also lessened by the fact that population and consumption offer different ways ahead for sustainability. Jeff’s analysis is principally about the causes of overshoot whereas population can be a powerful remedy for overshoot even if it is not the cause.
For example, Jeff compares the situations in New York city and Mogadishu and notes that absolute size does not determine the situations there. This comparison is poor, what matters is whether the environmental strain in either city would be lower with fewer people. Of course, that would lead us back to the central question of population, what are the right policy settings and how can we get there without business’s permission.
The politics of sustainability is easier with fewer people. Many of the ways in which we might avert overshoot involve some level of coercion such as taxes or bans on people and companies. Most acts of coercion by a government make that government less popular with those same voters and companies. We can also use education, advertising and advocacy to encourage people to decide to consume less meat, stop flying and drive less. Yet this ultimately involves restraint on the part of consumers which is really hard work at scale and over time. There are many people who are unenthusiastic about personal restraint. When we use family planning and immigration to reduce our environmental load, governments have less need to coerce their voters and individuals have less need for restraint — sustainability is more achievable and progressive activists can re-deploy to other causes.
The mechanics of sustainability are easier with fewer people. To give just one example, most plans for net zero emissions by 2050 involves the electrification of the grid and the replacement of coal, gas and petrol with renewables and the creation of negative emissions technologies. The more people there are the greater the demand for the rare earths, copper, steel, concrete, land, labour and many other inputs into the wind and solar infrastructure of a renewables grid. The more people there are the greater the aggregate demand for electricity and the harder the politics of closing coal fired power plants. As Jeff says people can change the way they relate to each other and the environment but he misses that it will be physically and politically easier with fewer people.
By the way, my use of the term consumption here rather than the term production (which would map better to the thesis of the other fourteen chapters of Crimes against nature) reflects the language used in most settings when discussing whether population is relevant to sustainability. That is, there is a widespread and accepted argot of population or consumption. It is certainly not a rejection of Jeff’s sound thesis that sustainability activists should focus their activism on business most of all.
Sustainable population activism is misanthropic and attributes blame and guilt to people.
All political reform can be characterised as ‘hating’ the people whose behaviour it is seeking to change and always is by those who fear calm analysis. Lowering the population aids the physics and politics of every environmental problem. It also improves the quality of life of every human because it gives them a relatively greater share in the world’s fixed resources. Sustainable population activists do not hate people, we think that the number of people is one of the factors in humanity’s impact on the environment and that a healthier environment leads to better lives, so we seek to reduce the number of people.
We also usually have first-hand experience of trying to promote less environmentally harmful consumption patterns to the general public and are aware of how hard it actually is. To people like Jeff who glibly say we just need to consume less my first question is, ‘how?’ People outside the environmental movement are not as receptive to going without as desktop environmentalists like Jeff seem to think they are. In his final chapter Jeff bets everything on socialism, apparently unaware of the life expectancy of most socialist countries in an American dominated world or that the environmental impact of any socialist country will also be lessened by having fewer people.
Rosy Batty doesn’t hate men, Noam Chomsky doesn’t hate the West, Jeff didn’t oppose the Iraq war because he hated Australia and sustainable population activists do not hate people. Acknowledging humanity’s shortcomings is a normal part of social and political reform.
Sustainable population theory robs people of agency — they can have no kids, campaign for birth control, and discourage large families — but they themselves are the crisis.
People taking action to have fewer kids is one of the most powerful actions they can take to achieve sustainability. One 2017 study found that it was thirty times more useful than going car free. This is not a complicated point, getting your kid to undertake a lifetime of restraint from consuming polluting modern consumer goods is much harder than not having a kid. While people in 2022 have no realistic option but to pollute and damage the world in some way, by having fewer kids they can take powerful action to reduce the future impact done by humanity by shrinking it. This gives them profound agency with respect to future environmental harm. It is also in no way even remotely incompatible with taking other actions. While having no or few kids does not reduce your present impact on the environment it is peerless for the impact it can have on future sustainability.
The fact that this is relatively unknown is hardly surprising given the scale of misinformation even by otherwise benign and trustworthy organisations. In fact, the study mentioned above was a 2017 study of the Canadian education system which found that ten high school science textbooks largely fail to mention the most effective sustainability actions (fewer children, ending car travel, ending plane travel and ending meat consumption), instead focusing on incremental changes with much smaller potential emissions reductions.
It is one of the greatest dilemmas of all. Having a child is one of the most reliable ways that absolutely anybody can inject meaning and purpose into their life. Yet not having a child is one of the most reliable ways to lessen humanity’s depletion of the earth. Encouraging people to stop at two is a realistic way ahead.
Ending and eventually reversing population growth would be great news for people and the environment (as well as tenants and workers) but is vetoed by business and religion. The modern sustainable population movement is pushing for an end to population growth without racism and coercion. It would be so good to have Jeff on board with this.
I am a member of SPA and it currently wants Australia to aim to have its population stop growing at 30 million in 2040, to lower migration from the government’s planned 235,000 a year to 60,000 a year to achieve that, to more than triple our aid budget and spend at least 4% of that on family planning amongst many other things. If Jeff writes again on this topic it would be great to hear what he thinks of this.
If he does not want to engage with the contemporary sustainable population movement there must be some reason, he should write about that.
 Australia’s immigration policy is its de facto population policy. — Productivity Commission 2016, Migrant Intake into Australia, Inquiry Report №77, Canberra. Page 2. https://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/migrant-intake/report
 Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk — Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1914185?origin=crossref
 Migration to Australia: a quick guide to the statistics. Commonwealth of Australia, 2017. https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1617/Quick_Guides/MigrationStatistics
 70% of people want no more population growth — N Biddle, ANU Poll 28 Big Australia, small Australia, diverse Australia: Australia’s views on population. Canberra: Australian Data Archive, The Australian National University, 2019. — figure 1, page 5.
Sixty-nine per cent of voters think Australia does not need more people.
The Australian Population Research Institute, Research Report, October 2021
Question 8, page 9.