Population is not to blame for climate change

Monday, October 19, 2009 - 11:00

An open letter to the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and Labor MP Kelvin Thomson

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We are shocked and angered that the ACF has supported Labor MP Kelvin Thomson's calls to cut Australia's migration rates.

These proposals pander to racism and offer no solution to environmental degradation. They divert attention away from the real cause of environmental disaster — government inaction and corporate polluters.

Population is not the cause of pollution and carbon emissions. In Australia, current total household electricity usage is about 12% of total electricity usage. More than 80% of electricity generation comes from dirty coal-fired power plants.

Migrants are not to blame for the dirty coal-fired power stations. Increasing population would not increase carbon pollution if electricity were produced by renewable power. For that, we need immediate government investment in solar, wind and geothermal power.

Similarly, when we look at water usage and the health of our rivers, it is corporate consumption and waste that threatens the environment.

Without paying a cent, Roxby Downs uranium mine in South Australia uses 42 million litres of water a day (set to rise to 250 million litres after the proposed expansion). By 2020, the same single mine will be using a quarter of the state's electricity.

The use of environmentally unsuitable areas for cotton production has allowed western Queensland's Cubby Station to starve the Murray-Darling River Basin of much needed water.

The planning and environmental disasters of our cities are due to government neglect, not population. Governments continue to subsidise the car industry, expanding toll roads while privatising and chronically under-funding public transport.

Tragically, your call for migration cuts opens the door to "fortress Australia" racism. Each decade of Australian history has seen anti-immigration campaigns, which have led to increased division and racism.

Your call risks encouraging the kind of openly racist campaign waged by Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party in the 1990s.

Climate change, driven by the pollution of the developed countries, is already displacing large numbers of people. There will be millions of climate refugees if this continues. Your comments can only encourage anti-immigration reactionaries who will oppose re-settling people here.

We call on the ACF and Kelvin Thomson to withdraw their anti-migrant statements and join the grassroots climate movement demanding immediate government action that can stop carbon emissions and lay the basis for a sustainable future for the planet and its people.

Signatories include:

Dr Stuart Rosewarne (Senior Lecturer in Political Economy, Sydney University)
Damien Lawson
Nat Wasley
Sana Bau (Office for Environmental Programs, Melbourne Uni)
Nicole Watson (Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, UTS)
Rashmi Kumar (Co-President Sydney University Post-Graduate
Representative Association)
Chris Breen (Solidarity)
Ian Rintoul (Refugee Action Coalition)
Elly House (President-elect Sydney University SRC)
Jasmine Ali (Sydney University Environment Collective)
Simon Butler (Green Left Weekly)
Ben Courtice (Socialist Alliance)
Frances Howe
Anthony Kelly
Monique Decortis
LIVE - Locals Into Victoria's Environment
John Rice from CLEAN (Climate Emergency Action Network) in SA
Solidarity

[To add your name to the statement email .]

From GLW issue 814