And that’s how we expect you to vote

Reassuring to see that the Greens are as unimpressed by the Gillard Government’s race to the bottom on refugee policy as I am:

Senator Brown says the government’s refugee policy is now a “dog’s breakfast”.

“The government looks like the opposition and vice versa,” he told Network Ten on Sunday.

“They’re both trying to outdo (former prime minister) John Howard in punitive and cruel approaches towards people and their families who are trying to seek refuge in this country and (are) escaping from oppressive situations overseas.”

Senator Brown said it was “abhorrent” to send people to Malaysian camps “where the cane is in frequent use”.

“Decent-minded Australians, when they get to see more of that, are going to be appalled by this take by the Gillard government which is no less inhumane than the Abbott opposition’s alternative.”

Here’s hoping that the Greens remember that supporting Gillard for Prime Minister doesn’t mean passing legislation just because she puts it up. Here’s hoping they do as their supporters demand and vote against this, leaving it up to the ALP and Liberals to decide whether they hate refugees more than they hate each other.

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84 responses to “And that’s how we expect you to vote

  1. jordanrastrick

    Is it heinously immoral to send one person to these Malaysian camps if you resettle five people who are currently stuck there in exchange?

    Its certainly worse than how it should be dealt with, but it seems to me preferrable to the status quo.

    Here’s hoping that the Greens remember that supporting Gillard for Prime Minister doesn’t mean passing legislation just because she puts it up.

    Does this policy require legislative changes?

    Also, have we had any opinions fromt the Independents yet?

  2. “Does this policy require legislative changes?”

    I suspect it does, but I could be wrong.

    “Is it heinously immoral to send one person to these Malaysian camps if you resettle five people who are currently stuck there in exchange?”

    Something’s not less immoral if you combine it with a (quite separate – and these are quite separate) positive. The Greens could declare that they’ll vote for the latter part of that, but will never vote for the former.

  3. jordanrastrick

    Something’s not less immoral if you combine it with a (quite separate – and these are quite separate) positive. The Greens could declare that they’ll vote for the latter part of that, but will never vote for the former.

    I would personally increase Australia’s refugee intake 10 fold, given the chance, and would process everyone onshore.

    But that would still not put an especially major dent in the worldwide level of refugees. So there would still be millions of people, already found by UNHCR to be refugees, sitting in camps in impoverished, non-signatory countries.

    To simplify the matter for a second, assume we’ve managed to reach a broad community consensus to issue a fixed, generous number of permanent refugee visas per annum – maybe 500,000. At the margin, surely it is preferable to grant them to people in camps in Malaysia over people who arrive in Australia, since:

    a) We already know they’re refugees
    b) It reduces the incentive for people to risk their lives in ocean crossings
    c) It reduces the burden on poor countries like Malaysia to house refugees that they can’t afford
    d) Its likely to be a more publically popular solution, which means its less likely to get revoked by future governments.

    Now I think there are more creative, rational, fair and efficient ways of dealing with refugees, both here and overseas, than shuffling them around the region in this fashion.

    But for the time being, I’m not in power, an ALP/Green/Independent coalition is, and not a single member of that coalition has managed to propose any more generous policy that isn’t utter electoral poison. I know I’m on the fringe on this issue, in wanting us to be more hospitable to traumatised and desparate foreigners; I personally think its a moral imperative, but the reality is a substantial majority of other voters don’t agree with me. In a democracy, I can’t consistently force them to accept my values; the next best alternative seems to be some sort of compromise that does the most good for the most number of refugees, without risking an overwhelming public backlash that would see the policy overturned.

    Then again, Deontology as a core ethical framework never made any philsophical sense to me, so maybe I’ll have to agree to disagree with other Lefties on the best option here.

  4. Jeremy , of the options presented Jordanrastricks 10 fold increase or even welcome all and do processing onshore and on the mainland while the Refugees are housed in the community is best option after that any thing to negate the need or choice of bloody death trap boats .If the greens disagree or vote this down there will be no out come at least this way 4000 will get here . Not because the Greens are uncaring but the coalition will not support any policy that is not theirs and some improvement must be made . The Greens can make full UN supervision in Malaysia a humanitarian bonus. I agree the present situation stinks and SIEV 10, Tampa the christmas sinking are a fucking blight on Australia but for the people on these craft how can they be processed without getting on a boat. There must be somewhere a refugee can apply so a sea voyage is not necessary .

  5. duncan1978

    “..assume we’ve managed to reach a broad community consensus to issue a fixed, generous number of permanent refugee visas per annum – maybe 500,000.”

    Are you taking the piss Jordan?!

    At that rate Australia will soon be just as crappy and over populated as the places they have fled. We have a fairly limited carrying capacity in this country, even without half a million extra refugees a year we are growing too fast.

    While i support our placement of some refugees, we cannot rescue all of the worlds poor and desperate without destroying our own country, and our own quality of life. Its like overloading a lifeboat to the point where EVERYONE on board drowns. Real compassionate…

    So Jordan. Once your plan has ruined Australia, and we have a population of 50,000,000, sky high real estate prices, massive unemployment and our country is an economic, social and environmental disaster area, where will all of us (including those 20 million+ new Australians and all their children) flee to better our lives?

    We are in the unique position in Australia of not sharing our borders with any neighbours, and of actually being able to do something about excessive immigration. And as much as i respect Bob Brown, his stance on refugees and immigration is contradictory with his position on population growth and food/water security. He can see the problem with GLOBAL over population, but doesn’t apply the same logic to LOCAL over population.

  6. uniquerhys

    duncan, you’re assuming that “we’ll take all refugees” will be our only foreign policy in relation to refugees. We could also have a foreign policy that helps improve conditions in third world countries so that people don’t feel the need to flee in the first place. You think they want to leave their homes and families? They feel they have no choice. So help give them choices. Don’t punish the desperate – punish those who make them desperate.

  7. jordanrastrick

    First duncan, it was a thought experiment, and second, the only reasonable it’s not feasible in reality is that there would be a risk of put social and cultural values being overwhelmed.

    The term Carrying capacity just muddles the issue because it has a real biological sense that’s essentially meaningless in this context. The global carrying capacity of homo sapiens sapiens is either a couple of million people total, or else somewhere likely well to the north of say 30 billion, and changing rapidly. Either way, applying it to australia is silly.

  8. I quite like Labor’s new boat person policy:

    – disincentivises people smuggling: check
    – speeds the acceptance of large numbers of genuine refugees who have been patiently waiting for Australian re-settlement: check
    – reduces the population of immigration detention in Australia: check

    The refugees arriving by boat may end up in a different country to the one they thought, but they at least are able to escape from the immediate persecution they suffered in their former homes.

    Everyone wins – so what’s the problem?

  9. “Everyone wins – so what’s the problem?”

    Sending them to a nation that doesn’t have a good human rights record and is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention. That a minister tells us that Malaysia promises to look after them is laughable, this is the same Minister who told us there will be no children in detention come July (we’ll see).

    Also, Australia is a rich nation, very rich and as a result ought to be in a better position to expediently process asylum seekers than Malaysia.

    Last but not least, these are human beings we’re dealing with, desperate humans I reckon. If people smugglers are indeed the scum of the earth then why don’t we just kill ’em (like OBL) I’m only half joking, we’re making asylum seekers, real human beings suffer because people smugglers are evil.

  10. “Everyone wins “

    The children of asylum seekers don’t, they’re the ones I care about the most.

  11. jordanrastrick

    Everyone wins – so what’s the problem?

    The same problem as the original CPRS (and the parallel even applies slightly modified to the republic referrendum). The Liberals are too disciplined in their determination to achieve power to lend a skerrick of support, even to a policy similar to one that they themselves have recently advocated; the Greens think that any compromise away from their self-righteous moral high ground is completely intolerable; the electorate is currently polarised on the issue; and Labor has to convince voters that their policy is a good idea when everyone else telling them it is a complete failure (and sadly no-one will pay too much attention that everyone thinks its a failure for completely contradictory reasons.)

    The ALP will again get screwed and electorally punished for trying to implement a workable compromise, the Libs will get into power and go about doing little with it except writing cheques for middle class “battlers”, and the Greens will retain their representation in the Senate; while no longer able to set any kind of progressive agenda at all, they will still be able to feel smug about how morally superior they are to the 90% of the population who are Fascists. In other words, the natural order of things will be restored.

    😛

  12. jordanrastrick

    Sending them to a nation that doesn’t have a good human rights record and is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention. That a minister tells us that Malaysia promises to look after them is laughable, this is the same Minister who told us there will be no children in detention come July (we’ll see).

    On net, 3200 people are going to be moved from Malaysia to Australia. Is there any reason at all that the welfare of the 800 losing out should weigh more heavily on our decision making than that of the 4000 who are gaining?

    Also, Australia is a rich nation, very rich and as a result ought to be in a better position to expediently process asylum seekers than Malaysia.

    The processing I believe is done by the UNHCR. All Malaysia is doing is allowing the refugees to wait around in abject misery on Malaysian soil.

    Of course the Australian electorate is easily able to afford paying for expeditious processing of refugees, but makes paranoid demands that they continue to be imprisoned, and then complains about how expensive it is to imprison people.

    Last but not least, these are human beings we’re dealing with, desperate humans I reckon. If people smugglers are indeed the scum of the earth then why don’t we just kill ‘em (like OBL) I’m only half joking, we’re making asylum seekers, real human beings suffer because people smugglers are evil.

    Some people smugglers, like some drug kingpins, are scum of the earth. But those are the ones that are almost impossible to catch. Most of the “frontline staff” are just poor people wanting to make a basic living by facilitating a market that has been irrationally outlawed, with a limited understanding of the risk/reward ratio they face.

  13. “On net, 3200 people are going to be moved from Malaysia to Australia.”

    I know we’re rich but it would be cheaper to take them and process the 800 here and still take the 3 200. What is it? 90% of boat people turn out to be the real deal yet we’ll still waste millions to attract the bigot vote, Tanner is right, pollies are media and poll driven to the detriment of handling the issue intelligently and humanely

    “All Malaysia is doing is allowing the refugees to wait around in abject misery on Malaysian soil. ”

    Yes, it would be better to process them here.. Not in detention, at least not the women, the children and the frail.

    “Some people smugglers, like some drug kingpins, are scum of the earth. But those are the ones that are almost impossible to catch.”

    Like OBL 😉

  14. “But those are the ones that are almost impossible to catch. Most of the “frontline staff” are just poor people wanting to make a basic living by facilitating a market that has been irrationally outlawed, with a limited understanding of the risk/reward ratio they face.”

    Well said.

  15. Jordanstruck, I applaude your sentiment but disagree with your thoughts on populatin and carrying capacity. The survival of other species depends on habitat. More people = less habitat = more species become extinct.

    Australia already has the highest mammalian extinction rate on the planet. And this is just one issue. When oil goes over $300 per barrel (which will happen quite soon), what effect do you think this will have on society and how we view our population levels? With your idea, at what point do you say ‘we are full’ and what do you do then?

    I believe the fuss over boat people is esentially xenophobic and racist. The proportion of them arriving (less than 1% of migration) means we can increase our intake of refugees greatly, but if that happens then normal migration must be reduced commensurate to compensate.

  16. “I believe the fuss over boat people is esentially xenophobic and racist. “

    Same here and it is sickening that our leaders appear to be pandering to this sentiment.

  17. jordanrastrick

    @Jeremy: The parallels between the war on drugs and the war on migration are striking. The only real difference is that while you can argue the government plausibly legalising heroin and selling it to people would lead to harm in some cases, Western governments selling visas to prospective refugees at a price that would drive most people smugglers out of business clearly benefits everyone. Except I know people would probably never accept it as a policy, because its “unfair” to let people pay to jump the non-existent queue; its naturally fairer to just let everyone rot equally in third world camps and complain when some of them decide to pay criminals to give them a dangerous version of a desperately desired product that we have a plentiful supply of but are refusing to sell. In this sense the right wing types fall victim to the kind of egalitarianism of misery (inequality is bad; so let everyone have nothing) that SB hates the left wing for. And its worse, because its blindingly hypocritical; no one who happens to already live in a safe, prosperous, peaceful country is volunteering to live in the same conditions they think is good enough for an Indian, Afghani or Somalian.

    @Gordicans: I anticipated that the majority here would tend to take positions similar to the Greens on this point, and disagree with me. I have hence written a blog post that explains why Carrying Capacity is completely misunderstood and misapplied in the context of human population policy debate, even (or especially) by scientists who should know better:

    http://withrespect2x.posterous.com/you-need-to-stop-using-this-phrase

  18. Of course the fuss over boat people is xenophobic and racist.

    And tied to subconscious fears about boatloads of another culture lading here and destroying the inhabitants culture. After all thats what happened last time…

    BTW Real people smugglers move (mostly) young people across borders for the purposes of sexual slavery. If that was the case with the people helping refugees then the ones that would make good sexual commodities would be skimmed off the top. Does this happen? (I don’t know.)

  19. Blast Tyrant

    Same here and it is sickening that our leaders appear to be pandering to this sentiment.

    Pandering to it or promoting it? Maybe Labor would prefer to sweep it under the carpet but Abbot and the Murdoch Press he works for are clearly pushing the issue.

    Seriously, a few thousand people arrive at isolated parts of Australia. Nobody would even notice them arrive and be processed if the media and the right wing dog whistly shit bag politicians didn’t make a big deal out of it.

    I guess my point is, don’t just blame the racist part of our population – the real culprits ARE our so called leaders.

    As for population, we could sustain a shit load more people if we re-organised our society.
    Oil goes over $300 a barrel? fucking move away from fossil fuels. We have the technology and the money, yet apparently it’s more important to spend money on the “War on Terror” or sending aid to the Sri Lankan government, who then they use to train their armed forces, which then terrorise the Tamil population, who then flee and seek asylum in Australia, who then complains we have too many refugees.

  20. mondo rock

    The fact that our politicians are playing to xenophibia and racism (and I agree that, in many cases, they are) is irrelevant. What we’re talking about is a dangerous and apparently increasing trade that needs to be stopped through policy that does not compromise our values as a free, fair and just country.

    Anyone who watched the boat break up off Christmas Island must agree that ending people smuggling is a moral imperative that is at least as critical as our imperative to help refugees.

    Simply accepting more boat arrivals and processing them faster cannot be our solution as it actively encourages people smuggling. We need to disincentivise boat arrivals while maintaining a generous and humane approach to asylum seekers overall.

    I think this policy achieves that – it’s certainly the best idea I’ve heard emanate from the pollies for a long while.

  21. “Anyone who watched the boat break up off Christmas Island must agree that ending people smuggling is a moral imperative that is at least as critical as our imperative to help refugees.”

    I think there will still be boat people, after all many wont have the funds or paperwork to catch a plane, if their life is in danger they’ll move no matter what. So, they may not come to Australia any more but I reckon they’ll still exist, in boats.

    “I think this policy achieves that – it’s certainly the best idea I’ve heard emanate from the pollies for a long while.”

    Like I say, it will stop them coming here, it won’t eliminate the push factors, like war and famine. (IMO)I suppose we’ll have to wait and see, but if the overall number of refugees doesn’t drop then we’ve achieved nothing, there’ll just be more drownings in the Mediterranean than the Indian Ocean.

  22. jordanrastrick

    When oil goes over $300 per barrel (which will happen quite soon), what effect do you think this will have on society

    I think to start with it will force the population to accept something that governments have been too pissweak to prepare them for, i.e. that they need to start buying electric cars.

    and how we view our population levels?

    An oil shortage crisis is probably going to lead many people to starve to death, but only as a short term shock that won’t do much to alter the long run trajectory of our population growth.

    We can make oil from coal, which we have lots of, so over the medium term there’s an upper bound to how expensive it will get. Prices of staple foods that depend heavily on oil in the production process will grow quickly enough and high enough to cause a lot of misery and death in poor countries, but that effect is likely to be dominated over time by global economic growth, which is not as dependent on oil as most people think.

    With your idea, at what point do you say ‘we are full’

    One possible point would be when there is any evidence at all that a single person in Australia is dying directly as the result of a basic natural resource’s economic unavailiability.

    Millions of people in Africa, Asia and Latin America can’t afford enough fertilizer to grow food, or water clean enough to avoid life-threatning illness. The only people I can think of in Australia whose poverty threatens them with actual death by malnutrition (or dysentry) are either:

    * Obese (because calories are cheap and education about nutrition is expensive)

    * Homeless due to domestic violence, drug dependency, severe mental illness or the like

    * Indigenous, and hence victims of a massive cultural shock in the aftermath of European settlement followed by 200 years of atrociously unhelpful government policies

    All of these reflect systemic failures in our health, social and welfare systems; none of them has anything whatsoever to do with us being “full”.

  23. Splatterbottom

    Fair point Mondo. The current policy does cause unnecessary deaths for which the proponents must take some responsibility. While their sentiments are better than Howard’s they certainly kill more refugees.

    My preference would be to take many more refugees, but in an orderly way, and to provide them with adequate services to enable them to integrate into society as quickly as possible.

    If we dramatically increase the refugee intake and dramatically reduce the delays in gaining entry and if we ensure that those flouting the system don’t get preferential treatment we would not have so many people risking their lives to get here.

  24. [The current policy does cause unnecessary deaths for which the proponents must take some responsibility. ]

    So? We’d rather they die in their home countries, out of our sight and consciousness? Like I say I don’t believe the change in policy will not all of a sudden make boat people jump on planes and will not make the push factors disappear.

    “hose flouting the system don’t get preferential treatment “

    Hmmm, I though it was the people smugglers who we we’re after, not the actual refugees.

  25. Erm should read:

    “Like I say I don’t believe the change in policy will all of a sudden make boat people jump on planes and I don’t believe it will make the push factors disappear. “

  26. Splatterbottom

    RobJ: “So? We’d rather they die in their home countries, out of our sight and consciousness?”

    No. That is not what I said.

    If we have a system that induces people to take inordinate risks by offering them preferential treatment when they do so then we will be responsible for many more deaths. The point is to have a system that deals with refugees quickly and fairly and doesn’t induce them to risk death to get here.

  27. Jordanstruck, I had a quick read of your blog thank you and will look at it more closely. In your comments above and in your blog, you don’t mention the problem of effect of human population on other species. Does reduction of habitat, reducing biodiversity and species extinction with increasing human population not concern you?

  28. But SB, how will our policy stop them from getting on boats? It might stop people coming here but that’s a solution for Australia and not a solution for refugees.

    “The point is to have a system that deals with refugees quickly and fairly and doesn’t induce them to risk death to get here.”

    I agree, unfortunately that system doesn’t exist and our policy change wont make the RotW create such a system.

  29. Splatterbottom

    RobJ if the legitimate means of getting here are made easier then less people will pay thousands to traffickers and risk their lives. If the people who do get here by boat get a worse outcome (either in time or benefits or quality of visa or right to bring in relatives) than people who apply correctly then there is no reason at all for any legitimate refugee to pay traffickers.

    At the moment people who get her by boat get early consideration when otherwise they may wait years, or not be considered at all. Obviously this is a powerful incentive.

  30. jordanrastrick

    Those issues do concern me greatly, but the main causes of the problem, and the likeliest candidates for a solution, do not lie in the absolute numbers of people.

    I’m a fierce advocate here and elsewhere for action on climate change, which I think is the greatest single threat humans currently pose to the global ecosystem. I want to see an increase in population density, through a higher percentage of people living in cities which are more tightly packed (increased migration helps on this front), because people living at higher population densities consume proportionally less scarce and valuable natural resources for the same level of per capita well-being.

    I want to see the development of viable means of farming fish, instead of continuing to hunt them toward extinction as our species previously hunted animals that were major components of our diet.

    I want rainforest preserved for tourism and research, rather than cleared for timber and beef. In the long run, there’s more profit to be made in the former, but sadly a lot of rainforest is located in places where people are too poor to care about the long run – a new drug discovered from studying a plant in the Amazon in 20 years is no help to a Brazilian whose child will starve to death tomorrow.

    Now in the context of an unsustainabe economic structure a higher population leads to a faster depletion of finite natural capital, which is highly concerning.

    But you need worry far more about India’s population getting rich than Australia’s population getting large; the latter’s effect on the planet is vanishingly small.

    As far as duncan’s argument to “LOCAL overpopulation”, it is a complete fallacy. The relevant ecosystem for a human is our entire range as a species, i.e. most of the Earth’s surface. Nature doesn’t care about national borders. If we were only a nation of 10 million, but exporting as many commodities to the global economy, we’d be having almost the same impact on the Australian environment, because Agriculture and Mining have such a disproprotionately high effect. The constrains on how much population this nation can support are economic, political, social and cultural. They are not physical. If there were physical restrictions of that nature, Singapore would have been wiped off the map by famine decades ago.

    In my opinion the answer is not to focus our efforts on limiting population growth, locally or globally. Even 1 billion people, on our current trajectories of consumption, would screw up the environment irreversibly, and nothing short of apocalyptic genocides, wars or other catastophes will get us to such a low number. We can and should encourage a slow down in global growth rates by the effective and morally excellent means of educating girls in the third world, but that makes no difference to where our migration policies should be.

    Nor is it a good idea to focus on keeping every non-Westerner living in poverty, because foreign economies are going to grow regardless, and also poverty sucks immensely.

    Instead we need to make the entire global economy structurally sustainable. We need to build upwards instead of sideways, to get power from uranium and the wind instead of coal, to grow more corn rather than more cattle feed, to desalinate and recycle sewage rather mine groundwater supplies, to buy fewer things made of plastic and more things made out of megabytes, until we reach something close to equilibrium with our physical environment.

    Now personally, I think the best strategy for getting to that point is to help existing poor people to get richer, including by letting them migrate. This is a gamble, because they will consume more resources, but they will also produce more ideas. A person migrating to Australia tomorrow means on average more carbon emissions for the next 20 years, but also more scientific papers, and more inventions. Does the benefit of the latter outweight the cost of the former? What is the ultimate effect on carbon emissions over 200 years? I think migration is a win on the environmental cost-benefit, but I think its reasonable to have a differing opinion (however the case for migration is strong enough on other grounds that I still think it is compelling.)

    So you can disagree about what is the best strategy to pursue. But environmental arguments which claim that keeping the local population small is clearly desirable, or that making the global population small is even possible, are wrong.

  31. But SB, how will our policy stop them from getting on boats?

    A minor detail.

    He just wants boat people to do it correctly – you know, buy a plane ticket, come in on a tourist visa, and disappear.

    Like the 500 new boat people we got from World Yoof Day.

    If this method is made easier, then there’s less incentive to give the plane-ticket money to a people smuggler, who could well turn out to be brown.

    Unless we can get the average population spread to 5/sq.km (it’s 3 atm), the “F*** Off We’re Full” slogan will start wearing thin.
    Especially if the bowl of vanilla ice cream starts to accrue the occasional choc chip.

  32. Splatterbottom

    Lykurgis: “He just wants boat people to do it correctly – you know, buy a plane ticket, come in on a tourist visa, and disappear.”

    What I actually said was: “The point is to have a system that deals with refugees quickly and fairly and doesn’t induce them to risk death to get here.”

    This involves going overseas and dealing with the refugees on the spot. and it means radically increases the services available to them so that when they get here they have some hope of fitting in.

  33. mondo rock

    While their sentiments are better than Howard’s they certainly kill more refugees.

    This has been a very difficult thing for me to accept, but it is the truth. My preferred boat people policies have directly led to a massive spike in boat arrivals and a corresponding increase in refugee deaths. Worse still, they have acted as an incentive for refugees who would otherwise wait for resettlement through formal channels to get on a boat and risk their lives.

    By those measures my previous position has been an utter disaster, and I have been proven quite conclusively wrong. I still condemn Howard’s politics around the issue as disgusting dog-whistling, but there’s little doubt that he achieved a better outcome overall than Labor’s good intentions have.

    I hate admitting I was wrong – I mean I really hate it – but denying reality in order to sustain an illusion of personal infallability seems somewhat futile.

  34. “My preferred boat people policies have directly led to a massive spike in boat arrivals and a corresponding increase in refugee deaths. “

    I wouldn’t be so quick to concede that. Have you seen the global figures? There’s a world-wide spike over the same period, not just in Australia. That our increase has matched that indicates that it’s no more than the “push” factors at work.

    But, if we want to look for alternative hypotheses, how about this: the repeated (and inaccurate) claims by Australian media figures (especially in News Ltd) that we are extremely generous to refugees, have made coming by boat far more attractive than the minor change in policy would justify. It’s this constant “soft on boat people” line by the Opposition and its cheerleaders that give refugees the idea that coming by boat is preferable to waiting.

    The figures indicate that the increase is due to no more than global and regional push factors, however.

  35. Jordanrastruck, you raise lots of points. Firstly “people living at higher population densities consume proportionally less scarce and valuable natural resources for the same level of per capita well-being”. I’m not sure this is true. Are you able to substantiate this? I would think that you would need to destroy just as much habitat to feed higher pop. densities and provide resources and energy for them to survive. I would think that any savings in ”household physical footprint” would more than be offset by factors distance from supply of produce ($300 per barrell), a larger and less transparent and energy intensive supply chain.

    “I want to see the development of viable means of farming fish”. Well you may want it but that is different to having it. Fish farming as we know it is not sustainable and very harmful. Farmed fish eat smaller fish which have to be taken from the ocean in giant amounts. Your meme so far is proving inadequate in this area, and of course it’s the challenge of feeding the ever growing population that’s driving us into the unsustainable area of fish farming.

    “I want rainforest preserved for tourism and research, rather than cleared for timber and beef.” (and you could add man’s repacious desire for palm oil, another thing our memes seem incapable of stopping) Again, want is one thing, but despite several decades of knowing the problem man seems incapable of destruction of our earth’s lungs. An example of the march of population destroying habitat, causing massive species extinction and a huge driver of climate change.

    Re India etc, true in one sense that advance societies use more carbon and resources, but with economic prosperity comes a much lower birth rate.

    “As far as duncan’s argument to “LOCAL overpopulation”, it is a complete fallacy. The relevant ecosystem for a human is our entire range as a species, i.e. most of the Earth’s surface.” I strongly disagree with you on this point, simply because you and I can do didly squat about the world’s population growth. We simply have no influence on it. But we can control population in this country simply by adjusting immigration rates. Sure, nature doesn’t respect borders, but the impact on our ecosystems in this country will be fundemuntally different if we have say a population of (for example) 15 million compared to 75 million. That is fact. Re your comment on pop. of 10m using the same resources, strongly disagree. With 10m people you simply wouldn’t need anywhere near the same level of mining and agriculture to be self sufficient or have a +GDP because the infrastructure demands on a smaller population are a lot less. You wouldn’t have the labour force to be able to do it to the same level in any case, and of course it’s the urban spread of a large population to causes much of the habitat destruction.

    “Nature doesn’t care about national borders.” It certainly does if the national border are an island, such as ours. It is because it is an island that our biodiversity is so unique, and worth protecting. We’ve only been here for tens of thousands of years, but most of our animals have evolved here over millions of years. Population growth is the great threat to our wild life and biodiversity..

    “Instead we need to make the entire global economy structurally sustainable.” A nice thought but we can’t even factor in the price to the cost to the environment in manufacture and disposal of goods, so I don’t like our chances. Whilst the power elites running multinational corporations (and hence governments effectively) have competing interests with the environment it simply aint gunna happen.

    I think we are past the tipping point, and calamity is inevitable, and man simply won’t be able to out muscle nature, memes or no memes. I heard a scientist state the other day that we will need more food to feed the earth’s population over the next 40 years than man used in the last 8000 years. In the meantime, it behoves us to look after what we can, and in our case that is our continent, and population growth is the largest factor in the mix that we can control.

    Of course population levels are not high on the agenda within our political system because they are driven by the wishes of the business elites, and a growing population is what business will fight for.

  36. jordanrastrick

    I’m not sure this is true. Are you able to substantiate this? I would think that you would need to destroy just as much habitat to feed higher pop. densities and provide resources and energy for them to survive.

    Its true for energy, I believe largely because of reduced demand for transport and heating/cooling, and for land, because Sururban and Rural populations use more land to house people than Urban ones, not just to grow their food. Its probably false for the inputs that go into iron and concrete, since cities have so much of those, but they are much less scarce.

    Look up the county-by-county figures on per-capita energy consumption in the U.S., for instance. The boroughs of New York are light years ahead of very good reason.

    I would think that any savings in ”household physical footprint” would more than be offset by factors distance from supply of produce ($300 per barrell), a larger and less transparent and energy intensive supply chain.

    The supply chain is larger, less transparent, but vastly more efficient. An apartment dweller’s food gets to the supermarket via Trucks and even Shipping Containers, and then takes a short car, bus or walking trip to the point of consumption. Most people living in an outer suburb or a the country drive many kilometers to get to their food supply. The food may travel many fewer miles, but it feeds commensurately fewer people. The amount of oil burned per kilogram of food consumed is a lot higher outside of citites.

    Your meme so far is proving inadequate in this area, and of course it’s the challenge of feeding the ever growing population that’s driving us into the unsustainable area of fish farming.

    True. But the rate of improvement in aquacultural technology is mind blowingly impressive, largely because we have the example of land based agiculture to learn from.

    Again, want is one thing, but despite several decades of knowing the problem man seems incapable of destruction of our earth’s lungs. An example of the march of population destroying habitat, causing massive species extinction and a huge driver of climate change.

    Yes, but deforestation occurs in poor countries. In places like Australia and the U.S., the land set aside to be preserved wilderness has been trending upward for a long time. The simplest approach here is to buy Amazonian rainforest, which I also advocate, and to let people from South America migrate here, which is the whole point I’m making.

    Re India etc, true in one sense that advance societies use more carbon and resources, but with economic prosperity comes a much lower birth rate.

    Sure. So if we let Indians migrate here, global population growth falls.

    I strongly disagree with you on this point, simply because you and I can do didly squat about the world’s population growth. We simply have no influence on it.

    Our influence is relatively small but still reasonable in absolute terms. Nonetheless I’m the one arguing targeting population growth is the wrong way to go about environmentalism. There is still a case for shifting the burdens, though. Are the ecologies of Bangladesh or Egypt or Belaurs worth preserving? I guarantee they are under higher human population pressures than Australia.

    Re your comment on pop. of 10m using the same resources, strongly disagree. With 10m people you simply wouldn’t need anywhere near the same level of mining and agriculture to be self sufficient or have a +GDP because the infrastructure demands on a smaller population are a lot less.

    Self-sufficiency is a political question. We produce far more food and minerals than we need; they are exported. Redraw lines on a map to make Australia, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand one country, and we’re probably closer to a state of “self-sufficiency.” Did we solve any environmental problem? No.

    Unless we expect a massive reversal in the globalisation of trade, why does it matter where the world’s food is produced? We are an economy of interconnected specialists, not isolated self-sufficient individuals or groups. If we all continued to grow our own food at the level of the village like in the old days, we really would have starved to death long before population reached the 1 Billion mark.

    It certainly does if the national border are an island, such as ours. It is because it is an island that our biodiversity is so unique, and worth protecting.

    There is a case that Australian environment is more important to preserve because of its unique qualities than that of most nations. But it still doesn’t justify how underpopulated we are relative to the rest of the world. Get back to me when we have 50 million people, and eat all of our own agricultural output instead of selling it.

    A nice thought but we can’t even factor in the price to the cost to the environment in manufacture and disposal of goods, so I don’t like our chances.

    Then we’re doomed, so we may as well give up now, because you won’t be able to cause a significant decline in global GDP or population. At least, not without a scenario far worse than the problems we’re trying to solve.

    I think we are past the tipping point, and calamity is inevitable, and man simply won’t be able to out muscle nature, memes or no memes.

    I don’t think there’s any credible evidence to support this line of thinking, despite its popularity. What do you think are the failure points? Keep in mind climate change, widely acknowledge to be the most serious environmental problem facing us, isn’t thought to become a really serious problem for another 40 or 50 years by the actual scientists who study it.

    Do you think we can achieve so little to do any good in that time frame? In 1960, computers had only just been invented, no person had ever been beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, and it was widely assumed global population was about to attain its maximum sustainable level, of about 3 billion, less than half what it is today.

    In the meantime, it behoves us to look after what we can, and in our case that is our continent, and population growth is the largest factor in the mix that we can control.

    I’d rather realistically acknowledge where our serious problems lie and then go about trying to fix them if its all the same to you, since every prominent Malthusian prediction in history has been falsified so far. Fatalism is only a useful mindset when its overwhelming clear there’s nothing you can do to make your situation better.

  37. Splatterbottom

    Jeremy I’d like to see global figures that mirrored Australia’s, both in the pre-Pacific Solution high level, the drop to almost zero and then another massive increase. Have you got any references?

  38. Jordanrastruck,
    “Its true for energy”. If it is true, then only by a small percentage. No matter how you dice it, even if you squash people up you still have to feed them and find additional GDP for them through increased industry. Any tiny gains you may get from squashing them up won’t stave off pressures from population growth.

    “The amount of oil burned per kilogram of food consumed is a lot higher outside of citites.” A lot higher? I’d dispute that. When I was a jackeroo near Cunnamulla many moons ago I would use no fuel butchering a sheep or milking the cow.

    “But the rate of improvement in aquacultural technology is mind blowingly impressive, largely because we have the example of land based agiculture to learn from.” Land based agriculture won’t change the fact that fish eat fish.

    “Nonetheless I’m the one arguing targeting population growth is the wrong way to go about environmentalism”. Enviromentalism is all about maintaining biodiversity, and maintaining terestial biodiversity is all about maintaining habitat. Human population growth is the cause of habitat destruction, pure and simple. The effects of population growth on marien biodiversity is just as savage.

    “Are the ecologies of Bangladesh or Egypt or Belaurs worth preserving?” Of course. “I guarantee they are under higher human population pressures than Australia.” So?

    “Unless we expect a massive reversal in the globalisation of trade, why does it matter where the world’s food is produced?” For many reasons but I’ll pick one. Why is a massive reversal in trade out of the question? We’ve lived in idyllic conditions since WWII, but Australia would be more exposed than most countries if shipping were stopped. The less self sufficient the more vulnerable we are in global catastophe, especially in this country.

    “But it still doesn’t justify how underpopulated we are relative to the rest of the world.” You forget that most of the continent is desert, with small intermittant rivers and old very thin infertile topsoil.

    “Get back to me when we have 50 million people, and eat all of our own agricultural output instead of selling it.” Why wait till then? Sounds very dangerous to me. Aren’t you advocating increasing population for no purpose?

    “Then we’re doomed, so we may as well give up now, because you won’t be able to cause a significant decline in global GDP or population. At least, not without a scenario far worse than the problems we’re trying to solve.” Agreed. Until the cost to the environment is built into production then I see no possible outcome than the destruction of the environment. Perhaps this is a negative meme we have that can’t be overcome.

    “What do you think are the failure points?” Impossible to predict, and there are multiple scenarios. There will be events totally unexpected and not predicted, as is usually the case with large events. I suspect oil will be the first cab off the rank. It will happen quite quickly; in years, not decades. It will have huge geopolitical implications and wars. It has the potential to cause large scale famines (fuel, fertilizers, shipping, collapsing economies).

    I wish I could share your optimism. It’s all quite fascinating from lots of perspectives. Personally I think a weakness in our particular civilisation is how man has elevated himself above other animals and nature. We are after all just one result amongst many of natural selection. It will be interesting to see what happens….although the rather inconvenient fact of death means we won’t get to see much of the show.

  39. jordanrastrick

    If it is true, then only by a small percentage. No matter how you dice it, even if you squash people up you still have to feed them and find additional GDP for them through increased industry.

    My U.S. Data was sourced from a Museum exhibit in New York. So its been hard to track down. But here is one paper that talks about this kind of analysis – mainly focused on putting the methodology on a firm footing.

    http://www.sipa.columbia.edu/research/energy/researchprograms/urbanenergy/documents/Parshall_et_al_USUrbanEnergy.pdf

    Page 22 has a finding that’s pretty strong support for density helping with energy consumption:

    Although urban areas are responsible for the majority of direct fuel consumption, they tend to consume less fuel per capita (Table 6). The differences are most pronounced for more restrictive definitions of urban such as counties with urban character, Census urbanized areas, and metropolitan counties with more than 1 million people. Based on
    these definitions, per-capita energy consumption in urban areas is 13-16% lower compared with the national average.

    In comparison, achieving 16% less carbon emissions by population control instead of urbanisation would mean well over a billion fewer people on this planet.

    And keep in mind that people in dense urban areas are a lot richer than people in rural areas. If you could successfully compare the energy consumption of people who spend the same amount of money, the city dwellers would look even greener. I suspect a lot greener, but I don’t know if anyone has crunched the numbers to get a figure.

    The analysis is analogous for food miles, because the point is it doesn’t take a lot of oil to move a lot of food a long way, if you’re packing it into ships bigger than skyscrapers. Cities give you more bang for your buck, because the people are tightly packed, and so you don’t have to burn energy moving them great distances. Moving stuff great distances to the cities works better, because stuff can be crammed into shipping containers, whereas people tend to want air-conditioned car seats when they travel.

    Land based agriculture won’t change the fact that fish eat fish.

    Yeah, but those fish eat algae, seaweed, and plankton. At a pinch, we might be able to convince them to eat grass.

    I won’t be surprised if we drive salmon and tuna to extinction, but it seems clearly possible that we can continue to eat them without doing so, if we’re prepared to pay more, and do some research.

    Again, want is one thing, but despite several decades of knowing the problem man seems incapable of destruction of our earth’s lungs.

    Solutions that involve preaching to Brazilian ranchers that their livelihoods are immoral don’t work (what’s that Western Scientist? You say I’m almost doing as much damage to the environment as you? That’s terrible! Oh, Greenpeace activist, sorry – I couldn’t hear what you were saying about the carbon emissions I cause over the noise of the aeroplane that brought you here. Please go on).

    Solutions that involve giving Brazilians better economic options than ranching are much more likely to enjoy success.

    Human population growth is the cause of habitat destruction, pure and simple.

    No. Technological progress towards goals that didn’t value the environment has caused damage, in some ways by raising our population but in various other ways as well. We wiped out the Woolly mammoths and the Australian megafauna and all the rest with a scant few hundred thousand hunters armed with spears and the rest.

    I suggest changing our goals toward valuing the environment, and letting technological progress proceed in a direction that will help preserve nature rather than help destroy it, that will move our species away from parasitism toward symbiosis.

    On the other hand the only overpopulation advocates that I consider honest enough about the implications of their beliefs seem, like you, to suggest accepting we’re doomed to die, and giving up any pretence of planning for the future. But if we really are going down and want to live in the moment, we should be burning all the oil to throw a massive party before we wipe ourselves out, not trying to minimize the damage to a single continent (life will recover and thrive once we’re gone in any such apocalyptic scenario.)

    For many reasons but I’ll pick one. Why is a massive reversal in trade out of the question?

    Its not. I spent a fair portion of the GFC afflicted by a nagging paranoia that humanity was about to do what it did after the two previous largest global economic downturns – revert massively to protectionism, and then fight a World War.

    Personally, my concern was more focused on Australia getting nuked by the CCP in this scenario than the idea the world might run into food supply problems.

    We’ve lived in idyllic conditions since WWII, but Australia would be more exposed than most countries if shipping were stopped. The less self sufficient the more vulnerable we are in global catastophe, especially in this country.

    I prefer countries to be economically interdependent, precisely because it makes it harder for them to go to war with one another.

    If a massive reversal of globalisation occurs, its far more likely China or Indonesia et al will invade us and take our food, than that we will peacefully starve.

    Agreed. Until the cost to the environment is built into production then I see no possible outcome than the destruction of the environment. Perhaps this is a negative meme we have that can’t be overcome.

    Possible, but I doubt it, since human history is the story of the gradual triumph of positive memes over negative ones.

    Impossible to predict, and there are multiple scenarios.

    If a theory can’t make a prediction, it is unscientific by definition.

    There will be events totally unexpected and not predicted, as is usually the case with large events.

    These events that are totally unexpected and unpredictable – do we have any information about them whatsoever?

    Are you sure they aren’t positive – a discovery of a new type of oil on the seabed that doesn’t emit C02 when burned?

    Are you sure they don’t demand a higher population to safeguard against? If an asteroid is coming to wipe us out, surely we need to get a colony on Mars going ASAP. If its a virus that will kill all but the 1% of the population with a certain genetic mutation, don’t we want to ensure the 1% is a large enough number to carry on civilisation?

    If you’re completely unable to characterise what the threats look like, how can you possible advocate which policies are the most effective way to deal with them?

    I suspect oil will be the first cab off the rank. It will happen quite quickly; in years, not decades.

    So you are, actually, willing to make a prediction? People have been predicting peak oil any second now since the 70s. Why, in particular, are you confident it will happen in years and not decades?

    Does synthesising oil from coal count towards our total quota? Because we already can do that, and a company in South Africa does it commerically. Its just not hugely profitable while the stuff can be pumped out of the ground cheaply.

    It will have huge geopolitical implications and wars. It has the potential to cause large scale famines (fuel, fertilizers, shipping, collapsing economies).

    Yes. But because container ships are huge, it doesn’t take many to move all of the world’s cargo, so there aren’t many oil engines to be replaced with electric or nuclear ones.

    Fuel is an issue, but again, Tesla has, on the market, a car that goes 0-100km/h in zero seconds or whatever it is rev-heads care about, with a many hundred of kilometer range, that runs only on batteries. GM is selling a car that uses a battery for most of the time with an internal combustion engine as backiup. Fuel efficiencies in vehicles have been trending strongly upwards for ages, and the only thing that’s kept consumption high is that consumers responded by buying bigger cars…..

    Do you think people will continue to prefer SUVs to hybrids when oil hits its catastrophic $300 or $500 or whatever per barrel mark? I mean yes consumers are stupid, but I’m not sure they’re that stupid. I’d nudge them with a revenue neutral tax /subsidy on vehicles based on their fuel efficiency, myself, but I’m sure the Tony Abbott’s of the world would rather we wait for the market to give them a more decisive shove.

    Fertilizers are the main unsolved problem with an oil shortage. Its the last on the list because cheap food is less of a priority for a rich and selfish world than cheap airfares. I don’t expect it to stay unsolved indefinitely, but maybe I’m just a hopelessly irrational optimist.

    Economic collapses, wars etc are second order effects from the hypothetically devastating price rises for the above goods, so I won’t bother addressing them separately.

    I wish I could share your optimism. It’s all quite fascinating from lots of perspectives.

    My optimism is actually rather cautious; my main concern is to scream at the pessimists that they are often scared about entirely the wrong things, and that false alarms over non-crisis situations diminishes the chances of successful action to limit the real threats.

    I didn’t go for 89 rounds trying to get Splatterbottom to budge an inch on climate change for nothing.

    Personally I think a weakness in our particular civilisation is how man has elevated himself above other animals and nature. We are after all just one result amongst many of natural selection. It will be interesting to see what happens….although the rather inconvenient fact of death means we won’t get to see much of the show.

    To view homo sapiens as more special than we really are, or as less special than we really are, both make for dangerous delusions. Treating us as analogous to rabbits or amobea when modelling our population falls into the latter category.

    Environmentalists typically overplay our potential to do harm and underplay our potential to do good when it comes to nature. This isn’t the best strategy to prevent harm, because people who agree becomes resigned to the false idea that there’s nothing we can do, and people who disagree become convinced proposed solutions to “non-existent” problems will make us worse off. Instead, people should be asked to accept the honest reality of the issues, and challenged into taking responsibility for our failings and addressing them.

  40. “The term Carrying capacity just muddles the issue because it has a real biological sense that’s essentially meaningless in this context. The global carrying capacity of homo sapiens sapiens is either a couple of million people total, or else somewhere likely well to the north of say 30 billion, and changing rapidly. Either way, applying it to australia is silly.”

    What is silly is suggesting ghat our planet could possibly support a population of 30 billion. The term carrying capacity is entirely appropriate when discussing the number of animals who can thrive within a closed system with finite resources. Global population, pre industrial revolution, had stabilised at about 1 billion, not a couple of million as you have claimed.

    “I think to start with it will force the population to accept something that governments have been too pissweak to prepare them for, i.e. that they need to start buying electric cars.”

    And electric tractors, electric container ships, electric aeroplanes…

    And how exactly are coal oil (the manufacture of which uses huge amounts of energy) and electricity going to replace the massive quantities of fuel, fertilisers and pesticides (made from oil btw) which are required to feed our already bloated population, let alone your ridiculous fantasy of our planet being able to support an additional 24 billion people.

    “why Carrying Capacity is completely misunderstood and misapplied in the context of human population policy debate, even (or especially) by scientists who should know better:”

    What background in agricultural science or resource management do you have JR, that you feel qualified to declare these “scientists who should know better” as being wrong, while you, incredibly, understand the issue perfectly?

    “uranium and the wind instead of coal”

    We have only 100 years of provable uranium reserves at current use, which provides 6% of the electricity we use globally. So replacing coal, oil, gas w/ nuclear and a shirt load of wind and solar farms buys us about 10 years at our current population. Nuclear power is not sustainable, unless you are one of these “but we will invent fusion” cornucopians.

    “to grow more corn rather than more cattle feed”

    Irrigated corn and soy bean cropping is responsible for the depletion of many of the worlds aquifers and topsoil, damage to waterways from run off, habitat destruction, colony collapse disorder etc.

    Rain fed pasture based animal production systems on the other hand are extremely efficient ways to produce high quality protein on land unsuited (for various reasons) to annual cropping.

    Recycled and desalinated water is not economical for irrigated agriculture btw, the volumes involved are too massive, so using recycled and desal water for irrigation would result in serious increases in food prices (oh, and damage to the soil and ground water through slow, steady salination)

    Oh, and a big YEP to almost everything Gordicans has said in this thread.

  41. SB
    What I actually said was: “The point is to have a system that deals with refugees quickly and fairly and doesn’t induce them to risk death to get here.”

    Such as making them buy a plane ticket, come in on a tourist visa and vanish – the only current alternative to Marie Celeste?
    No risk of death at all. And very fair indeed to those who tend to already speak English.

    SB
    This involves going overseas and dealing with the refugees on the spot. and it means radically increases the services available to them so that when they get here they have some hope of fitting in.

    And who’s going to pay for all that? YOU???

    So, spending a modest sum on stopping the teeming hordes of PLANE PEOPLE (the source of nearly all of our illegal aliens) is not a priority.
    The priority is copping the staggering bill for sending people to every conceivable corner of the planet to stop potentially brown types from getting on leaky boats.
    Or building vast commission estates and/or jail camps for those that DO get in.

    A great big new tax if I ever saw one.

    We have 3 people per square kilometre, and the much-maligned “boat people” are taking the jobs that you or I won’t touch with a barge-pole. Let ém come. Fly ém in if we have to – much cheaper than sprawling jail camps.

  42. Splatterbottom

    Lykurgis as usual you are are just making shit up and feasting on it. Some of it has sprayed into your eyes and coloured your vision which is why you seem so fixated on “brown people”. People are people.

    You obviously get off on the prospect of people drowning at sea. I don’t. If you were actually capable of stringing together a logical argument I would reply in more detail.

  43. Jordanrastrick, re. your section on energy consumption in urban areas, it only relates to energy. It doesn’t relate to other resources required for increasing populatin that lead to habitat destruction. Even though you may get marginal energy savings from ‘compressing’ people, you still have to feed them and provide industry for their employment and to pay for their infrastructure (hence the government’s population ponzi scheme).

    Especially in this country, it is increased food and industry requirements of a growing population that lead to habitat destruction. ‘Squashing’ people into urban centres with marginal energy savings is NOT going to change the fact that increasing population = increased habitat destruction= reduced biodiversity.

    “I suggest changing our goals toward valuing the environment, and letting technological progress proceed in a direction that will help preserve nature rather than help destroy it, that will move our species away from parasitism toward symbiosis.” I concur. Sounds like an excellent endoresement for Bob Brown’s policies, but look at how he is vilified in the murdoch press and blogs as someone who wants to ‘destroy our lifestyle and standard of living’! In this country he is typecast as an economic vandal and a crazy man. Why? Because he is interested in protecting the environment. I’m not sure how we achieve this when the interests of the environment and business are in such conflict. A few weeks ago Barnaby Joyce was spruiking the great benefits of Cubbie Station without any argument against him. The environment is totaly left out of our economic model which is why we have a problem Houston.

    “…like you, to suggest accepting we’re doomed to die, and giving up any pretence of planning for the future…”. No way, I’ll keep arguing against the ‘big australia’ ponzi scheme and for our biodiversity to be protected. [Aside, more power to Geoffrey Cousins (his fight with Rio looks like it might be fun)]

    “Possible, but I doubt it, since human history is the story of the gradual triumph of positive memes over negative ones.” Completely subjective and the weakness in your population argument.

    “If a theory can’t make a prediction, it is unscientific by definition.” What theory predicted for example the assasination of Archduke Ferdinand, the spannish flu epedemic, Mao’s policies that starved millions, the Indonesian pogroms or 9/11? AGW is sound theory founded on very good science but we still can’t predict from this good science what the overall effects will be on man and biodiversity in say 100 years time. And even though AGW is sound and the effects are bound to be catastrophic, man hasn’t been able to organise a co-ordinated response to it. The only response to it has been by individual nation states.

    “If its a virus that will kill all but the 1% of the population with a certain genetic mutation, don’t we want to ensure the 1% is a large enough number to carry on civilisation?” 1% of current population is a lot more than what was in Africa 80,000 years ago. Imagine the delight of future anthropologists! They’ll spend years trying to work out what ‘Kevin 07’ means.

    “People have been predicting peak oil any second now since the 70s.” Correct. They’ve been predicting peak oil to occurr about now for some time.

    “Why, in particular, are you confident it will happen in years and not decades?”. The info is pretty much all available on this. I trade technically and the chart of the oil price over the last 20 years is pretty clear. The public react to the day to day price. Later there will be much forehead slapping and shredding of shirts. Government is nearly as bad (eg. what is the current government contigency plan for when oil is >$200 per barrel? It’s likely they won’t have one). Are we better off with a large population or smaller population with oil triple the current price?

    “Does synthesising oil from coal count towards our total quota?” I don’t know anything about this topic. How much does it cost to get a barrell of oil out of coal is the crucial question. As the price of oil goes up, they will move to more expensive oil, which is why Canadian oil sands is happening big time. Oil production is impossible once the energy required to mine a barrel of oil is a barrel of oil.

    “I didn’t go for 89 rounds trying to get Splatterbottom to budge an inch on climate change for nothing.” I tips my lid.

    Have you read Dawkins “The Greatest Show On Earth”? I highly recommend.

  44. mondo rock

    The figures indicate that the increase is due to no more than global and regional push factors, however.

    Sorry Lefty but I cannot agree: boat-arrivals in Australia have jumped by more than 3,000% since Rudd softened the laws. Unless global boat arrivals have increased by a comparable amount then I can’t see how the figures support a conclusion that domestic policy has had no impact.

  45. “Despite a 99-plus per cent safe SIEV arrival record, it suits Government, Opposition and some refugee activists to foster a public myth that these crossings are highly dangerous, when all known facts indicate they are normally quite safe and successful.”

    http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=26217

    It seems numbers of arrivals here peaked this time in 2010 according to this:

    http://unhcr.org.au/unhcr/images/EMBARGOED%20-%20UNHCR%20-%202010%20Asylum%20Trends%20Report.pdf

    (Pg22 of 40)

    They have been dropping since.

    And according to B Keane here:

    http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/05/04/our-shrinking-asylum-seeker-problem/

    they have dropped significantly further this year.

    The best I can tell from unhcr stats for this year is that he is right.

    So the peak occurred and passed a year ago – that indicates push factors are more responsible than any change in govt policy. Esp if you compare the industrialised countries rates for Sri Lanka which shows something happened there to cause peaks in asylum applications across the world, the peak appears to last 1 to 2 quarters and appears first in australia, later in the year in the US and later still in Europe.

    Let the boats come, end detention, cept for perhaps a week of quarantine and medical checks and let asylum seekers live in the community, perhaps in hostels at the current detention centres with no restrictions on movement. This isn’t just a waste of cash its a national disgrace/embarrassment.

  46. mondo rock

    I want to believe you’re right jules, but my inner voice of reason is still telling me to be cautious about your conclusions.

    For example assertions that people smuggling boats are a “safe and successful” mode of travel seem significantly counter-intuitive to me (to put it mildly).

  47. jordanrastrick

    What is silly is suggesting ghat our planet could possibly support a population of 30 billion.

    Its a made up number, just as alleged carrying capacities of 1 billion or 30 million or 15 trillion or seven are made up numbers.

    My intuition is that 30 billion is likely a lot closer to the mark than 1 billion, but for prudential reasons I advocate aiming to stabilise the population at or somewhat belows its current UN projected peak of 9-10 billion, since that’s clearly pragmatically achievable and is close enough to where we are today that we have meaningful data to discuss the effects that’s likely to have. To this end I think we should encourage the slowing of global population growth by the most cost-effective known means, i.e. univerals education for girls in the third world.

    The term carrying capacity is entirely appropriate when discussing the number of animals who can thrive within a closed system with finite resources.

    Yes.

    Global population, pre industrial revolution, had stabilised at about 1 billion, not a couple of million as you have claimed.

    Why on Earth did you arbitrarily allow the technology of for example the Agricultural Revolution into your “carrying capacity” sum, but forbid that of the Industrial Revolution? There’s no way 1 billion hunter gatherers could live on Earth. “In nature”, humans are hunter gatherers. Your figure is way more divorced from the biological understanding of animals in their ecosystem than the couple of million number I essentially pulled out of my arse precisely to demonstrate why these figures are not grounded in hard science.

    And electric tractors, electric container ships, electric aeroplanes…

    Biofuel aeroplanes ala Richard Branson might be a better idea until people put the same kind of R&D into combustion-free flight as has gone into combustion free motoring.

    And how exactly are coal oil (the manufacture of which uses huge amounts of energy) and electricity going to replace the massive quantities of fuel, fertilisers and pesticides (made from oil btw) which are required to feed our already bloated population, let alone your ridiculous fantasy of our planet being able to support an additional 24 billion people.

    Oil is used as an energy source largely because of its portability and the ease of burning it in vehicle engines, not because its cost effective on a kiloJoule for kJ basis. So Elecricity can act as a decent substitute for oil’s energy role in the economy (you’ll note that electric cars take a lot less kiloJules, c02 emissions and dollars to send a given number of kilometers. They’re just more expensive to build, because they’re a newer technology.)

    Once the energy demand for oil is gone (and coal for that matter), supply is freed up for fertilizers, plastics etc. In the longer term we need agriculture that doesn’t require fossil fuels at all, because even the coal will run out one day. But I’m proposing solutions to get us through this century because its useless worrying about 2200 if we’re never going to get there.

    What background in agricultural science or resource management do you have JR, that you feel qualified to declare these “scientists who should know better” as being wrong, while you, incredibly, understand the issue perfectly?

    Only deluded ideological fools understand issues perfectly.

    I’m perfectly willing to have my views on carrying capacity corrected by an expert refutation of them, or a convincing amateur one. I don’t know if actual experts would disagree with me or not, since I’ve never had a chance to talk to one – I only refer to the (probably highly sensationalized) reports the media makes on what certain scientists say about human population, and also the a couple of well publicised examples of biological scientists whose failure to understand the differences between humans and non-human animals led them to repeatedly and publicly make famous and utterly false predictions on population trends. Elrich is the most well known of these – his refusal to update his theories in light of empirical data is grossly unscientific, despite his qualifications – but there are others.

    It is abundantly clear that you haven’t bothered to read my blog post on the term and my objections to its use, or that you didn’t put any effort into understanding it, presumably because you prefer to reflexively disagree with me. If you want to debate this point further, please address what I’ve said about it rather than point out my relative lack of qualifications in a rather weak attempt at an appeal to authority.

    We have only 100 years of provable uranium reserves at current use, which provides 6% of the electricity we use globally. So replacing coal, oil, gas w/ nuclear and a shirt load of wind and solar farms buys us about 10 years at our current population. Nuclear power is not sustainable, unless you are one of these “but we will invent fusion” cornucopians.

    This is a common view about uranium (and other mineral resources), but it is wrong. It is based on two misunderstandings about what provable reserves mean.

    First, provable means “we have looked and found it.” Unless by an incredible coincidence all of the Earth’s uranium is concentranted excluisvely in the locations where humans have dug big holes, there is more than what we have actually seen under the surface. Science predicts that it is the laws of geology, not humans digging, that causes minerals to be located in certain places in the crust.

    Second, proven reserves are premised on current prices. Demand for uranium is currently low because people prefer to use coal. If you take the coal away, demand for uranium goes up, which causes its price to go up, which makes it profitable to open mines in more places.

    These two factors are why the peak oil predictions keep creeping into the future (although we will obviously catch up to the prediction eventually)

    Wikipedia has a graph that gives a nice summary of these issues with respect to Uranium, at:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium_market

    The projected figure of “Total ore resources at 2004 prices”, namely a supply equal to 1500 years of current consumption, is a much better indication of how long we could plausibly expect to rely on nuclear energy than the 80 year “currently known resources at current prices” one.
    Irrigated corn and soy bean cropping is responsible for the depletion of many of the worlds aquifers and topsoil, damage to waterways from run off, habitat destruction, colony collapse disorder etc.

    Rain fed pasture based animal production systems on the other hand are extremely efficient ways to produce high quality protein on land unsuited (for various reasons) to annual cropping.

    Sure. Forcing land that’s marginal for crops to support them by overusing topsoil and groundwater is unsustainable. Meat is a better choice on certain terrain.

    However, at the moment the meat to crop ratio is too high. We over irrigate for some food staple crops, but most of all we farm animals for meat and dairy using plants grown on land that could produce many more vitamans and essential amino acids, per hectare, per megalitre, etc, by growing legumes or grains for direct human consumption.

    Recycled and desalinated water is not economical for irrigated agriculture btw, the volumes involved are too massive,

    Yes. So we need to cut back a lot on heavily irrigated crops that don’t produce calories, such as cotton (better artifical fibres would help make this palatable to consumers.) And we need significantly more water efficient irrigation systems, for which the tech exsits but in many countries is simpy not utilized at all while water is handed out as if it were free. And we need R&D into making recycling and desal more efficient to increase supply further. And we need to try to prevent climate change, and also plan to adapt to it by shifting water intensive production out of areas where rainfall will go down and into areas where it will go up.

    Oh, and a big YEP to almost everything Gordicans has said in this thread.

    I assume this is meant to be read as “everything Goridcans has said except those unfortunate bits where he showed some interest in or similar thoughts to Jordan’s perspective”?

    😛

    Jordanrastrick, re. your section on energy consumption in urban areas, it only relates to energy. It doesn’t relate to other resources required for increasing populatin that lead to habitat destruction.

    No, it doesn’t. Land to live on and energy are scientifically well understood to be both consumed substantially less by city dwellers, and to impact heavily on natural habitats. Hence, I focused on them in arguing that urban density can help reduce the burden on the environment. Anyone who thinks denser cities are is a total fix instead of just one part of a wholistic approach is silly.

    Especially in this country, it is increased food and industry requirements of a growing population that lead to habitat destruction.

    We export over half our food production, so I don’t understand how this can possibly make sense. If you mean to argue that the Chinese, Japanese etc people who eat that food are a threat to our environment, I agree; this goes back to my earlier point about national boundaries and self-sufficiency being the wrong things to focus on. The economy is global in scope, and thus so are its environmental impacts. Clearly, stopping people migrate here is the wrong “solution” to this particular “problem”; instead, we should ban our farmers from exporting and let the rest of the world deal with its own food problems. Is that what you advocate?

    By Industry I assume you mean manufacturing, in which case the opposite argument applies. We don’t make most of our own stuff; it is magically imported from a place with an environment we’re absolved of any responsibility for, hurrah.

    I concur. Sounds like an excellent endoresement for Bob Brown’s policies, but look at how he is vilified in the murdoch press and blogs as someone who wants to ‘destroy our lifestyle and standard of living’!

    Many of Bob Brown’s policies are excellent on this front – carbon pricing, water allocation reform, very fast train infrastructure – although the Greens’ are badly muddled: for instance they argue that moderate net immigration is a negative, and that nuclear is terrible for the environment and for the economy (it is neither.) They also have problems identifying the best means to achieve their ends – they should have supported Kevin Rudd’s original CPRS, not helped force a second election over the issue; a bad political miscalculation. Of course there’s a big ideological commitment to transparency and representativeness etc, which Jeremy loves to talk about. But in trying to convince voters that a complex idea like carbon trading is a sensible measure, disunity is death. Abbott is currently winning this argument by being wrong about the evidence but having the unanimous support or silence of right-wing MPs. The current state of media bias doesn’t help.

    What theory predicted for example the assasination of Archduke Ferdinand, the spannish flu epedemic, Mao’s policies that starved millions, the Indonesian pogroms or 9/11?

    None did, and with the possible exception of the flu epidemic, there is currently no branch of science that could plausibly predicy any of these things. We understand people, individually and as collectives, a lot less than we understand other phenomena. This is precisely why modelling our own population growth is harder than modelling other animals. In fact, it may be fundamentally impossible….

    AGW is sound theory founded on very good science but we still can’t predict from this good science what the overall effects will be on man and biodiversity in say 100 years time.

    Yes, we can. The predictions have a lot of uncertainty, but they definitely exist. Read any of the IPCC reports. There is a not a vague unknowable threat that the planet will get hotter; it is quantified, studied, explained in terms of what we know about planets and clouds and C02, and well-defined projections about likely future scenarios are made.

    Climate skeptics want to push the line that AGW is not science. Its sad when even environmentalists take that notion on board, even if they use different words to express the idea.

    And even though AGW is sound and the effects are bound to be catastrophic, man hasn’t been able to organise a co-ordinated response to it. The only response to it has been by individual nation states.

    Actually, this failure to act is a simple enough phenomeon that there is a basic model that predicts it in the social sciences. Specifcally Public Choice Theory, which explains why certain collective action problems (doing something that gives all or most of its benefits only if everyone else does it too) are hard to solve. The Prisoner’s Dilemma is at the core of the idea; in fact that was discussed in the epic argument SB and I had about climate change action once.

    Correct. They’ve been predicting peak oil to occurr about now for some time.

    There are some respectable authorities who believe it has already occured. This could be true.

    If the world ends in 10 years, it ends. But as per my reply to duncan, I believe most of the necessary substitute technologies to prevent this being a crisis for rich countries are already commercially available on the mass market – electric cars, grid power, unconventional extraction for non-energy needs.

    The info is pretty much all available on this. I trade technically and the chart of the oil price over the last 20 years is pretty clear. The public react to the day to day price.

    Are you sure you’re not just curve fitting? Its one thing to see that a price has a particular trend line, and another to have a plausible, falsifiable theory that explains it. Markets have an excellent track record of confounding the expectations of everyone who presumes to understand them scientifically.

    Are we better off with a large population or smaller population with oil triple the current price?

    Hard to say. Easy to say that the world will be better off, regardless of the oil price, with more people in Australia and fewer in other places. We have a more robust society than most.

    I don’t know anything about this topic. How much does it cost to get a barrell of oil out of coal is the crucial question. As the price of oil goes up, they will move to more expensive oil, which is why Canadian oil sands is happening big time. Oil production is impossible once the energy required to mine a barrel of oil is a barrel of oil.

    This all correct except for the last line, which is an idea I believe originating with physicists who like to think that all of economics can be reduced to the study of the laws of thermodynamics. Which actually it maybe can, in the limit of large timescales, but that’s a scientific unification which doesn’t currently exist, and is also irrelevant for policy decisions

    Extracting oil is already not energy efficient, as I pointed out above to Duncan. If oil were valued only for its Joules, we wouldn’t bother with the stuff. We like it because it contains energy, is portable and compact, and burns easily in carriage sized contraptions; and we use it because we like it and because the process of extracting it doesn’t cost much money (partly because it doesn’t cost much energy, but other inputs like Labor, Land, machinery etc are also relevant.)

    Even when oil starts to take energy close to what burning it gives, it will remain more desirable than coal to use in cars or planes. However the lithium-ion battery is changing this equation rapidly. Once it definitely takes a lot more energy, its unlikely to be used as a fuel, but there’s no reason we can’t keep making fertilizers out of it.

    Have you read Dawkins “The Greatest Show On Earth”? I highly recommend.

    No. Only The God Delusion, and fragments of the Blind Watchmaker and the Selfish Gene.

    In my opinion he’s an amazing exponent of fundamental biological theory (if a bit weak outside his domain of expertise), so I’ll have to check it out.

  48. I think jules’ assessment is pretty spot on – except for the safety of the boats. They are, obviously, boats that can be sacrificed, ie they are never coming back , and so tend to be the oldest and the least valued vessels.

    It is clear that there is some degree of ‘pull’ related to Govt policy. The TPV debacle demonstrated that – the numbers of women and children on boats jumped dramatically after that policy change. And the limits of ‘pull’ factors are demonstrated by the introduction of mandatory detention way back in the 1990’s – the number of boat arrivals continued to steadily increase in the years after this policy ‘innovation’.

    And there are perverse factors – there is a fair arguement that part of the increase in boat arrivals in the ‘Tampa era’ was partially due to Indonesia’s unhappiness over the East Timor situation.

  49. Mondo, although that type of boat travel may seem intuitive dangerous by our standards of travel, the distances aren’t all that great and it’s a relatively mild ocean compared to other regions. Even old diesel engines are very reliable and Indonesians build very good sea boats. Although disaster is always on the cards, the odds of making the journey are very high and the risks very favourable compared to the risks in an Iranian jail or being a Tamil trying to feed your family.

    Opposition (and sadly now government) spokesmen like Morrison always trot out the dangerous card. It’s pure spin and quite clever. They need a hook like this that sounds humane to appeal to people’s emotions to justify policies that are inhumane. The truth of the matter is that the liberals couldn’t give a flying toss whether it was dangerous or not. What they would like to see is more boat arrivals.

    Wikileaks confirmed this when it disclosed that a liberal politician told the US Ambassador that the libs are hoping to see more boat arrivals. Our politics is in a very sorry state.

  50. jordanrastrick

    Sorry for the excessive Cornucopianism sidetrack everyone. Of course immigration policy including refugee numbers has to reflect ideas on population, but refuting the bogus “carrying capacity” argument is only a small apart of the overall picture….

    Thanks for the honest admission of your own uncertain views Mondo, not to mention SB’s advocacy of setting up capacity to process refugees overseas. These views kind of reflect where I sit regarding the desirability of forcing people to travel to get here. It’ll be reassuring if I can be convinced by Jules figures concerning safety once I’ve had a chance to read them, and I’ve always been generally wary of using a quick “correlation = causation” to prove that “pull factors” are significant compared to push. But I think there are other good reasons to put smugglers out of business by creating a legal market for refugee migration in the neighbourhood of the source nations.

    It stops the transfer of wealth from the desperate to what are in many cases criminal elements. It makes life easier for the poorer countries that lie between us and the refugees, and also keeps refugees from having to suffer their less humane approaches. It provides two potential savings on the costs to taxpayers – there’s clearly no need, even politically speaking, for the Australian government to build prisons in Pakistan to house the Afghanis refugees already there; and if we sell visas for a price similar to what people smugglers charge, we’d probably get a fair stream of revenue.

    The queue doesn’t really exist, as anyone who’s looked into the issue knows. Fine. Lets set one up. It will be unmanagable to process it on merit (i.e. need) alone, so let some combination of need, willingness to pay an entry fee, and likeliness of being able to live successfully in Australia, be the criteria.

    Thus we can largely bypass the broken part of International law (i.e. that travel to a signatory country is a pre-condition of having a serious chance of being resettled) and set an example to the rest of the world. All whilst saving taxpayer’s money, and without having to necessarily increase our overall migration intake if we don’t want to.

    My actual policy for solving the problem has another element to it, but this is the first part.

  51. “…biological scientists whose failure to understand the differences between humans and non-human animals led them to repeatedly and publicly make famous and utterly false predictions on population trends.” Is the difference you refer to the one where you claim animals don’t have memes? I think you may be wrong on that score. A lot of fish migration is not hardcoded genetically. Hump back whale singing could be called a meme.

    In your blog I’m confused by the way you use ‘phenotype’ which makes your hyopothesis harder to decipher. You state “The model assumes that two important things are fixed: the environment, and the nature of the organism (technically, the species’ phenotype).” Are you saying the phenotype is the environment and the nature of the organism, or phenotype is just the nature of the organism. Do you understand the difference between genotype and phenotype?

    Also “Thanks largely to Darwin we understand that phenotypes also aren’t fixed.” Well, not really…I hate to split hairs but its quite common for organisms to have identical genotypes but with vastly differing genotypes.

    “Clearly, stopping people migrate here is the wrong “solution” to this particular “problem”; instead, we should ban our farmers from exporting and let the rest of the world deal with its own food problems. Is that what you advocate?” No. I propose reducing our migration substantially so that cities such as Sydney and Melbourne don’t develope into 10 million person monsters with development from Newcastle to Wollongong (in Sydney’s case) gobbling up everything in their paths and well beyond.

    “Oh, and a big YEP to almost everything Gordicans has said in this thread.” Duncan is a highly intelligent and admirable fellow.

    “We export over half our food production, so I don’t understand how this can possibly make sense.” Increasing population means increasing GDP requirements which means increasing agricultural expansion. A stable or declining population would enable government to more easily allow government to place more stringent demands on the agricultural sector to look after the environment, and still export 50%. eg. dynamiting Cubbie Station damns and levy banks.

    In any case, a high immigration policy harms the source country not helps it as you state, because it denudes the source country of it’s best and brightest. It is an odious position to take morally. You could counter by saying ‘lets take others rather than their best and brightest’ but you and I know that that aint going to happen in the real world.

    Agree with a lot of what you said on Greens, although ‘muddled’ is overstating it. It makes perfect sense to me to put nuclear energy should be in the mix and argued purely on economic grounds (with a cost of carbon of course). You did better than me on population. I went right through their website looking for a policy on population, and after much searching found a motherhood pdf statement that didn’t say anything. Just about every problem we face in this country has population size and growth at it’s root, so it seems odd to me that the Greens have no obvious policy. I sent to an email to Lee Rihanon some months ago asking why but didn’t get a response.

    “Of course there’s a big ideological commitment to transparency and representativeness etc, which Jeremy loves to talk about.” Noam Chomsky’s ideas are illustrative on why this is so (and also what is wrong with our two major political parties).

    On oil, cars, and direction of cities interesting piece on last saturday’s science show podcast on radio national. Also on Sat 23rd great podcast on peak oil.

  52. whoops, rather than writing “I hate to split hairs but its quite common for organisms to have identical genotypes but with vastly differing genotypes” I meant to write:

    I hate to split hairs but its quite common for organisms (even humans!) to have identical genotypes but with vastly differing phenotypes.

  53. jordanrastrick

    Is the difference you refer to the one where you claim animals don’t have memes? I think you may be wrong on that score. A lot of fish migration is not hardcoded genetically. Hump back whale singing could be called a meme.

    I already was thinking of doing a follow up post along these lines actually. A lot of animal behaviour is not hard-coded, and I agree some animals have what you might term proto-memes – behaviours encoded in some mixture of genetically-transmitted and socially-transmitted information.

    However, in humans, its obvious that memes have broken into some critical threshold, existing “out in the wild” – governed by a distinguishable layer of abstraction on top of the biological substrate. If every member of our species vanished into thin air, aliens with brains and memes of their own similar enough to allow cross-pollination could come, study our artifacts, and learn from our ideas. There is something measurable about us that exists, that is in a relationship to, but independent of, our DNA, that is at the heart of every word you ever speak and every artificial object you ever touch.

    If all the physical copies of Whale DNA went away tomorrow, no one would ever learn what Whale songs mean, unless they had a human made MP3 recording of them.

    Do you understand the difference between genotype and phenotype?

    Yes, but that wording was a hurried addition to clarify I was talking about species wide evolutionary change (which affects genotype and phenotype), not a non-transmittable change to an organism. I should have said genotype.

    To be honest the whole species idea, which isn’t very robust in the context of modern theory it seems, I think confuses the issue (and me :P). There are organisms; there are gene sequences; there are approximately reasonable taxonomies of organisms, and also of gene sequences, and interesting mappings between organisms and their genes, which leads to other interesting mappings between the organism taxonomies and genome taxonomies.

    No. I propose reducing our migration substantially so that cities such as Sydney and Melbourne don’t develope into 10 million person monsters with development from Newcastle to Wollongong (in Sydney’s case) gobbling up everything in their paths and well beyond.

    Every person whose migration is from lower density to higher density – and the majority is – frees up land. You see the urban sprawl of sydney, but you’re ignoring the 20 hectare property that person lived on previously in regional WA or in Ethiopia.

    Of course the US provides the wonderfully illustrative contrast between New York and LA, and how a similar number of people can be comfortable housed by building upwards instead of sideways. Sydney should keep getting bigger, and would due to internal migration alone; “No Vacancies” signs don’t work. The question does it become New York big or LA big.

    Increasing population means increasing GDP requirements which means increasing agricultural expansion.

    Unless migrants all move to cities and get jobs in sectors other than agriculture, and the size of the agricultural sector as a proportion of GDP continues to shrink regardless of migrants live. Which has been the global trend, since not long after the Agricultural revolution when we found that the food surplus from farming meant there was economic room for jobs other than food production.

    Look at Agricultural production as a proportion of GDP over time in any country for which there is long term data, from any reliable source you want. Try to find a correlation between population growth and a reverse in this trend, somewhere. The truth is the reverse. Its the increasing efficiency (lack of scarce resources required) in our techniques of food-getting, since the days we first made stone axes to butcher game better, that has allowed population to get this big.

    In any case, a high immigration policy harms the source country not helps it as you state, because it denudes the source country of it’s best and brightest. It is an odious position to take morally. You could counter by saying ‘lets take others rather than their best and brightest’ but you and I know that that aint going to happen in the real world.

    I used to think this, and advocate high unskilled migration and low skilled reaction. I read a study refuting the view, and changed my mind.

    In short, the study focused on two effects. Demand for skilled migrants puts upward pressure on wages for people with skills globally. The main mesurable effect is to increase incentives toward education – the best and brightest nurses from the Phillipines get jobs in rich countries, but this encourages the government to build schools and the kids to attend them and they actually end up with more nurses of their own than would otherwise be the case.

    Second, migrants remit huge sums of money. Its a higher amount than government sponsored foreign aid, and it works better because it bypasses the often corrupt overseas governments and ends up as cash directly in the hand of a migrant’s relatives who go on to spend it on things they really need like food or medicine or textbooks.

    You did better than me on population. I went right through their website looking for a policy on population, and after much searching found a motherhood pdf statement that didn’t say anything.

    It seems to be in flux. When I last looked for one it was cautiously opposed to population, advocating zero net migration. However it used to be stronger toward the view I disagree with.

    I sense some people in the Greens, being believers in both Social and Economic human rights, sense the contradiction between “People threatened by genocide or religious persecution should be allowed to move here” and “People threatened by hunger or unemployment shouldn’t be allowed to move here”. So they are trying to move the Greens away from their previously anti migrant stance. But old ideological self contradictions die hard. Hence, the lack of any meaningful outspoken policy on this.

    Noam Chomsky’s ideas are illustrative on why this is so (and also what is wrong with our two major political parties).

    Could you explain how? I prefer to pay attention to Chomsky’s theories on grammar which are consistently insightful, rather than his political views which seem to be much more variable in quality.

    On oil, cars, and direction of cities interesting piece on last saturday’s science show podcast on radio national. Also on Sat 23rd great podcast on peak oil.

    My dad played me part of a New York Public Radio podcast on cities, viewed as living things, that was amazing.

    On cars, the most interesting developments are not viable electric motors, which we now have, but self-driving cars, which we’re on the threshold of having. This has the potential to revolutionise not just the energy consumption of transport but many other relevant economic characteristics.

  54. “However, in humans, its obvious that memes have broken into some critical threshold, existing “out in the wild” – governed by a distinguishable layer of abstraction on top of the biological substrate. ”

    You are falling into the trap (that we have all been brought up to believe )that humans are somehow different and seperate to other animals. It’s complete crapp.

  55. “If every member of our species vanished into thin air, aliens with brains and memes of their own similar enough to allow cross-pollination could come, study our artifacts, and learn from our ideas.”

    Now you are starting to worry me. Aliens? There are a billion planets in our solar system, and a billion solar systems, so the likelyhood of other life is if not high then real. But they are so far away we are essentially alone.

  56. “Yes, but that wording was a hurried addition to clarify I was talking about species wide evolutionary change (which affects genotype and phenotype), not a non-transmittable change to an organism. I should have said genotype.”

    I’m not convinced that you do actually understand the difference between genotype and phenotype, and if so makes your blog a crock of sheet. Please define both (and not by looking it up post mortum).

  57. Gordicans I think when Jordan refers to “aliens” its in the metaphorical sense that they could arrive 2 years after we wiped ourselves out with neutron bombs and left everything else intact, and if they were similar enough work out stuff.

    There’s be obvious places to start like Pi, the periodic table, various numerical and physics concepts, and if they were similar enough physically even the concept of a “chair” (One of Dawkins opriginal examples wrt “memes IIRC) would make sense.

    Humans leave signals in the environment in a much more permanent way than most animals and those signals are often more weighed down with symbolic meanings than most animals, ie with stuff that can be coded or decoded.

    But honestly try as I might I’ve got a case of tl;dr

  58. “If all the physical copies of Whale DNA went away tomorrow, no one would ever learn what Whale songs mean, unless they had a human made MP3 recording of them.”

    This is an example of the disrespect you have for non human species, and your lack of respect for biodiversity. Are saying that humans are more important and better than whales? To be frank I’m gobsmacked by such an ignorant position.

  59. jordanrastrick

    I am genuinely distressed at how we seem to have gone so quickly from being seemingly on a similar wavelength to “me starting to worry you” and my blog being “a crock of sheet”. I will try to ease your mind.

    Humans are not separate at all, but we are different. Of course just as every person is an individual, every species has unique qualities, which don’t all warrant making much of a fuss over; but our unique qualities are more interesting and more complex overall.

    If you think we aren’t different, our ability to cause the ice caps to melt, send a CD with our favourite sounds beyond the bounds of the solar system, make laptops and hydrogen bombs, be inspired by a play, and so on and so forth – abilities we have obtained in a timeframe in which other species of similar size, number of cells etc might via evolution do something as radical as changing the shade of their coat – all need to be explained in terms of the same biological theories that predict all those other species.

    I’m not saying there are different natural laws operating – in fact I addressed that point in my post. I’m saying we are a data point that shows biology has to explain species that build space probes, and that this necessitates a more complex set of theories than if you only looked at the data from non-humans. Social sciences, the study of humans, do in a sense reduce to biology, in the same way chemistry reduces to physics. But there are emergent phenomena that it is useful to have a separate discussion about. Chemists are sufficiently specialised in certain field of Physics that they have to learn some seriously different concepts. Likewise, psychologists, anthropologists, economists etc need ideas in their fields that “other kinds of biologists” don’t need.

    Now you are starting to worry me. Aliens? There are a billion planets in our solar system, and a billion solar systems, so the likelyhood of other life is if not high then real. But they are so far away we are essentially alone.

    Agreed. I’m not saying that Aliens exist, and I don’t know how you got to that reading. I was describing a purely hypothetical counterfactual to illustrate the distinction I’m trying to get at – we leave important traces of the information that encodes who we are in physical forms that are NOT built from long chain organic molecules. Only a set of genes, and observing the cellular structures that set of genes leads to the construction of, is really necessary to learn most that is interesting to learn about another species. With a good enough zoo, and a fertilised gamete (or a few different ones for a social species like a wolf or ocra), you can grow a brand new organism and learn most of the important things that make that organism special.

    A human raised completely outside of human society, say by wolves is so radically different from you or I that we have to conclude the social environment matters at least as much as the physical environment or the genes. We could possibly in a couple of hundred years build a silicon robot using no carbon at all and teach it to behave more like you or I than in relevant ways than the monkeys for 3 million years ago that we descend from (again, like the aliens, this is a thought experiment to illustrate a concept rather than a scientific prediction).

    We study the histories of other species by fossils; we study ourselves via archaeology, digging up inorganic things that are nonetheless critical to understanding who we are. In prehistory its hard to distinguish much of an important difference in this indirect stuff; is there really so much especially interesting in a human campsite, versus the burrow of moles, or the colonies of termites?

    With the passage of time the difference – the speed of change – is clearer. Moles live in more or less similar burrows as the ones they dug 20,000 years ago; termite colonies still follow blueprints that are unspeakably ancient. On the other hand, Sydney in 2011 looks nothing like the makeshift shelters we made use of on the Savannah. Its important that we understand why it doesn’t.

    I’m not convinced that you do actually understand the difference between genotype and phenotype, and if so makes your blog a crock of sheet. Please define both (and not by looking it up post mortum).

    Genotype is the information in genes, and phenotype is the big messy organic chemical thing that gets built based on the genotypes blueprint in a process of interaction with the environment.

    That’s off the top of my head, and I’m not a biologist nor claiming to be one, so if I got the definition wrong, you can go back to believing I’m a completely insane fool with nothing relevant to say. But I’m actually just trying to elaborate a little on the basic meme idea that Dawkins, one of the world’s leading biologists, introduced.

    I could have made a purely polemic attack on the “Australia has a 20 million carrying capacity argument because I said so” brigade, ala the Andrew Bolts of this world, and I’d have been right (those figures are made up guesses not solid scientific predictions), although I’d have been contributing nothing useful. The memes are only in the post as I think Dawkins was right to draw the analogy between the processes that drive evolution in life and the processes that drive evolution in ideas, and I think that framing it this way is the best approach to show clearly that we all actually agree that humans are different, because we have genes and ideas, and other species have genes and at best things that aren’t quite as “alive” as our ideas.

    But it must be completely unclear to talk about it in terms of Memes after all, I guess?

    SB has been known to say things like “the idea humans could possibly change the global temperature on a 200 year timescale is absurd.” The subtext is “after all, we are just animals.”

    Duncan has been known to say things like “the idea we can feed more than 1 billion people over a sustained period is absurd.” The subtext is the same – “after all, we are just animals.”

    I say optimists about the environment and pessimists need to confront that they’re both mistaken in the above, by adopting the following common ground: “of course we are animals, but saying we are just animals downplays both our ability to fail badly and succeed impressively based on the attributes that make us unique.”

    We need to study those attributes carefully – just as an individual person needs to understand their own character as well as the general principles of psychology to deal properly with their own shit and thrive. And we are very unusual as far as species go (there might be weirder species out there, but we don’t have evidence for it). And I think memes explain what makes us weird in a way that gels best with classical biology, not surprisingly, since its a biologists’ idea.

    I’ve now devoted as many words to trying to make this clear as I think Jeremy’s blog could possibly contain. If it STILL makes absolutely no sense, either I need to be taken back to the psychiatric hospital, or you’re just not trying very hard to understand me, or we’re speaking different languages or something; because I can honestly assure you I’m trying as hard as I can to express what to me seems like a pretty simple concept in reasonably clear terms.

  60. I don’t disagree with you reflexively Jordan, in fact i often find myself agreeing with you. Just not on this topic.

    “Duncan has been known to say things like “the idea we can feed more than 1 billion people over a sustained period is absurd.”

    I didn’t actually say that Jordan. I implied that we can’t sustainably support our current population, and said that we couldn’t possibly support a much larger population, in reference to your “30 billion” comment.

    I used the industrial revolution population as an example to counter your suggestion that the earth natural carrying capacity was a few million. I used it in the same way you used the example of 30 billion, as an example of a more realistic (in each of our opinions) estimated carrying capacity for earth. With better distribution of wealth, modern plant and animal genetics and better farming practices i have no doubt we could sustainably support a fair bit more than the pre industrial revolution population, just not the kind of population you are advocating.

    “The subtext is the same – “after all, we are just animals.””

    We are not “just” animals, we are quite remarkable animals.

    Animals who can change our environment to better suit us, rather than waiting for evolution to change us to better suit our environment. However, almost all the same natural laws apply to us as do to other animals and natural systems, and the ability to change our environment doesn’t negate the potential negative ramifications of doing so.

    We may be remarkably clever, pants wearing monkeys, but we are still monkeys. And we are at least as as destructive as any other animal who’s numbers reach plague proportions.

    While i sincerely respect your intelligence Jordan, i think you are dead wrong on this particular topic. If you haven’t read it, get hold of Jared Diamonds book “Collapse” It has a lot of really interesting stuff about over population, agriculture and natural resource depletion that would, i feel, clarify the issue for you.

  61. The truth of the matter is that the liberals couldn’t give a flying toss whether it was dangerous or not.

    I don’t dispute that for a second gordicans, but at the end of the day the motivations of the Liberal party are not important. The important issue is striking the right balance between refugee welfare, economic and social prosperity, and adherence to democratic rule.

    I understand the urge to make this all about the Liberal Party or to insist the conversation be characterised as a racist argument (as Lykurgis has done above) – because some of those arguing for border protection are doing so for racist or political reasons. And we rightly despise those people and don’t want to hand them a victory.

    But again – obtaining rhetorical victory over your ideological opponents is not the important issue here. The Liberal argument that boat trips are dangerous and that they are protecting refugees by discouraging them from coming is certainly cynical, and certainly not coming from a genuine concern for refugee safety, but that doesn’t mean it is wrong.

    If your number one priority is simply to prevent any kind of victory for your ideological opponents then you’ll quickly find yourself in a corner being forced to argue weird (and obviously false) things like “people smuggling by boat is actually quite a safe and desireable means of refugee travel”.

    Give up on the ideological warfare gordicans and get back to what really matters – i.e. simply arguing for the best result. I did it, and I feel much better for it.

  62. Siev 221 was the boat that sank off Christmas Island, it was the 222nd boat (counting SIEV X) AFAIK less than 5 of those have sunk. The loss of life on those boats wasn’t AFAIK 100% on any occasion. More bopats have arrived since, I’m not sure how many. So how dangerous is this crossing?

    For the people who died or were badly hurt v dangerous sure, but statistically how bad is it? – cos it seems on the face of it to be a 95% + chance of making it safely, possibly 99% or more depending on how you do the numbers. Compared to life in a refugee camp how dangerous is that actually? In real terms.

    At this point it doesn’t seem that dangerous to me but I’m open to other opinions.

  63. mondo rock

    I guess if I was resigned to the fact that a particular policy would act as an incentive for people smuggling I could only continue to support that policy by convincing myself that people smuggling isn’t such a bad thing after all.

    I honestly applaud you jules for at least maintaining a consistent position on this issue.

    Personally I operate from an assumption that people smuggling is undesireable and dangerous, and as such I am unable to support policies that act as an incentive for it. For me a 5% (or even 1%) chance of death or serious injury amongst boat arrivals is acceptable – that’s a few too many dead people.

  64. mondo rock

    Apologies – that last sentence should read: “For me a 5% (or even 1%) chance of death or serious injury amongst boat arrivals is unacceptable – that’s a few too many dead people.

  65. I could only continue to support that policy by convincing myself that people smuggling isn’t such a bad thing after all.

    It depends I suppose, to say all people smuggling is bad would be entirely wrong, that would make Oscar Schindler a baddy. To assist somebody in escaping persecution or death as far as I can see is not bad, even if people do it for a profit (we pretty much all accept pay for our efforts). No doubt in my mind, as someone pointed out earlier, the kingpins are evil bastards profiting from others misery, but the ones we lock up are possibly almost as desperate as the asylum seekers.

    And when a politician declares that someone is the scum of the earth (Dietrich Bonhoeffer?), I switch off! They never attack the CEOs of tobacco companies who peddle death for profit.

  66. Yeah but compared to the options is it?

    BTW Accurate figures would be appreciated because I dunno if its one percent or less or more.

    Also given those decisions are made by other people outside our jurisdiction about their own welfare its kind of irrelevent how we feel. You might think that journey and its high 90% probability of success as too dangerous, but you aren’t in any position to really make a call on it. Neither am I. You might consider it “unsafe” and maybe fair enough, but that person over there is already as or more “unsafe”, emotionally and psychologically until they are resettled or return home to a genuinely safe environment wrt to their persecution/war etc etc. No matter how physically safe they are in a camp. (and that itself is debatable)

    You may be thinking about it in isolation but for them its part of a continuum that includes directly fleeing for their lives.

    I appreciate the idea that the only real way to do this is regional processing, but that has to be done seperate to our current political climate. This issue won’t go away, it’ll only get worse. The only effective way to “stop the boats” is to have fast efficient processing for all refugees in the entire SE Asia Pacific area.

    That wont happen while its attatched to the baggage of our current political climate because it will seen as associated with the idea that we don’t like refugees and don’t want any whether ultimately thats true or false. And cos everyone else is gonna be between “us” and “them” (the refugees) they are be cynical about the whole thing and possibly not motivated to act.

  67. jordanrastrick

    Humans leave signals in the environment in a much more permanent way than most animals and those signals are often more weighed down with symbolic meanings than most animals, ie with stuff that can be coded or decoded. But honestly try as I might I’ve got a case of tl;dr

    Despite the fact that I am writing too much on this topic – my usual reaction when frustrated because I feel I’m being misunderstood – that’s pretty much on the money jules, thanks.

    I didn’t actually say that Jordan. I implied that we can’t sustainably support our current population, and said that we couldn’t possibly support a much larger population, in reference to your “30 billion” comment.

    I know, sorry, I exaggerated your position to make a rhetorical point. However implying that the carrying capacity of the earth to probably be 1 Billion, the pre-industrial revolution figure, would entail that feeding substantially more than that on a long term basis is completely impossible. I’m throwing out numbers for others to refute; but my main point is that everyone else’s numbers are just as made up as mine.

    It is scientifically meaningful to talk about carrying capacity in other species, for reasons I outlined on my blog post. The term only applies to humans in a much vaguer, less rigorous sense, which is why I object to it – it lends a false air of authority to a figure which is inevitably a stab in the dark. Guesses at what the value could be must reference an implicit model of how our population grows; that model, to be accurate, has to be more sophisticated than models of growth for other species. Furthermore at the moment any guess its going to be more hypothesis than reality, because unlike with bacteria or even wolves we lack both the theory to understand whats going on and the data to properly test our theories.

    I used the industrial revolution population as an example to counter your suggestion that the earth natural carrying capacity was a few million.

    I only picked the few million number as a wild guess at our hunter-gatherer level population, since memetic change and population growth were both so slow then that the number at that time is the best example you’re ever going to get of a human “carrying capacity” without peaking a fair way into the future with a time machine. Humans in their natural state – when they were more similar to other species – did have a population level that was more or less stable for a very, very long time; you can only hunt and gather so much food from the global ecosystem, and our ancestors’ numbers reflect that. They had no technology that significantly altered the environment enough to change the maximum available population.

    Since that time, technology has been getting better faster than the population has been growing; the maximum number of people that can be fed, in the short term at least, has been outpacing the exponential growth of the population itself. Of course this process could crash to a halt; but its absurd to ignore this phenomena when considering population levels. Which is why demographers,and other human population experts, allow for such trends in their (incredibly “loose”) predictions.

    We are not “just” animals, we are quite remarkable animals.
    Animals who can change our environment to better suit us, rather than waiting for evolution to change us to better suit our environment. However, almost all the same natural laws apply to us as do to other animals and natural systems, and the ability to change our environment doesn’t negate the potential negative ramifications of doing so.

    Thank you for agreeing with the common ground between optimists and pessimists that I’ve been trying so hard to point out, and which gordicans seems to reject outright. You’ll note that while I’ve been more explicitly Cornucopian in my views here, my blog post emphasises that its perfectly reasonable to think human population is more likely headed toward zero than toward 20 billion – I’m just saying we’re all going off intuition and guesswork. Even when a qualified scientist like Tim Flannery, who likely knows more about animal populations than I ever will, makes a statement on this topics, its not authoritative. He’s guessing just as much as I am. Its questionable even whether his intuition, shaped by studying non-human organisms, helps or hinders him from guessing correctly. Now I’m freely admitting my numbers aren’t based in anything like solid science; I want people on the other side of the argument to do the same.

    While i sincerely respect your intelligence Jordan, i think you are dead wrong on this particular topic. If you haven’t read it, get hold of Jared Diamonds book “Collapse” It has a lot of really interesting stuff about over population, agriculture and natural resource depletion that would, i feel, clarify the issue for you.

    I”ll check it out. I hope to be receptive enough toward pessimistic views to be able to take them on board accurately, because I think getting a more accurate idea of where our population is headed will require incorporating the insights of those who think we’ll be fine and dandy with those who think we’re doomed.

    I certainly don’t believe there is a magical inability for us to go extinct, as per some Cornucopians, just because we have memes. Regular evolution lead to plenty of dead ends, species that died when they couldn’t adapt to changing conditions. I’m sure memetic evolution can do the same, that bad ideas can lead us to fuck things up faster than good ideas cans save us.

    But I’m hopeful that our memes aren’t that maladaptive, than the they’re evolving towards a local maximum that isn’t just spreading humans like a cancer over the face of the earth for a few short years. I think the fact that we’re even having this debate is proof that we can become vastly more conscious of the need to protect the environment, and that is the most important step; applying ourselves to fix a problem is relatively easy once we’re convinced that it is serious. That’s why I think we’re seeing the incredible leaps in environmentally beneficial technology, and to a lesser extent other ideas like policies, that we are. We will continue to get better in these areas – fast enough to save us from complete disaster, I feel, although we will no doubt suffer some pain on the way.

  68. jordanrastrick

    Getting back to refugees, Mondo, jules, I really agree with both of you on this.

    A system that leads to people taking even a 5% or 1% chance of drowning with their children while trying to escape their situations is unacceptable. However people arguing about “pull” factors are arguing to incentives – that refugees rationally want to come here for intelligent reasons to do with our “lax” system. If that’s so you’re acknowledging the refugees are judging that’s a risk worth taking, as jules is pointing out – which implies that for a large number of people at least, such a huge gamble is worth it. Does that mean that they are monsters with no respect for the sanctity of their own life and in cases that of their children? Or does it imply that their situations are so awful that it makes perfect sense for ordinary humans to take these risks while we continue to make it their best shot at escape? I think any non-xenophobe has to accept the latter – there is precisely zero evidence that Tamils or Afghanis (or any other historical group of refugees) are cold, callous arseholes who consider only economic opportunity and don’t care if it means that their kids drown. In that case, we are surely morally obliged to remove the incentive to take the risk not by encouraging people to stay where they are, since that’s obviously hellish if they prefer the current alternative, but instead by giving them a better option.

    In that context, what do you think of my idea of letting people pay cash to join an actual queue of refugees? Sell the product, a shot at refugee status in Australia, that at the moment smugglers have a monopoly on. Papers that prove your identity and make it easier to process you will help get you through the queue quicker, so your incentive is to keep them not destroy them. I think the market price of being smuggled to Australia is something like $5000? And that reflects a high chance to drown. Imagine if we took that money, and spent it on helping the refugees integrate into our society, and building infrastructure to support the numbers?

    I know the objection is that its not fair on people who don’t have any money, and we should probably continue to take a few of the most needy on the UNHCR’s recommendation. But at the moment those with no money can’t get here anyway, so they’re losing nothing under my plan.

  69. mondo rock

    I agree with most of what you’re writing, Jules and Rob: people smugglers are not all evil mosnters, refugees do make their own choice to get on a boat and we cannot expect to fully understand their decisions.

    My counter would merely be to note that the actual boat trip to Australia cannot be properly characterised as “fleeing for their life” as the danger from which they are fleeing (assuming they are genuine) is far away in their home country. They make the boat trip here as the last stage of their journey, not the first, and I would prefer we find a way to make that last stage as safe and orderly as possible.

  70. Mondo – maybe the solution lies in SB’s suggestion, my version would be that we (Australian Public Servants) go to Malaysia and start processing claims and work to resettle refugees far far quicker. It would cost loads but so does the mean spirited solutions from Howard and now Gillard, they’re expensive and cruel, I’d prefer expensive and compassionate. I imagine the years of waiting in a nation that doesn’t have a good reputation regarding human rights is a big incentive to jump on a boat.

    My beef is with the Govt, spending zillions to get Malaysia to sort out our (the worlds) problem. Surely Australia is in a better position to expediently process claims than Malaysia (even though we don’t)

    Anyway, I reckon this is one of the more constructive, less bitchy debates we’ve had… Go us!

  71. Splatterbottom

    Jules: “The only effective way to “stop the boats” is to have fast efficient processing for all refugees in the entire SE Asia Pacific area.”

    This is the critical point. The problem is not going away until we face up to the fact that we cannot and should not act like dogs in a manger, keeping Australia as an underpopulated oasis while hundreds of millions live precarious and endangered lives. I do not know by what right we can maintain this position of splendid isolation. We are now in a position to manage that process, hopefully retaining the good features of our society. We should take that opportunity. It is the only decent thing to do.

  72. jordanrastrick

    SB, bravo. Since I feel more strongly about migration than nearly any other issue, I think I probably would vote you into office over any other person here, despite our differences on other matters. You make the humane, compassionate, progressive case as to why we need to let substantially more people into the country extremely well. Our irrational fears that they will overwhelm our culture with their weird religion or destroy the great barrier reef or Kakadu by their presence, and so on and forth, are just that – irrational. Our cultural values have great strength; what woman could grow up in Australia and engage with our society, and still prefer to let her daughter be circumcised? And if you and I are capable of doing a better job of looking after our wildlife, isn’t any other human being?

    Whether from the left wing or the right, these are all excuses, to protect us from the fundamental truth that we got here first and are quite comfortable with this wonderful privilege, thank you very much, and anyone else who wants to share it can just fuck off. Some people accuse the anti-migration case of being founded in racism, which is true in some cases, but I think its mainly just selfish; we think they might put our house prices up a little higher or make our elective surgery waiting lists a little longer; woah is me, isn’t life in Australia in 2011 so dreadfully difficult! Let the hungry and the meek and the poor and the unemployed stay where they are, for our problems are worse than theirs.

    No offence intended to those of you who here who do oppose migration; I think our whole discoursed is geared toward getting people to accept bad arguments against it, so its easy to come across one you find convincing. But I plead with you to honestly ask – do you actually think letting 300,000 people in a year will lead to an end to democracy, our economy, or our food supply? Do you it really ranks highly on threats to our ecosystems? Do you think these those risks are big enough to justify telling 300,000 people a year who would desperately love to become Australians that they don’t pass muster?

  73. We won’t be able to take anyone – boat people or otherwise into Australia soon if we don’t do something about protecting our best farmland and water resources from mining and residential development. But thats probably a discussion for another day.

    I don’t know what Australia’s “carrying capacity” is now, or what it’ll be when the oil runs out, but in the next 50 years there will be so many people the move that people today will spin out. WHat do we think will happen in Japan for example? How many people will be made homeless there?

    What if that melt down means that part of the world becomes uninhabitable?

    There are plenty of other refugees around the world, and maybe the homeless numbers in Japan are far lower than elsewhere… my point is there is another class of potential refugee not coming from a war zone. That disaster in Japan wouldn’t have figured in anyone’s calculations back in february.

    etc etc

    If anyone has read “Snow Crash” then they might remember the Raft.

    “But I plead with you to honestly ask – do you actually think letting 300,000 people in a year will lead to an end to democracy, our economy, or our food supply?”

    – Jordan

    No, I think it’ll probably strengthen the first two things but food supply is a different story altogether.

    Things like the residential development on the Alstonville Plateau (some of the best farmland on the planet, especially for fruit trees) or the destruction of farmlands for mining purposes pose a greater threat than immigration.

    If we don’t have food security we aren’t gonna feed our population when the oil runs out. Unless we start planning for that soon then inviting people here for humanitarian reasons will be a bit pointless.

    I think humans can be really resourceful and there are ways to get more out of the biosphere, but it won’t be easy and it’ll take a reordering of our priorities. Then again that’ll probably fit with the collapse of the oil based economy. These are some of the issues we need to balance with any discussion of the future of Australia. For example you people that live in cities should really be planting every available space with appropriate fruits vegies and green manures where necessary. That would be a healthy culture to start developing now.

    We may not be able to meet your hoped for carrying capacities Jordan, but I think that issue is independent of whether or not we take any immigration of any sort.

  74. jordanrastrick

    If the following turns out to be true:

    http://www.news.com.au/national/refugees-sent-to-malaysia-will-be-spared-the-rod/story-e6frfkvr-1226072104617

    I’d be interested in knowing what the opponents of the “Malaysia solution” have to say about it.

    For the 800, exemption from punitive malaysian migration law including caning, and six weeks in detention followed by freedom in Malaysia – surely a vast improvement for their wellbeing than spending a year in Villawood.

    For the 4000, resettlement in Australia. I don’t think anyone here objects to that outcome.

    Finally, if the “pull factor” hypothesis is at all correct, and to me the data certainly falls short of disproving it, then we should hopefully see a drop in boat arrivals, which is good for the safety of refugees. Not to mention politically it would be a godsend for the left wing of Australian politics which constantly tears itself to pieces over this issue to the ongoing benefit of John Howard, Tony Abbott etc.

    Is this policy still a moral failing of the ALP? Is it still “no less inhumane” than what the opposition proposes? Should the Greens still fight as hard as possible to prevent it being enacted?

  75. Why can’t I see my comments? I’m logged in.

  76. Trying again:

    “For the 800, exemption from punitive malaysian migration law including caning, and six weeks in detention followed by freedom in Malaysia – surely a vast improvement for their wellbeing than spending a year in Villawood”

    Is the freedom the real deal? ie will they be able to work and earn money? I’ve read the article and I can’t tell, if they can’t earn money they’d be better off in Australia. Otherwise I’ll rethink my stance on what I reckon cobbled together reaction to opinion polls.

    Personally I think the extreme lengths of time asylum seekers have to spend in places like Villawood is disgusting, especially when 95% of them end up being the genuine article. It seems the govt has a bottomless pit of money they can use to obstruct asylum seekers and their eventual inevitable granting of refugee status.

  77. jordanrastrick

    I certainly hope they will be allowed to work and earn money, but surely provided their necessities are taken care of, even just freedom of movement has to be a big win for their mental health. I know how much more I’d prefer to be unemployed than in prison.

  78. “even just freedom of movement has to be a big win for their mental health”

    Yes, thing is how can Malaysia offer them freedom of movement but we have to lock them up? (I get it, Australia has punitive policies to Asylum seekers and I maintain the govt is punitive because they think that’s what the rest of us want (reactionary politics)).

    >I know how much more I’d prefer to be unemployed than in prison.

    Depends on the quality of welfare, I don’t know much about Malaysia but I reckon it would be better to be incarcerated in some places than destitute in others??

  79. jordanrastrick

    Yes, thing is how can Malaysia offer them freedom of movement but we have to lock them up? (I get it, Australia has punitive policies to Asylum seekers and I maintain the govt is punitive because they think that’s what the rest of us want (reactionary politics)).

    It is clear a lot of the “rest of us”, by which I mean voters who aren’t me, really do want punitive policies. So far, no one has managed to convince them of the error of their ways.

    Depends on the quality of welfare, I don’t know much about Malaysia but I reckon it would be better to be incarcerated in some places than destitute in others??

    In the abstract, yes, I think this is possible.

    But I don’t think its likely to be true of Malaysia versus Australia. Detention is very psychologically harmful. And the money we spend on the security systems and the amenities in detention centres aimed at making the lives of detained people more tolerable would surely be better directed toward helping accepted refugees settle here.

  80. So they’ll go to Malaysia and be allowed into the community after 6 weeks, and then a whole bunch will come here, and I presume, be allowed straight into the community.

    But if they come here and don’t go to malaysia they’ll be locked up?

    Meanwhile Abbott wants them to be used for spare parts for people who need organ donations and to be crushed for biofuel?

    I think thats the oppositions policy isn’t it?

  81. what’s with the new layout? I can’t see my comments when they’re posted????

  82. I don’t know – it’s not me, it’s WordPress.

  83. narcoticmusing

    ” I think the extreme lengths of time asylum seekers have to spend in places like Villawood is disgusting, especially when 95% of them end up being the genuine article”

    I couldn’t agree more RobJ – it is stupidly expensive to do this and better for all (the potential refugees and the economy so ergo the public) if they can be good little economic units like the rest of us. I get the security checks in this paranoid world, but once they pass that then that should be it.

    I suppose the complication with those arriving on boats is the lack of papers/identification so even the security check takes longer.

  84. “There’s this bloke, A Kurdish fellow, he’s a real refugee, he’s in Australia just undergoing the final checks. His wife and son arrived too late and are going to be sent to Malaysia to languish for at least nine years!

    Gillard et al are prepared to split up a family of real refugees to prove a stupid point. (There’s a high court challenge, I hope it’s successful)

    The ALP disgust me, they help cattle but not human beings.

    Mondo and Jordan in light of the utter lack of details regarding unaccompanied children and this latest saga where Bowen and Gillard are quite prepared to wreck a family, do you still support the Malaysia Solution?

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