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Here come the anti-populationists, there go the people

By Malcolm King - posted Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The anti-populationists (anti-pops) say that technology, imagination and creativity cannot alter human destiny and that population, technological progress and capitalism will irreducibly lead us to ruin.

This inchoate movement advocates cutting or halting our population through social engineering. They want to use statistics to measure our carbon output and energy consumption to determine the number of children Australians can have.

This is social biology in action. It posits that we are ruled by biology and, like ants, our society can be deconstructed (as we would a hive) by measuring our chemical processes and our relationship with the environment. Humans are “units” to be measured. All of the anti-pops ideas stem from this premise.


As UK Professor Frank Ferudi says, “These (anti-populationist) environmentalists are fundamentally misanthropic. Their sociobiological stance is arguably more influential today than ever before. It reflects a loss of confidence in human potential and agency and indicates that humanist ideals enjoy little cultural affirmation.”

How do we measure a life and by doing so, place a value on it? It’s not about population. It’s about people - you and me.

Around 2050 our population, Western Europe’s and America’s will decline, as the whole baby boomer generation will have passed on to the Great Gig in the Sky. That’s 7 million people gone in Australia alone. The anti-pops don’t talk about that. Nor do they talk about a global population decline after 2050.

Australia's population grew by 2.1 per cent during the 12 months ended 30 September 2009. Natural increase contributed 34 per cent and net overseas migration contributed 66% to population growth. Net overseas migration now includes international students and "short stayers".

If we cut or curtail migration, which is what the anti-populationists, Senator Cory Bernardi and the Sustainable People Australia lobby want, our population will reel back.

The anti-pops aims in Australia are simple: eliminate maternity leave, the baby bonus, immigration and international students. One direct effect is that women’s reproductive rights would once again come under the policy microscope. Another is that it would massively reduce GDP and the tax base. Our trade position would collapse.


If one reads some of the previous anti-pop contributions in this and other forums, it is hard not to escape the conclusion that this is what they want. Their understanding of modern economic theory, political and parliamentary process, is rudimentary at best. Actually, the anti-pops don’t believe in economics. It’s not, as they say “in their paradigm”. Their focus is on limiting growth or as one critic put it, stunting potential.

They are a curious bunch of people. The more articulate ones are schooled in systems theory (the finite resource argument) while others inhabit the far, far, left of the environment movement where they meet the Hansonite anti-immigrationists and People for a White Australia. Are they racists, misogynists, misanthropes or all three?

The propaganda appeal of the anti-pop argument is simple but powerful and it explains why their emotive appeals have found some favour in the electorate. It requires three elements to work. The first is to create a context where anti-population rhetoric can flourish.

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About the Author

Malcolm King is a journalist and professional writer. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University in Adelaide. He runs a writing business called Republic.

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