Imagine two nations like two siblings so much alike. Yet their very similarity only serves to highlight an important difference.
Since European settlement Australia and Canada have shared a common self-image: That of a vast empty and fertile land begging to filled up with people. Politicians, land developers, corporations and lately, ethnic lobbyists have all led the charge for growth. Immigration has become the national religion in both countries and the foreign-born, comprising 22% and 17% of the Australian and Canadian population respectively, have achieved almost cult-status in the media and are the centre-piece of national festivities.
But this self-image, the image nurtured by economists and growth advocates, does not conform to the environmental reality of either country. 70% of Australia’s soils are degraded. They are a fossil resource millions of years old, the least fertile in the world. And the water crisis is only getting worse. Canada’s agricultural lands, meanwhile, are only half as productive as America’s, and a third as productive as those of Britain and France. Only 7% of its land surface is suitable for agriculture but the best land has fallen prey to urban sprawl, perhaps up to 20% of Class 1 farmland in BC and Ontario.
But now comes the difference. In Australia the most celebrated environmentalist, Tim Flannery, was at one point bold enough to point out that reality. Australia, he said, should not see itself as “the lucky country”, but rather, “the fragile country”. It was his personal estimate that it could sustain only 6-12 million people and that substantial immigration cuts would have to be the agency of reducing the population from its current size, now 21 million.
Lately Flannery has been eclipsed by Professor Ian Lowe who has identified population growth in Australia, now at about a quarter million a year, as a key factor in land clearance, species endangerment, declining river health and more GHG emissions. Growing numbers and growing consumption work in tandem to degrade the environment.
What then, does Canada’s most celebrated environmentalist have to say about immigration? Apparently nothing. Nada. Squat. A search of David Suzuki’s website http://www.davidsuzuki.org/ found no pages matching “immigration” “Cars” turned up 394 hits, “coal-fired” 70 hits, “urban sprawl” 120 hits. “Population growth”, however, got 24 hits. Not a problem, so long as Dr. Suzuki doesn’t deal with the population growth occasioned by the Canadian government’s mass immigration policy.
When Dr. Suzuki was in Australia last fall, he told the Canberra Times on October 18/2006 that a “clear link” existed between “industrial activity” and the country’s drought---indisputably the consequence of climate change. Add more carbons and weather patterns change. What he didn’t say however, rather typically, was that there was a clear link between population growth, fuelled by immigration, and industrial activity. According to Dr. David Hughes, while Australia’s population has grown 31% since 1990, GHG emissions have grown 30%. Neither Dr. Suzuki nor the environmental establishment have ever been able to acknowledge that correlation. But one cannot separate climate change from the climate changers.
Now Flannery, Lowe and Suzuki are at the apex of the pyramid, what of the base? It would be misleading to characterize the Australian environmental movement as substantially more enlightened than Canada’s. But nevertheless they exhibit signs of superior insight. Three of Australia’s political parties have adopted a population policy. The Democrats and the One Nation party adopted a “Zero net migration” policy. In Canada, on the other hand, a relative handful of people have tried for more than a decade to persuade Ottawa to talk about setting up such a plan. In Australia the flagship environmental organization, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), argued in a 1992 policy statement “to progressively reduce immigration so that the annual target for permanent immigration will be equal to the permanent emigration of the previous year.” It calls for “a government policy to stabilize Australian numbers at a level that is precautionary and ecologically sustainable…” (Policy Statement No.51)
What is the “Population Policy” of the Sierra Club of Canada, our answer to the ACF? “Migration from developing countries to Canada should not be opposed on the grounds that the migrants’ ecological footprints will swell; rather, the ecological footprints of people in Canada should be reduced. The human rights of migrants should be respected.” Translation: Let’s cut our per capita energy consumption in half so that we can then double our population through mass immigration. Native-born Canadians have no human rights to uncrowded parks, neighbourhoods or roads, to clean air or undeveloped farmland. And the human rights of immigrants trumps the rights of wildlife whom they are crowding out by their occupancy of growing subdivisions.
On May 17 of 2006 Immigration Watch Canada subjected the David Suzuki Foundation to “The Litmus Test of all Environmental Organizations”. That test was whether they acknowledged immigration as a crucial factor in the environmental degradation of Canada. Well, they failed it then and they are still failing it now, as are their counterfeit green allies like the Sierra Club. They hack at the branches of evil but they will not strike at its root. Not only will they not challenge growth, they seek to accommodate and “manage” it. “Smart growth” is the oxymoronic palliative that runs through their literature and is their pat answer to sprawl. “It’s not whether we grow, but how we grow” is the common mantra. Rather than turn off the tap, they merely wish to re-direct the water.
Australia has shown us that we have a right to expect more from them.
Links for reference:
Australian Conservation Foundation: “Population Policy for Australia”: http://www.acfonline.org.au/uploads/res_population.pdf .
Sustainable Population Australia (SPA): www.population.org.au/
Australians Against Further Immigration: (AAFI) www.users.bigpond.com/AAFI.htm
One Nation: www.onenation.com.au/
Australian Democrats: www.democrats.org.au
Australian Labor Party: www.alp.org.au/