Seven billion people and counting – when will rational thinking prevail?

Alex Dunnin's picture

Last week the media celebrated the landmark birth of a baby girl in India, claiming her arrival brought the world population to seven billion. The event re-kindled age-old concerns that the current global birthrate is unsustainable. Alex Dunnin is still waiting for the rational population debate in Australia to begin.

The world population just ticked over to seven billion people, and the race was on to find just who the lucky person was. Low and behold, it was a child in India.

But don’t tell that to the parents of Danica May Camacho, who was born “amid an explosion of media flash bulbs” and “a celebratory cheer at a packed government-run hospital” in Manila, the Philippines.

Breaking through the seven billion-person barrier isn’t just a shock for planet earth, it also presents big problems for the after life because it is now claimed there are more people alive today than have ever died.

Thank your God we have so many religions to share the heavenly congestion, though I hope they don’t get so squeezed for room that by the time I come knocking and the entry thresholds get raised a few notches.

The excitement over this population milestone highlights the lunacy among the low population advocacy groups that somehow want to limit population growth, and even drive it backwards.
It’s so nonsensical that we have assorted groups trying to credibly argue that Australia’s population could somehow be slashed from the current 22 million to eight million.
How Australia could achieve this - meaning we’d have to unwind 65 years of population growth - is anyone’s guess, especially when we already complain we have too few taxpayers coming through the door to pay the current, let alone future, pension and health care bills.
This is before we even consider the impacts of the medical and pharmaceutical breakthroughs announced last month, that could lift life expectancy among wealthy people able to afford them to 150 years – even longer than Moses lived.
I just hope I live long enough to hear independent Prime Minister Bob Katter junior junior junior announcing the retirement age shifting to 120 years, even though my mind doesn’t want to attempt to imagine what office Christmas parties could be like in the year 2062.
Interestingly enough, that should be about the time the world population begins to stabilise at around nine billion before beginning to fall - so maybe the future is not as gloomy as some futurists have been forecasting.
Confrontational population metrics do have positive aspects, however. They are that we should dismiss bizarre, unachievable notions of Australia reducing its population, and that somehow the world will return to the simpler, more natural place it was centuries ago.
It’s not going to happen no matter how many times the Queen visits Australia, and how much we argue over Prime Ministerial curtsies, and hoping that it will wastes everybody’s time.

Instead, the power play is figuring out what we need to do to manage our way through the next century. A place to start might be to ask what national infrastructure do we need, what will it cost, and why is it that only 4% of Australia’s $1.4 trillion superannuation system invests in such things?
In 2050 our superannuation system will be managing an amount equivalent to five times our GDP, and to not have more of that money invested in holding up the country that funds tax subsidies that sustain it, is madness.
Along the way we have to also confront ridiculous lifestyle goals that have seen Australia become the country with the largest house sizes, among the biggest cars and the least efficient energy footprint.
Swinging a nation into this type of new thinking won’t be easy, but it will happen. All it needs is a few champions highlighting that it’s not committees that change the world but maverick inspired, and at times crazy, individuals.
Thinking rationally about the future is also not as scary as it sounds, but it takes practice. A good place to start is with a book like “The Next 100 Years” by George Friedman. It is about global geopolitics, but books like this show Australians how it can be done.
Alex Dunnin is the Executive Director of Research and Editorial at Rainmaker Information Pty Ltd, a leading financial services industry research and publications group. Alex spearheads research and editorial development across the Group in the role of Managing Editor of Financial Standard. From his beginnings as a high-rise window cleaner and country school teacher, Alex has developed a passion for demystifying anything to do with super, savings and how to make sense of it all. Alex appears regularly in the media and at industry conferences. Prior to joining Rainmaker in 1997, Alex was the director of research at the then Insurance and Superannuation Commission (now APRA). Alex graduated from the University of Sydney in 1987 with specialties in mathematics, psychology and teaching. He can both read and write.