The Wilberforce Award: The Population Puzzle

Australian Businessman Dick Smith has just launched the Wilberforce Award for a young person under 30 who can demonstrate “leadership in communicating an alternative to our population and consumption growth-obsessed economy”. The media launch was spicy and the sexy photo shoot may have momentarily inspired a population rise. Maybe not the result intended. But moving our minds above our navels is a must in the campaign for the future of a Sustainable Australia and a Sustainable Planet. The $1million prize is nothing compared to the prize of a Sustainable future!

Details about how to win the award are available on DVD. The first step is to listen to the podcast from “Big Ideas” by Professor Tim Jackson which was delivered before a capacity audience (hmmm… the Prof obviously arrived just in time): Prosperity without Growth

The second step is to inform yourself on the issue of overpopulation as much as you can. You may like to start out with the Links listed on Dick Smith’s site, “which will give you information on a non-growth based sustainable system”. Alternatively, you may like to start out with the Population Puzzle website on .

At the end of last year, I posted a discussion about Overpopulation and the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference that I also translated into French. The English post enjoyed some popularity and was visited almost 2000 times and the French version almost 1500 times. What I perhaps failed to really bring home as the central argument of the discussion, was the idea that we can ethically reduce the world’s population growth by the cheap production and distribution of the contraceptive pill to developing countries who contribute to 95% of the world’s population growth. As the contraceptive pill is now off patent, surely we could find ways to make it accessible to people who could otherwise never afford it. Education about family planning by locals and through locals is also an imperative. As Tim Flannery pointed out during the Q and A Population Debate Special, “The thing that limits family size is education of women”. The distribution of education and the oral contraceptive pill may be the way to go.

Dick Smith might be considering the suggestion of one Q and A participant to brand his own label of condoms, but perhaps as a Philanthropist Mr Smith should consider investing in the production of steroidal contraceptives in the pharmaceutical companies of China, India, Indonesia and Thailand. (Hmmm… I would be interested to see how Mr Smith would brand his own label of Oral Contraceptive Pill’s?)

A popular post from earlier this year on our neuroanthropology blog was about Mental Health and Environmental Change. With the increased strain on infrastructure that population growth places on Australian cities, mental health suffers, petrol consumption rises, and our economy suffers. I was thinking about these issues just the other day when I spent an hour trying to get along 4km of road from the intersection of Hume Highway and Muir road to the intersection of Centenary drive and Arthur Street in Sydney:

A 2009 post entitled 150 years Since Darwin was a lament about overpopulation and climate change over the last 150 years. The post was read by some 1760 people. One reader labelled the post as “Stations of the Darwin”–a critique at the time, but poignant nonetheless. In our “Complete This Quote” series which ran for 25 or so weeks, Bobby Shabangu wrote an emotive end to the sentence: “From a systems standpoint, what cities are doing is…“. You might like to visit this page and write your own ending to the unfinished quote.

With the Australian elections coming up, Dick Smith has put the Population Puzzle into the limelight in a timely manner. I would love to introduce Dick Smith to a mentor of mine, Professor Roger Valentine Short, who has eloquently framed various arguments for Zero Population Growth in a recent article in Australian Science and another article in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

Other links:

Jared Diamond on Australia’s Sustainable Population
Tim Flannery on Population (interview from 1995)
Your Last Emission
Optimum Population Trust
Home by Yann Arthus Bertrand
Anything but Flat
Overpopulation: National Geographic
The Adventures of Little Sacc
Are Humans smarter than Yeast?
Is Economic Growth Sustainable?
Population and Growth
Panel on Sustainable Population Growth
Combating Overpopulation in Korea
Overpopulation and Disaster
Essays on Overpopulation
Overpopulation Quotes
Definition Entropy
A World Problem
How to keep Koi
Human population and Species Extinctions
Population: A problem of resources
A World Threat
According to Accordion
At the root of numerous issues
Combat Overpopulation: Distribute Condoms
Finite resources, Exponential Growth
The Wal-Mart complex
The Greatest Threat
Edward O Wilson
Paul Ehrlich
Overpopulation and sustainable life
Environmentalism and Overpopulation

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Paul Mason

I am a biomedically trained social anthropologist interested in biological and cultural diversity.

4 thoughts on “The Wilberforce Award: The Population Puzzle

  1. I recommend reading the chapter on Australia in Jared Diamond’s book ‘Collapse’. It might be a bit dated now, but there are some very important facts, figures & dates to know about and understand.

  2. I just listened to Tim Jackson’s lecture. I like his line: We are “encouraged to spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need to create impressions that won’t last on people we don’t care about, or worst still, who don’t care about us.”
    He made some very eloquent points about population growth still being an issue even though it is the growth of affluence that has been increasingly coupled with Carbon emissions in the last 50yrs.

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