Australian Conservation Foundation calls population growth a “key threatening process”

June 6, 2010 • Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Mark O’Connor and Joe Bish for this news.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has filed a formal nomination of population growth as a “key threatening process” to Australia’s biodiversity under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Its media release and the full submission are available at:

For readers outside Australia, the ACF is Australia’s largest conservation group, sometimes described in US terms as the equivalent of the Sierra and Audubon Clubs together.

The news has been widely publicized inside Australia.

The ACF’s detailed submission provides a template for organisations elsewhere to take similar initiatives. For instance, it documents in approved bureaucratic fashion the evidence that population growth leads to loss of biodiversity.

It also provides an opening, which I hope Australian environmentalists are taking, for letters to the editor suggesting that population growth now be recognised also as a process threatening our cities, civilisation, and quality of life.

By the way, the ACF is also interesting itself in the “better cities” and “smart growth” debates. See

e.g. on p. 5
The status-quo cannot be sustained without significant risk. Our cities continue to exceed known ecological limits. In many areas existing capacities are deteriorating (i.e. food production, available land). Our increasing consumption of finite resources cannot continue indefinitely (i.e. fossil fuels). The levels of pollution being produced are beyond the assimilative capacity of many natural systems (i.e. greenhouse gas emissions). All of these factors and more are impacting on the wellbeing of urban communities, impacting on the economic benefits cities can provide, and damaging the social cohesion of our communities. I append a couple of news items about the “threatening process” submission.

The Sydney Morning Herald
Growing population ‘threatens biodiversity’
March 23, 2010
A KEY conservation group has taken the provocative step of nominating human population growth as a ”threatening process” under environment laws.

The nomination by the Australian Conservation Foundation means the federal Environment Department will review the link between the growing population in Australia and destruction of key environment areas. The little known ”threatening process” provision lists major environmental forces, such as colonies of invasive species. Man-made climate change is listed as a threatening process under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. The foundation’s director of strategic ideas, Charles Berger, said the nomination aimed to highlight the pressures on the natural environment from the expansion of urban and industrial development, driven by a growing population. The aim was to force the government to produce a clear recognition of the links between population growth and threats to biodiversity.

Mr Berger said if population was listed, the government could develop a ”threat abatement plan” – policies to address the problem. The nomination first to pass a review by the department to determine if it complies with the act. If it moves beyond that, a scientific study will occur on the link between population and the destruction of natural resources. This was also reported in The Canberra Times this morning – looks like a huge breakthrough as it will force the Environment Department to focus on the issue, probably for the first time.

Should SPA issue a media release?

People threaten habitat, ACF warns
The Australian, 23 March 2010
by Christian Kerr
A LEADING green group wants population growth to be declared an environmental threat under federal law.
The Australian Conservation Foundation has nominated population to be included as a “key threatening process” to biodiversity under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. An independent scientific panel will now consider the nomination. If passed by the panel, the nomination will then be recommended to Environment Minister Peter Garrett for priority assessment. Issues ranging from cane toads and feral cats to land clearing and greenhouse gas emissions have already been listed as threatening processes. Treasury forecasts say the population is set to soar from 22 million to 35 million by the middle of the century. Kevin Rudd has said, “I actually believe in a big Australia. I make no apology for that. I actually think it’s good news that our population is growing.”

ACF director of strategic ideas Charles Berger says the government has failed to adequately examine the environmental impact of a higher population and what it may mean for quality of life.

“More people mean more roads, more urban sprawl, more dams, more transmission lines, more energy and water use, more pollutants in our air and natural environment and more pressure on Australia’s animals, plants, rivers, reefs and bushland,” he said yesterday.

“The bigger our population gets, the harder it is for us to reduce greenhouse pollution, protect natural habitats near urban and coastal areas and ensure a good quality of life for all Australians.”

The ACF is calling on the government to stabilise the population by the middle of the century.

It has backed humanitarian migration and family reunions, but wants the government to slash skilled migration in favour of new training schemes.

“There’s no magic number here but we do know if we keep growing indefinitely then that is going to make it nearly impossible for us to manage our environmental challenges well,” Mr Berger told The Australian.

The ACF nomination under the EPBC Act details the impact of population growth on southeast Queensland, the Mornington Peninsula and Westernport Bay in Victoria, the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia and the Swan coastal plain in Western Australia.

Current World Population


Net Growth During Your Visit