Hi Ladies & Gents,
For those just joining this newsletter, you can read a lot of past news & views on our web site. Just click on News & Views archives (above) if you are online
There have been a lot of interesting comments made on them that are worth reading.
This edition features more views than news, including material sent in by Bev Courtney, which advocates limiting human food supplies to manage the earths environmental problems. I hadn`t heard this argument expounded before so I have made some comments to the idea below it.
See what you think and reply to it if you like
(1) Craig Underwood (WA) discusses property rights
(2) Marsha Isbester (NSW) comments on NRM & farmers
(3) Defining "Ecological Sustainability" a must - Judith McGeorge (Quilpie, Qld)
(4) Rising Human Population a result of increased food supply? - Bev Courtney
(5) Leon`s comments
(1) Craig Underwood (WA) discusses property rights
Hi Leon & Jane,
Here is what property rights means to us and I believe to the overwhelming majority of Australians
It is a nationally recognised dream of all Australians to have your own piece of land, be it a large pasoral lease, farm, hobby farm or house / flat or the corner deli.
* To the farmer, our land is the ability to earn an income and in most years this is possible however large or small. Usually the only income for the year is derived from the land.
* A farmer of some 50 years recently said to me that we should live today as if there was no tommorrow - while farming as if we will live forever.
It demonstrates the life long committment and attachment this farmer has for his land and property rights.
* For family farmers, the land is usually acquired by prudent savings and careful money management, in other words it was some ones life savings that went into buying the land - whether it was yours, your parents or grandparents etc.
* The land / farm is many farmers superannuation .
Farmers don`t have neatly packaged policies that are contributed ever second thursday as do those who are imposing the restrictions, reforms, and theft of our property rights.
If these people had their "super" reduced by 20% or more for a public benefit, they would "shout the place down"
* Our land and all its features is an asset that can be used as a family legacy - something to pass on to our children or be used as an asset base on which another business for our sons and daughters can be established. Succession of the property and associated business is the backbone of rural areas.
* People generally take on a personal identity in association with property or position, i.e. Joe the Butcher / Mick the farmer on the ridge / Sue the landcare coordinator.
* Farmers not only require, but demand security of tenure, (i.e. security of their property rights)
Investment security has to be included in the triple bottom line - promoted by government and it`s agencies.
* Beware of the group that invoke an action where they themselves incur no risk.
Craig & Jane Underwood,
* Hi Craig & Jane,
John Howard & Peter Beattie made a couple of interesting comments after the latest COAG meeting where property rights were sidetracked.
John Howard - "I think there's a recognition of the need to have…a nationally compatible approach. There will be debate about points at which compensation becomes payable."
Peter Beattie - "The states must be able to bring about reform in a way that protects the environment. To give blanket property rights at an early stage without those reforms would deny that."
As you know Craig, many landholders have been saying, the principle for the point at which compensation becomes payable is obvious - when laws & regulations force landholders to perform more than a "duty of care" to the land - in other words when landholders are forced to manage the land for imposed conservation / public good results, rather than for production / private reward purposes..
It will be interesting to see if COAG can decide that or not.
I also find Peter Beattie`s comments disappointing because he has a mentality that property rights are some sort of christmas present that landholders might get if they negotiate away a few things or jump through enough hoops.
At this stage Peter hasn`t grasped how property / ownership rights are the best tool that we have for people to be responsible for the things they manage. He seems to think ownership equals exploitation. From my observations of human nature exploitation occurs when there is no personal cost involved. As soon as something costs you a lot it gets looked after much better, which is what you`ve explained Craig.
In a book I`ve been reading about a vietnamese lady, she says the communist takeover of south vietnam in the late 70`s took away a lot of ownership and the opportunity for it`s citizens to profit, and so public food supplies fell to just 12% of their pre communist level, Any food left was hoarded, the black market flourished, and the economy went backwards. As well as this living conditions worsened and community infrastructure declined dramatically all within 4 years.
As with all communist regimes, eventually they are forced to change their approach and so they gradually give their people a little bit of personal opportunity (markets) and a degree of property rights (but still with huge taxes) to try to reverse the decline. - which has happened - although very modestly.
But back to COAG - I will be interested to see how future meetings go, but my feeling is that the centralised control mentality that Beattie, Carr, Gallop & co have is too much at odds with how the Property Rights issue needs to be approached and they will skirt around the issue forever. An indication of this is the fact that John Anderson seems to only one with the determination to do something about Property Rights and he is not being allowed in on the COAG discussions.
(2) Marsha Isbester`s comments on NRM & farmers
As the National party candidate for the seat of Murray Darling (NSW), Marsha has been campaigning hard . Here are some of her reported comments.
* For too long decisions have been made by Sydney. These decisions have been made which indicate a lack of trust in rural communities and farmers.
* Farmers and their communities are miles ahead in dealing with environmental and conservation issues.
* There is a combination of hurt and indignation that anyone would even think that modern farmers were bad land managers.
* 65 % of all Australian farmers are (or have been) involved with conservation / landcare projects of one sort or another.
* Farmers can listen to city people but there are vegetation & water issues which affect our bottom line. We should have a direct say on these matters.
* Marsha believes balanced and positive farming information should be a part of all NSW school curriculums.
(3) Defining "Ecological Sustainability" a must - Judith McGeorge (Quilpie, Qld)
Dear Leon and Jane,
I agree ABSOLUTELY that defining "ecological sustainability" is a must- no loop holes or grey areas that allows DNRM to hijack the agenda-
On the Qld Country Hour Friday 20/12/02 report- A grazier had his livestock in the long paddock for some ?8mths or longer- the stock routes ran out of feed and water- the latter he had to cart and pay for.
He then had to truck the stock home- an application under drought assistance to obtain the drought subsidy on water carting and returning stock from agistment was denied.
The technicality used was- the legislation only covers stock on AGISTMENT- and technically droving stock on stock routes is not AGISTMENT.Even though the cause is drought.
Bureaucrats are adept at this type of nit picking- and one wonders why such loop holes exist- it is interesting that productivity bonuses in the Public Service are assessed in house- the fastest paper shufflers win-(but what is productivity in this area- certainly not a tangible)
Best wishes for Christmas and New Year- may the drought break for all
* Hi Judith - I`ve listened to fellow farmers, truckies, small business people often commenting on how laws & regulations being applied to them don`t to the Public service or politicians.
One of Jane`s brothers is now in the SA public service and he recently said that his boss told him his job doesn`t have any likelihood of success, but as long as he says he is making progress, the minister (for the environment) will be happy. Now this situation will probably continue as successive ministers come and go. - wasting many thousands of taxpayers dollars.
If the community doesn`t come together and demand better bureacratic performance, then it will only continue and get worse.
John Burnett (Resource managers group, Clermont, Qld ) said to me this week that he has been trying to challenge a few leaders of various rural groups see that if rural Australia does not have it`s own media / communications strategy, it soon won`t be worth living in rural Australia because of all the inequities we get shoved on us. Some have listened, others don`t grab it, they think it is just a case of lobbying here and there - which is deck chair shuffling while the Titanic sinks.
John & the RMG group have realised that Ultimately laws become what the majority of the community believes the situation is. And therefore - If the grass roots rural community does not become a major force in public opinion forming, then it will become a non entity.
To give an example. Jane & I just completed a Quality Assurance arrangement with our Victorian based milk factory. It means we spend about another 5 hours a week doing paperwork to verify our management practices. The factory pays about $3,000 a year to farmers that do it. That much is okay.
Now the Vic Govt wants to enforce more regulations into those arrangements and make the QA system compulsory for all dairy farmers, AND without paying for the extra effort required to achieve those extra conditions, some of which have no science behind them at all.
As the saying goes - If we stand for nothing, we will fall for anything.
(5) Rising Human Population a result of increased food supply - Bev Courtney
Bev has read some of the landholders web site and challenged us with an article (some of which is below)
In short it says that human population rises due to increased available food and not the other way round. It uses a lot of evidence about populations of other species to support the idea.
The full article HUMAN POPULATION NUMBERS AS A FUNCTION OF FOOD SUPPLY by RUSSELL HOPFENBERG and DAVID PIMENTEL.
Bev says Another article "The Unsustainability and Origins of Socioeconomic Increase," By Mark S. Meritt, January 25, 2001 is available also: http://www.sostenuto.permaculture.net/review/20010125msmthesis.pdf
Here is part of the Hopfenberg / Pimentel article.
The effects of halting increases in food production
The population growth curve characteristic of most species is sigmoid or s-shaped.
This is as true for paramecia as it is for larger organisms with long life cycles such as
birds, trees, and mammals. Growth starts slowly, accelerates rapidly in exponential
form, and then decelerates as it approaches the asymptote of environmental limits.
For all species limited by density-dependent factors, including humans, this limit
can be determined by food availability. The food may also be called one of the
carrying capacity limits of the environment. Once a population has reached a food
limitation, a relative equilibrium may be reached. This equilibrium involves fluctuations
in population size, and these fluctuations follow the periodic fluctuations
of food levels and/or predation and disease outbreaks.
Generally, as feeder populations increase, the food resources decrease. This is followed by a decrease in the
feeder populations which allows food resources to again increase. These long-term
oscillations in population density may occur with many years between peaks and
depressions (Emmel, 1973 p. 86–98; Chitty, 1995).
By increasing agricultural production, humans have continually ‘raised the ceil-ing’,
i.e., the asymptote of food limitation. That is, through agricultural production,
the amount of human food produced is increased. This sets the occasion for a decline
in human food resources which may occur through events such as drought or other
problems. Thus, when the food resources decline, it may occur in a precipitous
fashion. This future crisis may be the direct result of increasing the human popu-lation
beyond the carrying capacity of the environment. In other words, the higher
the ceiling, the more serious the crash. Robson (1981) suggested that famines do
not occur divorced from intensive agricultural production.
Quinn (1996) has called our program of increasing food production in order to
maintain population growth ‘totalitarian agriculture’. In response to the claim that
food production must be increased to feed a growing population, Quinn (1998c)
has responded that
If six billion people can be fed by totalitarian agriculture, then the same six billion can
be fed by sustainable agriculture. The difference between totalitarian agriculture and
sustainable agriculture is not technique or output (since a turnip is a turnip however it’s
produced) but rather program. The program of totalitarian agriculture is to increase food
production in order to outpace population growth that is fueled by the very increases it
produces, and this is what makes it unsustainable.
The notion that as the population approaches the asymptote of food limits, mass
starvation will ensue has been implied, if not stated explicitly. Throughout the
literature on the subject, the position has been “we must increase food production
to feed a growing population” (Postel, 2001; Bongaarts, 1994; Waggoner, 1994;
Brundtland, 1993; Baron, 1992; Anifowoshe, 1990; Brown, 1989; Robson, 1981).
Malthus, in his famous Essay, put forth his ‘principle of population’ which was
his assertion that the population has the capacity to grow faster than the means
of subsistence (Petersen, 1979, p. 47). However, due to biological realities, the
population cannot be sustained beyond the level of food availability. Because of
the Malthusian perspective which is pervasive in our culture, that ‘food production
must be increased to feed a growing population’, that, in fact, is what occurs.
result is annual food production increases that cause annual population increases,
with seriously increasing malnutrition and added diseases. However, the evidence
indicates that the human population will increase until further food limitations are
reached. Then population growth will be restricted (Pimentel and Pimentel, 1996,
pp. 23, 296).
If food availability for the population is held constant and population increases
continue at 1.4% per year (PRB, 2000), the reduction in per capita food per year is
relatively small on average (Quinn, 1998a). For example, if a population consists of
1,000 humans and food availability for this population is held constant forever, and
allows for 3,000 calories per person per day (holding other vital nutrients constant
relative to calorie count), this is a total calorie count of three million calories per
day. Ifthe number of people increases to 1,014, the number of calories per person
per day is reduced to 2,959. If the same amount of population growth occurs the next
year, the population will grow to 1,028. The calories per person per day will then
be 2,918. Repeated twice more, the calories available per person per day will drop
to 2,879 and then to 2,838. After four years of 1.4% population growth, calories per
person per day is reduced by only 162. After a total of nine years, the reduction in
calories is only 353, to a level of 2,648 calories per person per day. The impingement
of the food and nutrient limitation, although subtle, will eventually serve to curb
human reproduction. This may occur through social mechanisms, choice behavior
or reproductive–biological mechanisms. In other words, halting increases in food
production will halt the increases in population by means of a reduced birth rate.
Thus, there appears to be two available systemic methods of population control.
One is to continue to fuel population growth through increased food production
and allow biological mechanisms such as malnutrition and disease to limit the
population by means of an increased death rate. The other is to cap the increases in
food production and thereby halt the increases in population by means of a reduced
birth rate. Instead of depending on malnutrition and disease to limit human numbers,
a social mechanism in response to a stable food supply, might be for humans to
limit their numbers democratically or consensually or to employ incentives.
(5) Leon`s comments
Thanks Bev for this article and your thoughts.
There are some ideas in the article I haven`t heard before.
As you might realise, while there are facts in the article that I acknowledge are correct, I consider there are several factors this article has not grappled with, which in my view and experience as a food producer override the arguements of the whole article.
Incidentally the recent book "the skeptical environmentalist" by Bjorn Lomborg tackles almost every comment in the Hopfenberg & Pimentel article with a lot of data and has different conclusions. I hope you check it out at some stage.
COMMENTS ON THE ARTICLE
The article made a lot of assumptions that need to be thought about as they are critical to our thinking on the issue
(1) Human population is not the problem many think it is.
Lomborg`s Book has data & graphs showing when human populations become more wealthy, they not only decrease their birth rate, but also improve environmental performance (reducing pollution, recycling resources etc) When comparing incomes of a population to pollution levels (pg 177), pollution increased as incomes went from 0 to $13,000 per person and then pollution decreased as incomes went from $13,000 onwards.
This suggests the world will be better off if it is wealthier - by reducing it`s birth rate and by feeding the population easier. The notion of "over population" then becomes a non issue. The problem instead is a poor population.
(2) There is a vast difference between animal and humans and the reasons they breed / populate.
I don`t know about you, but I don`t reproduce willy nilly without any thought of my children`s welfare in the way that other species do (kangaroos, rabbits, goats, sheep etc) I think it is very clear that humanity has the capacity to make decisions (for better or for worse) that no other species on the earth can do.
I don`t know if you agree with that, but to highlight it we should consider why is it that no other species encourages the use of condoms, or has the capacity to make them, or can even have a discussion on birth control?
The article argues that humans are not above natural physical and biological laws any more than any other species
and classifies those who have that view as having a cultural bias (e.g. the judeo christian view that humans were created "higher" than animals), yet the writers are communicating with higher language, higher ideas and higher technologies than all other species. - Cultural bias or not, doesn`t the evidence conclude humans ARE very different?
(3) The article basically assumes all developement equates with bad results of some sort, which if it were truly the case then human life expectancies would be decreasing due to the sum total of all the bad technologies, .....but if we compare the life expectancy around the world, the evidence shows the more a country advances in technology, the longer people live, (and that is why some people are now talking about Australia raising the retirement age).
(4) Another point that was not taken into account, is the fact that the human species does not farm to produce food just for their immediate family. For whatever reason since the western democratic / capitalistic system has come about, the world now has a minority of people solely producing food, while continully changing money systems, transport systems, & communication systems occupy more people`s efforts. On top of this we have arrangements where secure property rights (a way of designating ownership rights) on goods, ideas, inventions, land and water has given incentives for people like myself to become more efficient at what we do.
My view is that it will only be by giving secure ownership / property rights (even for endangered animals) that a truly sustainable conservation and production system will come about.
What other system rewards the manager with both immediate and long term benefits for looking after the resource?
I can only see that centrally controlled systems (like the "food limiting" idea in the paper) will cost heaps to implement, take away individual motivation to look after resources, and ultimately fail as people find ways around an oppressive system. And then what about bureacracy? - Will the bosses of the system also reduce their calorie intake like everyone else?
How do you view those ideas Bev?