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Thursday, September 17, 2009

In Queensland today the topic of Dams is heating up. The Queensland government wants to build a new dam north of Brisbane, the Traveston dam. They want to do this not because they like dams but because the human population in southeast Queensland has out grown its water supply. Every now and then, when we don’t get more than the average rainfall, the dams get low and water restrictions are encouraged. So the solution is build a dam and increase the water supply.

Seems sensible enough? Of course it’s not it’s incredibly short sighted and selfish. Why?

Well it all comes down to fixing the problem or delaying it.

The problem is that too many people are moving to southeast Queensland. Now, if human population growth in southeast Queensland stopped, then building a dam might be the solution, southeast Queensland might store enough water for the current population. But the reality is that population growth is planned to continue. Stopping population growth in southeast Queensland is the last thing the government wants. Imagine what would happen to all the economic benefits of ‘growth’. So building a dam does not fix the problem it just pushes it off into the not too distant future when it will be a bigger problem because there will be even more people wanting water and one less place to build a dam!

Sound familiar, here’s another, bigger, scarier example.

The other day the ‘father of the green revolution’, Norman Borlaug died. Not the ‘green revolution’ you might associate with Greenpeace and WWF but the agricultural green revolution of the early 1960’s and 1970’s. Norman and others worked together in science and government as part of this green revolution. They increased the yield of global agriculture and ‘prevented’ starvation of millions of people in places like India, Pakistan and Africa. But did it really prevent it or delay and displace it?

This year, for the first time ever, the number of chronically hungry people exceeded 1,000,000,000 (a billion) as published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. That’s the most ever and it’s predicted to continue to rise. The problem is not poor agricultural productivity but excessive population growth. Every day there are more mouths to feed. Stop the growth and the problem starts to go away. This is the classic case of not fixing the problem but pushing it off into the future when it will be a bigger problem because of the population growth.

So you ask, if population growth is causing the Queensland government to build a dam and population growth is the reason that over a billion people are chronically hungry, why don’t people focus on the problem instead of pushing it into the future so it becomes a bigger problem for future generations?

And then there’s carbon sequestration and nuclear waste…



Traveston Dam

Premier Bligh's Announcement


Dr Jo Chiro said...

Hi Jim
Have you ever thought about writing on the personal environment- all the toxins we use in our personal care products and household cleaning products and then the follow on effects on our waterways?

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jimbo-the-biologist said...

Hi All, Here's an update. The dam has been cancelled because the Fed eral Government said it would be bad for the environment.


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