Thursday, April 21, 2016

Demography and the failure of sustainable development: denial, indifference and skewed power

Flinders University School of the Environment Research Colloquium, Adelaide, Australia

May 25, 2016

Slides here  Video here 

In recent decades, an ideology often called neoliberalism has become dominant in most high-income countries. It can be characterised as the view that freeing market forces will maximise global development and human well-being. An important component and result of this ideology is laissez faire population growth and suppressed knowledge of the “demographic dividend”, the development bonus that accrues to low-income countries from slower population growth, especially through education, an important determinant of fertility. Instead, a “fortress world” has intensified, with ever-steepening inequality, and with growing recognition by the middle and working class that they are being left behind, with little power to change the rules, to restore free education, or to prevent offshore banking rorts.

Environmental resources continue to decline, and in every month temperatures rise, as does the sea level. Migrants press on Europe, not only from the Middle East and Afghanistan, but also from the Sahel. Between 1 and 1.8 million refugees entered Europe in 2015, and millions more appear likely in future. Burundi is again flirting with ethnic genocide

These events are neither random nor inevitable. They are promoted by neoliberalism, the cutting of foreign aid, and because elites, in poor and rich countries, have made insufficient attempt to promote determinants of sustainable development.

Australia's complicity

For over a decade Australia has evaded the spirit of the Refugee Convention, which is intended to grant protection to people fleeing persecution. Most asylum seekers have ceased seeking protection here, as a result of the cruelty practised in our name and widely supported.

These interlinked and growing global crises are consistent with long-standing predictions, but which have been rarely heard, including in the development literature. Affordable technological solutions to greenhouse gas accumulation are emerging but many more fundamental changes are needed, if civilisation is not only to expand in this century, but even to survive.