Sleepwalking to Catastrophe – Guest Blogger Fiona Heinrichs

Guest Blogger Fiona Heinrichs explains why the grim future of the climate catastrophe requires more than optimism.

Guest Post by Fiona Heinrichs, Fiona is an Arts (Hons) graduate of Macquarie University. A climate change activist and sustainable Australia advocate, she has a particular interest in the relationship between environmental sustainability, population growth and economics. She will be a planet talk speaker at the upcoming Earth Station festival.

There are no shortage of books and articles by leading intellectuals and scientists telling us about the environmental crisis and that the economic system is now likely to have overshot the regenerative capacities of the planet. For example Paul Gilding, The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World, begins his book by telling us that the Earth is full and our ‘current model of economic growth is driving this system, the one we rely upon for our present and future prosperity, over the cliff’ (1). A similar theme is developed in two recent books, Richard Heinberg, The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality and Patrick Moriarty and Damon Honnery, Rise and Fall of the Carbon Civilisation. Central to all of these books in this genre is to leave the reader with a message of hope. There may need to be some changes, but in the end there won’t be much lost: in fact a brighter, better civilisation will be built.

In my online book Sleepwalking to Catastrophe: ‘Big Australia’, Immigration, Population Expansion and the Impossibility of Endless Economic Growth in a Finite World, in the context of the environmental crisis and the ‘converging catastrophes’ I set out to show that matters are not as simple as environmentalists often depict. In fact, the population problem and immigration in particular causes heart burn for many but not all environmental activists because they fear that the conflict at the heart of their supposed liberal ethical paradigm will be exposed as inadequate to deal with the multitude of controversies generated by these issues. Despite this misunderstanding, ironically stabilising population is perfectly in line with liberal principles, seeking to not only empower women but also create a model that sets an example on a global level.

Sleepwalking to Catastrophe puts the case for population and immigration limits for Australia within a limits to growth paradigm. It does so without xenophobia; in fact it argues that the pro-growth forces manipulate such sentiments to protect their agenda from rigorous criticism. By restricting immigration now, Australia may be capable of acting as a ‘life boat’ in the future, when environmental refugees and people displaced from lands devastated by climate change, seek not a better life, but rather, a chance to live. By pushing Australia to ecological breaking point today, the ruling elites are effectively preventing Australia from being a good global ecological citizen in the future. We are paying a high moral cost for a few dollars more.

Read a previous blog post about this online book here.

Guest Post by Fiona Heinrichs, if you would like to contribute your research to a guest blog on The Environment Institute Blog email

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  1. George Carrard says:

    Response to your Trove enquiry (Question # RSref33114)Tuesday, 3 January, 2012 3:01 PM
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