Diary Australia

Spanish diary

28 September 2019

9:00 AM

28 September 2019

9:00 AM

My choice of newspapers was limited. Given my little Spanish, the New York Times was always going to win out over El Pais while consuming my first espresso of the day in Madrid. It was a serendipitous choice. The front page of the journal carried the headline, ‘Staying hooked on coal – story of mining project in Australia, desired by India, cuts across nations.’ The report noted the approval of the Adani project, observing ‘coal from the Australian operation would be transported to India, where the company is building a new power plant for nearly $2 billion. The electricity that the plant produced would be sold next door to Bangladesh. Adani’s victory in Australia helped to ensure that coal will remain woven into the economy and lives of those three countries, which together have a quarter of the planet’s population, for years.’ While repeating the usual left-wing verities about coal and climate change, the authors acknowledged the vast economic benefits that would flow to millions of people on the subcontinent.

My unexpected delight for the morning continued when I turned to the editorial pages. There, two New Zealand researchers informed readers about ‘the incontinent cows of Middle-earth.’ The sidebar summarised the article: ‘New Zealand is less clean and green than its tourism marketing makes it out to be. The main culprit: the dairy industry.’ I immediately wondered if Prime Minister Ardern was reading this over her cereal and yoghurt in Wellington. Given her environmental lectures in the South Pacific, surely, she is now going to practise what she preaches at home. According to the scholars, parts of New Zealand around Canterbury, where dairying has expanded, are unsuitable for the industry. The writers argue that overuse of the fertilisers required for dairying in the region is causing environmental damage and even higher levels of cancer. I am not one for shutting down agriculture, but surely Ms Ardern will now address at home, the climate concerns she has clearly enunciated abroad and her admonition to other nations to take action. If Ms Ardern is of a mind to practise what she preaches, she has a role model in the new green-left US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. AOC, as she is known, issued a factsheet about her ‘Green New Deal’ that linked ‘farting cows’ to climate change, saying that serious climate policy needs to address agriculture. As I finished my breakfast, I thought that I must read the New York Times more often. It is a satirist’s delight.

It was another article — about global demographic trends — that most piqued my attention, given one of the purposes of my trip was to speak about population trends at an international demographic conference. ‘Let’s say goodbye to growth,’ proclaimed the headline. Noting that 46 countries, including Japan, Russia and China, now have shrinking populations, a number likely to grow to 67 by 2040, the author of The Rise and Fall of Nations observed that ‘demographics are usually the main drivers of economic growth, so it is basically inevitable that these countries will now grow at a much slower pace.’ These are not minor changes: China’s working age population is expected to fall by 114 million, and Japan’s by 14 million.

For decades, the New York Times has been dutifully reporting the edicts of catastrophists like Paul Ehrlich, who warned us about over-population. We had to drive down the birth-rate, they insisted, ignoring the fact, as Nicholas Eberstadt put it, that the reason for global population growth is not because ‘we started breeding like rabbits, but because we stopped dying like flies.’ Indeed, birth-rates have fallen significantly in almost every nation on earth, with many now below replacement rates. The consequence is the widespread belief in three population ‘myths’: that the world’s population will continue to grow indefinitely; that the birth of too many children is causing population growth; and that population decrease can be easily reversed. Singapore is a case study in the falsity of the latter myth. Despite a range of economic and other measures, the island’s birth-rate continues to slide, and will likely drop below one child per woman in a year or two.

Only a few countries — such as Hungary and Latvia — have been able to reverse the pattern, once fertility has fallen below about 1.4 children per woman. These reversals have been modest. Yet economic and national security rests on a growing population. Demography is destiny. If Europe is to survive as we know it, its leaders will have to address these issues. In central and Eastern Europe, they are beginning to do so, with many leaders and senior ministers from the region gathering to discuss the looming demographic challenges. Only time will tell whether or not their efforts are successful.

Any new faith I may have placed in the New York Times however was quickly dashed. Just recently, it published a smear against US Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh. The editors removed from a story the statement of the alleged victim that she did not recall any of the events described by the authors! Even CNN described the publication as ‘the latest in a series of high-profile blunders.’ It was just another of many examples of the Left refusing to accept the result of elections.

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