Australian Anglican Church Says Population Growth May Break Commandment 'Thou Shall Not Steal'

gandhi statue photo

What's an image of Gandhi doing here? Keeping reading... Photo: Ibrahim Areef via flickr.

In what surely would be a hugely controversial move if had happened in the United States, the Australia's Anglican Church has come out saying that the nation should have fewer children and the government should scrap financial breaks for having bigger families on environmental grounds. They also recommend curbing immigration to reduce environmental pressure. The Church says that current rates of population growth in Australia are unsustainable and are out of step with the eight commandment (thou shall not steal).

''Out of care for the whole of creation, particularly the poorest of humanity and the life forms who cannot speak for themselves ... it is not responsible to stand by and remain silent,'' a discussion paper by the [Anglican Church] commission warns.

''Unless we take account of the needs of future life on Earth, there is a case that we break the eighth commandment - 'Thou shall not steal'.''

''In the context of unsustainable global population growth it is inconsistent and arguably irresponsible to provide financial incentives for population increase,'' the paper says. (The Age)

Taking More Than Your Need Is Stealing
Read the original article (linked above) for the details of Australian government policy. That's not so much the interesting part to me so I won't go into it, but the fact that the Anglican Church of Australia links population growth and resource consumption to stealing is a really important point of eco-philosophy--and one I'm a bit surprised (in a good way) was made.

There's an interesting coincidence of Gandhian philosophy going on: Paraphrasing, think 'there's enough on Earth for everyone's need, but not everyone's greed'.

gandhi seven social sins photo

Gandhi's seven social sins, photo: js42 via flickr.
Population Growth & Resource Overconsumption Can't Be Untangled
Of late there's been what really seems to me to be a false debate going on over population growth and resource consumption. There's the viewpoint, exemplified by Fred Pearce, that growing populations aren't the problem (in part because population growth is slowing in many areas where it used to be rapidly increasing), it's resource consumption. In opposition to that is the view, to which groups like Optimum Population Trust and others subscribe, that the focus should remain on population growth rates.

The reason it seems a false debate to me is that you can only separate increasing population and unsustainable resource consumption intellectually. Practically they are fully interconnected and both have to be addressed if we humans want to stop pushing the planet towards ecological bankruptcy.

Remember that one child in a developed nation has a much higher ecological impact over his or her life than one child in a developing nation. And large numbers of low-impact individuals in developing nations still can add up to unsustainable levels of resource consumption. It's just not an issue where either/or thinking is applicable.

Bringing it back to 'thou shall not steal' and Gandhi: Ultimately more people on the planet means fewer resources equitably available on an ecologically sustainable basis per person.

Read more: The Age and Mongabay
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More on Population Growth & Consumerism:
Cult of Consumerism at Root of Planet's Environmental Degradation & Destruction
The Best Way You Can Go Green: Have Fewer Children
Brits Break Silence on Population-Climate Change Links
Is Paul Ehrlich's 'Population Bomb' Defusing Itself? Fred Pearce Thinks So

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