Humanity threatening the survival of civilisation

September 23, 2014

Australia is overpopulated and too many Australians are preoccupied with gaining material wealth to the detriment of others according to a Murdoch University Adjunct Professor.

Impacts caused by humans to global ecosystems are threatening civilisation and solutions that can address environmental problems will challenge, offend and be difficult to implement, Professor Harry F Recher says.

At the Keith Roby Lecture at Murdoch University on October 21, Professor Recher will outline how Australians have lost contact with nature and do not appear to understand the dependence of humanity and civilisation on the life support systems provided by global and regional ecosystems.

“Nature is seen as a threat; to be exploited for its resources and subdued,” Professor Recher said.

“The world accepts economic and social systems that encourage the accumulation of obscene wealth by a few while sacrificing the rights of others, including other species, to the basic necessities of life.”

Professor Recher says the issues of the world boil down to two problems, first we consume too much and second there are too many people.

“It’s a finite world.  We need to stop consuming so much and use resources (food, energy) more efficiently,” Professor Recher said.

“We are too preoccupied with wanting material wealth. The world is overpopulated, Australia is overpopulated.

“Humans are destroying the Australian continent and driving its plants and animals to extinction.  Ecologically the impact we are having on the world is unsustainable.

“This is why we have climate change, fish populations crashing and the like. We need to reduce our population by reducing the reproduction rate.”

Professor Recher says that even if a one child policy was to be introduced worldwide it would not be enough to reduce the problem of overpopulation and stress on the world’s resources.

“Any Government that says technology is the answer is wrong, technology can’t solve all the problems,” he said.

Professor Recher says we are cheating, keeping the world going through the burning of fossil fuels, thereby driving climate change.

“Unfortunately we no longer have the luxury of choice; sustainable development is not an option for the long-term survival of civilisation,” he said.

“We can’t keep growing continually and we can’t build a second planet.”

He believes that the scientific community needs to become more involved in giving advice to everyone, not just politicians.

“We need to teach science students how to communicate and tell them that they have a responsibility to get involved,” Professor Recher said.

“We need to teach them how politics work also so they can advise government.”

Professor Recher will share his thoughts at the Keith Roby Lecture on Tuesday October 21 in the Kim E Beazley Lecture at Murdoch University at 6pm.  RSVP for the event by Wednesday October 15 to or on 9360 6176.


This year’s speaker Professor Recher was the Foundation Professor of Environmental Management at Edith Cowan University. Since retiring he has held Adjunct Professorships at Curtin University and Murdoch University and is a Senior Fellow at the Australian Museum of Sydney and a Fellow of the Royal Zoological Society (NSW).  He was awarded the Serventy Medal by the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union in 1994 and an Order of Australia in 2004 for his contribution to ecology.

The lecture is named after Dr Keith Roby a foundation member of Murdoch and a pioneer in the area of community science, a phrase he coined to reflect the ideal of science and technology directed towards human fulfillment, social well-being and satisfying the fundamental needs of humankind.  He believed science could make a major contribution towards resolving major contemporary issues such as the dilemmas surrounding the environment; energy; resources and genetic engineering.

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Comments (One response)

VivKay September 26, 2014

Australian politicians are obsessed with megalomaniac growth, and assess our nation in purely economic terms, and GDP growth. It's a single dimensional vision, that misses many vital and important parameters of leadership and future planning. GDP is not an indication of living standards, and of environmental health. It's not an indication of individual wealth, and population growth is seen as a stimulus to cash revenues, and the amount of money being circulated. There's little communication between climate scientists, economists, ecologists, agriculturalists and grass roots. Our planet will be overwhelmed by up to 11 billion people by the end of the century, and alarm bells should be ringing that our natural resources are already at, or beyond, "peak". The problems now we have will be exacerbated, and Australia can't be the release-valve for the world's population overload and based our economic health on out-dated "growth" paradigm.

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