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The ocean has an enormous capacity to act as a waste-sink, and if one small pleasure boat discharges the body waste of its occupants directly into the ocean, no great harm occurs. But when 200,000 Sutherland residents discharge their body wastes straight into the ocean at Potter Point, even the ocean's ability to act as a waste-sink is overwhelmed.

Such is the multiplier effect of population growth: the more people there are, all other things being equal, the greater the environmental impact.

But all things are not equal. Our per-capita impact is increasing at the same time as our population is increasing - a double whammy!

Most environmentally aware people take positive steps to try and reduce their personal environmental impact; a difficult task given the constant barrage of advertising which urges them to consume even more. Yet, individual successes in reducing personal environmental impact are swamped by population increase.

Australia's population is projected to grow by up to 9 million during the next 50 years. Sydney's population (now just over 4 million) is projected to rise to somewhere between 5.7 and 6.2 million in the same period, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics' recent publication Population Projections - Australia, 1999-2101.

The Bureau assumes that Australia will continue with high immigration levels, but points out that a policy of zero net migration would see Australia's population peak at 20.9 million in 2028 .
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