Burning up the runway

Burning up the runway

I often think Facebook is paid by tourism companies to mock my office existence and exaggerate how often my “friends” are on overseas holidays.  But ABS figures[1]suggest Australians really are crossing customs at climate changing rates.

Australians flew overseas 9.3 million times in the 12 months to September 2015. That’s almost 800,000 departures per month. Or in Facebook terms, you can expect more than 3 out of every 100 Aussie friends to travel overseas this month: that’s a myriad mates munching at the Marrakesh markets; a bunch of selfies from Boracay’s beautiful beaches; and the occasional insightfully witticism of the commercialist culture capturing Kolkata.

Australians have long been early adopters of international flights. The first England to Australia flight took place almost a century ago, in 1919 (taking 28 days). Overseas flights, however, have really taken off in the last decades. The number of Australians flying overseas has doubled since 2006, and increased ten-fold since 1977.  Accounting for the population grow, trips per capita have doubled since 2004, and grown six-fold since 1977.

There are many ways of interpreting these figures, depending on what angle / lens / issue you care to focus on.

We could suggest that whilst Australians (according to pop media) are deeply concerned about economic instability and slowing wage rises, they have nonetheless increased their international holidays by 50% per capita since the Global Financial Crisis.

We could similarly insinuate that whilst Australiansconcern for climate change leads them to implement strategies focusing on everyday impacts, they may be undoing all their efforts by ignoring the growth of big ticket items. (The CO2 emissions from a Melbourne to London[2] return flight equate to the yearly emissions per capita for the UK[3].)

Or we could just say “look mum, I’m holding up the Tower of Pisa!” (AGAIN!)



After a recent spate of births and pregnancy announcements on my facebook feed, it seemed Australians were finally heeding the words “one for mum, one for dad, and one for the country” (Costello dixit).
This should not surprise me as the majority of my friends are in their birth-giving prime (perhaps not biologically, but at least numerically). In fact, their age distribution closely mirrors Australia’s fertility rate curve1.

What is surprising is how far behind the national average my friends are. Only 29% of my female friends aged 30-342 have reproduced. This is less than half the national average for the same cohort (62%)3 . By my age, 47% of Australian women have had at least 2 kids! Whilst my facebook friends in their late 30s (35-39) do some catching up, they still fall way behind their national quota (63% vs. 79%). If I thought my world was being overran by babies, I can’t imagine what the average early-30s-Australian’s Facebook page looks like!

I always thought my friends were special, and at least on this topic it seems to be the case, but I suspect the effect is mostly one of delayed production, rather than a total boycott. This will probably be exacerbated by the rapid growth in the fertility of over 35s.

While the rate falls away after 40, with less than 1% of women in Australia giving birth past 42 in 2010, the fertility rate of 35 year olds has doubled since 1989. Moreover, the rate for 40-year-olds has more than tripled in the same period.

I probably shouldn’t be surprised when infants completely take over my feed in the coming years.

1: Births, Australia, 2010 – http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3301.0
2: Friends grouped in 5-year brackets (mostly for confidentiality reasons… and lack of exact age information)
3: Australian Census of Population and Housing, 2011.