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Revisiting the Real Pioneers in Family Planning History

June 24, 2017, Richard Grossman

Although I am not much of a historian, I have followed the history of family planning and of the concern about human population growth-and was surprised to learn that two commonly held beliefs are not correct.

Malthus was the first person to make the connection between increasing human population causing problems, correct? And, of course, Margaret Sanger was the first to teach poor women about family planning.

Both of these notions about the history of family planning are wrong. These two firsts actually belong to people who have almost been lost to history.

Hong Liangji was a minor governmental official who lived in the Yangzi Valley of China in the 18th and early 19th centuries. He wrote several essays about politics and other subjects. In an essay from 1793 titled "On Governance and Well-being of the Empire" he voiced his view that increasing population would interfere with peaceful rule. Apparently he felt that it was his duty as a Confucian to criticize the emperor. The emperor did not receive this well; he ordered that Hong be decapitated. Fortunately the sentence was reduced to banishment to a minor post.

The background to Hong's writing was that highly productive new crops allowed China's population to grow rapidly. This was welcomed by the government, but was recognized by a few as being potentially problematic.

"But in the matter of population, it may be noted that today's population is... not less than twenty times as large as that one hundred years ago." Hong wrote. A twenty-fold increase may have been an exaggeration, but his was definitely a time of very rapid population growth.

Hong illustrated his concern with an example. If a family that started with a large home and 3 children on a fair sized farm, at the end of a century they could end up with as many as 100 people (including servants) living in the same house and farming the same area of land. He wrote that the emperor could not stop the people from reproducing, but that harmony could be destroyed by the rapid growth. He observed: "... the resources with which Heaven-and-earth nourish the people are finite." He ended this essay on population "The food for one person is inadequate for 10 persons; how could it be adequate for a hundred persons? This is why I am worried about peaceful rule.”

Five years after Hong, Malthus published: "An Essay on the Principle of Population” in 1798. It is no wonder that we usually give Malthus credit for being the first to raise the alarm about population, however, because Hong wrote in Chinese (which few westerners understand), and he ended up in obscurity.

The first person to advocate for family planning was British. In 1823, more than half a century before Sanger was born, Francis Place published pamphlets about family planning for poor women. He taught two methods of birth control, withdrawal and use of a vaginal barrier. Here is a quote he wrote about the latter: "A piece of soft sponge about the size of a small ball attached to a very narrow ribbon and slightly moistened (when convenient) is introduced previous to sexual intercourse and is afterwards withdrawn, and thus by an easy, simple, cleanly and non-indelicate method, in no way injurious to health, not only may much unhappiness and many miseries be prevented, but benefits of an incalculable amount be conferred on society."

Apparently many rich women knew about "pessaries” to prevent pregnancy, similar to what Place described. However he was the first person to pass this information on to "...the socially less privileged.” One of his pamphlets was named "To the Married of Both Sexes of the Working People and Similarly the Married Sexes in Genteel Life.” The pamphlets were distributed widely throughout England, but the establishment called them "diabolical handbills”.

Place's personal life is interesting, if perhaps antithetical to his later interest in family planning. He came from a poor family, married at age 19 (his wife was just 17) and they had 15 children! of whom 5 died young. Place educated himself by reading voraciously. He started a successful business that he turned over to his children so he could be politically active. Place's goal was to improve the lives of the poor. He collaborated with some well-known friends, including Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.

Large families and rapid population growth affect both society and the individual. Hong wrote about the former; I have not been able to find out much about his personal life. Place was concerned about both later in life. His only book: "Illustrations and Proofs of the Principles of Population” was inspired by Malthus. doclink

Population Background

AKA: How to Defuse the Population Bomb
December 18, 2014, Newsweek   By: ZoË Schlanger and Elijah Wolfson

The problem is, too many women are faced with unintended pregnancies. Too many have unsafe abortions which they do not survive, or suffer long-lasting health problems because of them. And then there's the even greater number of young women who, because they lack resources, keep unplanned children and end up trapped in a cycle of poverty and poor health.

It's an ancient problem, with a very obvious solution: give women full reproductive rights, including easy access to contraception and other family-planning options. Family planning and reproductive health are some of the most crucial tools for reducing human suffering in a changing and increasingly crowded world.

In Kenya, at least 200,000 are crammed into the makeshift, two-square-mile shantytown called Kibera. The impact of this massing of humans is like a physical blow: The land and city infrastructure can't keep up with the people. Garbage and waste are piled high.

Kenya's population of 44 million is projected to more than double to 97 million by 2050. Over a quarter of Kenyan women are still unable to access the contraceptives they want. Even though there has been over a century of family-planning aid work, it remains one of the most misunderstood aspects of international development. This is in large part because of Western efforts to apply a coercive form of population control under the guise of "family planning."

Today worldwide birth rates are lower today than ever, and more women than ever before are masters of their own bodies. But population is still on the rise. In 1650, there were about 500 million people on Earth. By 1804, the population had doubled to 1 billion. In just 123 years, it doubled again, to 2 billion, and it doubled yet again, to 4 billion, by 1974. The world's population passed 7 billion in 2011. The latest U.N. projections suggest we'll be up to 12.3 billion by 2100, with no stabilization in sight.

Meanwhile we are in the midst of the biggest mass-extinction event since the dinosaurs were wiped out. Plant and animal species are now going extinct at least 1,000 times faster than they did before humanity's arrival, due mostly to human-caused habitat destruction and climate change.

When the global population was around 4 billion, humanity began using more resources than the Earth could replenish each year, and was producing more waste than it could absorb, pushing us all deeper and deeper into "ecological overshoot," according to the Global Footprint Network. In 2014 humans used the resources of 1.5 Earths.

Population is growing the fastest in African nations. Much of the continent is also where people are less able to adapt to the effects of overpopulation, says John Wilmoth, director of the U.N. Population Division. If the world can't meet Africa's need for family planning, the result will be more and more poor, and poorly educated, people.

As climate change turns more coasts into flood zones and more farmland to desert, the damage will be inextricably linked to population growth -- the more of us there are, the more water, food and energy we'll need to survive. In the past three years, Australia, Canada, China, Russia and the U.S. have all suffered devastating floods and droughts that severely impaired food harvests. FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization, recently said that to feed a population of 9 billion in 2050, the world must increase its food production by an average of 60% to avoid serious food shortages that could bring social unrest and civil wars. Meanwhile, wheat and rice production have grown at a rate of less than 1% for the past 20 years.

By 2050, 70% of the world's population will live in cities, the U.N. predicts. Already, 150 million people in cities around the world suffer from freshwater shortages. By 2050 the number of urbanites with inadequate water will rise by more than 1 billion and cities in certain regions "will struggle to find enough water for the needs of their residents," according to Mark Montgomery of the Population Council.

The Green Climate Fund does not say anything about population on its website. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which manages climate-focused "national adaptation programmes of action" for the least-developed countries, devotes a section of its website to the role gender plays in climate change. Women, it explains, are more vulnerable to its ravages and must be included in adaptation efforts. But family planning and contraception aren't on the official list of adaptation projects.

Columbia University history professor Matthew Connelly argues that the 20th century was filled with wrong-minded approaches to family planning ranging from using risky contraceptives on unwitting clients to offering cash incentives to poor people who agreed to be sterilized. Policies like these "made family planning seem like an imposition, rather than something that served clients' own ­interests," writes Connelly, and the backlash was ferocious. Revolutionary leaders worldwide (including Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in Pakistan) attacked family planning as a symbol of American imperialism. The Catholic Church helped organize a global campaign against family-planning efforts, which just happened to line up with the Church's official stance on procreation, particularly in developing countries.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan instituted what has become known as the "global gag rule" (officially the Mexico City Policy), which stopped U.S. dollars from flowing to any international family-planning groups that provided abortions. The rule also stipulated that any organization receiving U.S. funding could not educate patients on abortion or take a stand against unsafe abortion. The gag rule was repealed by every Democratic president and reinstated by every Republican president since. Whenever the gag rule was in effect, USAID funding to family-planning organizations plummeted. Clinics providing everything from condom distribution to HIV/AIDS treatment to neonatal care cut back their staff and services, and in some cases shuttered their doors entirely. One researcher, Kelly Jones, found that in Ghana during gag rule periods, rural pregnancies increased by 12% and the rural abortion rate increased by 2.3%.

Even though up to $6 is saved on health care, immunization, education and other services for every $1 spent on family planning, U.S. funding for family planning abroad has flatlined for several years, although it would take relatively little money to make an enormous difference.

In 2012, the estimated number of unintended pregnancies was 80 million - the same number of people added to the world every year. In other words, if women all over the world had the ability to prevent the pregnancies they don't want, the world's population would stabilize.

Providing access to contraception for every woman in sub-Saharan Africa who wanted it might prevent 5 million abortions and save the lives of 48,000 women. What's more, 555,000 fewer newborns and infants would die, cutting infant mortality in the region by 22%.

Faustina Fynn-Nyame, from Ghana, and Marie Stopes's country director for Kenya, says Africans are asking for family planning. "It's not the West telling us to do something."... "We have a high unmet need," ... "20.9 percent of married women say they want to control their fertility somehow but don't have the access, money or awareness of where to go."

In the developing world, 222 million women want contraceptives but can't get them. That is more than the population of Germany, France, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands combined,. Meeting their needs would have prevented 54 million unwanted pregnancies, 26 million abortions, 79,000 deaths of mothers in pregnancy or childbirth and 1.1 million infant deaths in 2012 alone.

Plus, contraceptives let women space out births, leading to far healthier children.

The problem is that too many of these important decisions are taken out of women's hands. Over 10% of Kenyan women report being raped by their partners. "Women have very little power when they are having sex within their marriage," says Fynn-Nyame. A woman might know that she's at a fertile point in her menstrual cycle, but she won't be able to negotiate with her husband. If he wants sex, she has to give in.

Women are often been told by their husband what contraceptive to ask for -- usually they are told to avoid intrauterine devices (IUDs) because it "makes sex less fun." IUDs are one of the best forms of birth control because they have a failure rate of less than 1%, while birth control pills have a failure rate of 8-9%. Relying on a daily supply only drives up failure rates. "If you're somewhere on the pill and the pill truck doesn't show up one month, you're pregnant," says Elaine Lissner of the Male Contraception Information Project.

Bangladesh is seasonally flooded from Himalayan ice melt and is regularly bombarded by cyclones. Climate change will cause the sea level to rise enough to wipe out 17% of its landmass by 2050 and displace 18 million people. In the 1970s the government of Bangladesh concluded the country was growing too quickly -- expected to nearly triple its size in four decades. So the government made contraception free and distributed it widely. The number of women using contraception rose from 8% in 1975 to 60% in 2010. Girls' enrollment in primary school rose from 45% in 2000 to 90% in 2005. Today the fertility rate is only 2.2 children per woman -- much lower than Pakistan's. Bangladesh is now the only developing country on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals for child and maternal health.

The U.N.'s Wilmoth says. "The Bangladesh program did that community by community, with these women who would talk to people. It's amazing that [the fertility rate] has fallen that low in a country so poor. It's an example of what's possible."

Another example is Iran, which had the fastest population drop ever, faster than China's one-child policy. And it happened without coercion. Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was persuaded that the economy could not handle a bloated population and in the 1980s he issued fatwas making contraception available for free at government clinics. State-run TV broadcast information about birth control, and health workers educated patients on family planning as a means to leave more time between births. The fertility rate fell from seven births per woman in 1966 to fewer than two today. At the same time public education for girls was increasing and, as a result, more women postponed childbirth to attend college, and now the country's universities are 60% female.

But in 2006 President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called family-planning programs a "prescription for extinction," and urged Iranian girls to marry young, offered cash incentives per child, and the government recently outlawed permanent surgical contraception. However, "Iranian women are not going back," said Sussan Tahmasebi, an Iranian women's rights leader.

Women who have access to family planning have more time to pursue education and get jobs, earning money that they are more likely to invest back into their family and community than their male counterparts do. They lead healthier lives and have healthier children. Also women with more access to resources are less frequently victims of domestic violence, according to USAID.

If all women globally had access to the contraceptives they want, the reduction in unwanted pregnancies would translate into an 8 to 15% reduction in global carbon emissions, according to the Aspen Institute. Fewer people would be in harm's way as sea levels rise and farmland dries out, and less pressure on resources already stretched thin would mean less violent conflict over those resources.

Some experts argue that the real problem for the planet is overall consumption. Columbia University history professor Matthew Connelly says that ads promoting "the miracle of family planning" are saying: "If you get rid of the kids, you can have more stuff."

Connelly claims "you can't have it both ways. Either we're going to lift hundreds of millions and eventually billions of people out of poverty and make them consumers of cars and everything else, or we're going to reduce numbers of people so they will consume less. How do you reconcile these two things?"

Connelly does agree that there is no doubt the world would be a better place if women and families everywhere had access to their full reproductive rights. And the demand for contraception is there.

Fynn-Nyame sees it. "When you speak to these women, they are very angry, but at the same time, if they had different choices in life, if they knew earlier, they wouldn't wanted to have so many children, because they're worried about the future of their children. They're worried about food security, they're worried about education. If they get pregnant again and they die, what's going to happen to their children?" she asks. "Her survival is so crucial, but her ability to survive is all based on whether she can get some sort of fertility control." doclink

Karen Gaia says: A couple of points:

Most of us who are concerned about population no longer use the term 'population control' because it connotes involuntary family planning.

The rate of worldwide population growth is 1.3% while rate of food growth is only 1%

83 Million People Per Year

December 22, 2015, Population Connection   By: John Seager, President, Population Connection

Our planet is now struggling to support 7.3 billion people. We're adding another million people every four days. That's like adding another San Jose, California to our global population every ninety-six hours - each year amounting to 83 million more people sharing this one, small planet. doclink

Investment in Voluntary Family Planning Programmes: Benefits and Cost-saving Effects (Fact Sheet)

June 18, 2013, Population and Sustainability Network

This is a well-done fact sheet with many persuasive population facts that can be used for tabling or persuading policy makers.

Here are some of the facts from the factsheet:

• There are an estimated 222 million women in developing countries with an unmet need for modern contraception.

• Worldwide only 57.4% of women aged 15-49 who are married or in a union are using modern contraception, and this figure falls to only 31.0% in the least developed countries

• Growth is expected to be most rapid in the 49 least developed countries, which are projected to double in size from around 900 million inhabitants in 2013 to 1.8 billion in 2050.

• The population of Africa is expected to more than double by mid-century, increasing from today's 1.1 billion and potentially reaching 4.2 billion by 2100.

• Niger has one of the highest population growth rate in the world (currently 4.0% a year) and the highest fertility rate in the world (with an average of 7.8 babies born to every woman between 2010 and 2015) also has one of the lowest rates of modern contraceptive use (only 8.7% among women of reproductive age who are married or in a union).

• 80 million unintended pregnancies occur every year in developing countries, with women with an unmet need for modern contraception accounting for 79% of these unintended pregnancies.

• Worldwide an estimated 41% of pregnancies are unintended5 and over one in five of all births result from unintended pregnancies.

Fulfilling the unmet need for modern contraception in developing countries would each year:

• Save the lives of 79,000 women from pregnancy-related deaths (in addition to the 118,000 maternal deaths averted by current modern contraceptive use)

• Save the lives of 1.1 million infants that would die before the age of 1 (in addition to the 1.8 million infant deaths averted by current use)

• Avert 54 million unintended pregnancies (which would represent a decline by two-thirds and is in addition to the 218 million averted currently)

• Avert 26 million abortions, including 16 million fewer unsafe procedures (in addition to the 138 million abortions currently averted, 40 million of them unsafe)

• Avert 7 million miscarriages (in addition to the 25 million averted currently) • Avert 21 million unplanned births (in addition to the 55 million averted currently). doclink

U.S.: The Nineteenth Century Beginnings of Birth Control Advocacy

September 10, 2013, Pathfinder International   By: Kate Manning

A Pathfinder article by Kate Manning quoted some humorous ads that ran the 1800's. For example: in 1839, New York papers advertised "Female Pills" that were an "infallible regulator of ****** " (which meant that they could cause a miscarriage). The same brisk sellers were also called "French Lunar Pills," or "Tablets for the Relief of Female Complaint."

According to Manning, Ann and Charles Lohman enriched themselves selling sometimes hazardous, but often effective substances like tansy oil, ergot, opium, Spanish fly, and even turpentine. If their prescriptions failed, Ann Lohman (a.k.a. Madame Restell) provided abortions, which made "Restellism" a euphemism for abortion. Although she sometimes also helped put infants up for adoption, during forty years of practice Ann Lohman was arrested several times, and the press labeled her an "evil thug," "Hag of Misery," and "strangler."

Charles Lohman transitioned from working as a printer to working as "Dr. Mauriceau." He advertised a miraculous "French" remedy for $10, and his plagiarized writings openly advocated condom use and pregnancy termination. The Lohman's practice ended after passage of the Comstock Act, when Anthony Comstock's personal crusade jailed nearly 4,000 booksellers, doctors, abortion providers, birth control advocates, and journalists. Comstock was said to have boasted that he'd driven fifteen people to suicide. In 1878 Ann Lohman killed herself after Comstock arrested her in a sting operation.

A U.S. movement to legalize contraception began in 1914. The International Committee on Planned Parenthood (founded in 1946) evolved into the International Planned Parenthood Federation. After women began using birth control pills in the 1960s, fears about overpopulation lead to well-funded birth control campaigns around the world. But it was not until 1965 that the Supreme Court ruled in Griswold v. Connecticut that the government could not prohibit married couples from using birth control. Still, unmarried women in 26 states were denied legal access to birth control. Finally, in 1970 Congress delisted contraception in federal anti-obscenity laws, and in 1972 The Eisenstadt v. Baird case legalized birth control for all Americans. doclink

Art says: According to Wikipedia, although Europe was first to accept the wide-spread use of birth control, between 1800 and 1900 U.S. fertility rates fell by 50%, particularly among the urban middle and upper classes. Birth control methods included douching, the rhythm method, withdrawal, diaphragms, contraceptive sponges, condoms, prolonged breastfeeding, and spermicides.

However, in the 1870s a social purity movement branded contraception as an immoral practice that promoted prostitution and VD.

The Comstock Act of 1873 outlawed mailing any form of contraceptive information or "any article or thing designed or intended for the prevention of conception or procuring of abortion." Many states passed similar laws that sometimes added a total ban on the use or distribution of contraceptives. So contraception, which had never been openly discussed in print, went deeper underground. Ads used such euphemisms as "marital aids" or "hygienic devices;" and drug stores sold rubber goods (con

Population Infographic

October 17, 2013, Norwich University Online Masters in Diplomacy

Scroll to see the entire infographic.

Norwich University Online Masters in Diplomacy


Click on the link in the headline if you don't see the infographic here.

Questions on Overpopulation

February 26, 2012, WOA website

Go to this link - - to download this article as a pdf for printing on 2 pages (or one 2-sided page) for student handouts.

1. What are the biggest issues that arise from overpopulation, and why are they so bad?

a. Food shortages and associated malnutrition, susceptibility to disease, stunted growth and stunted brain power, starvation b. Peak oil, which greatly impacts food supply. c. Per capita water shortage and poor water quality, which greatly impacts food supply and human health d Climate change which creates hotter, more hostile crop growing conditions and flooding, also hostile to crops. e. Shortage of nonrenewable resources, particularly fertilizer, necessary for crop production, but also other resources needed for manufacturing, without which our materialistic civilization will grind to a halt. f. Environmental damage caused by the quest for more fossil fuels and essential metals, destruction of animal habitat caused by urbanization.

2. In the future, do you foresee it getting worse or better, and to what degree?

Going by a. Food shortages alone, it will only get worse unless we quickly stabilize population and find some as-yet-discovered agricutural advancement. The Green Revolution has petered out.

Overpopulation causes rural farming people to outgrow their lands, so the grown children move to cities. Urbanization eats up farmland, reducing crop production. Also growing seasons are becoming hotter, so many crops fail due to heat and drought. Overuse of the soils caused by overpopulation leads poor nourishment for crops and eventually desertification. Overpopulation draws on available water to the point that there is not enough to water crops. Aquifers are overdrawn to the point where they are not replenished fast enough.

3. Is there anything that you believe we can do to help lessen the effects of overpopulation on the environment and other animals?

Voluntary family planning and reproductive health care - programs providing services for voluntary family planning and reproductive health care have existed since the 1960s and they do work, having brought the world's fertility rates down to 2.5. Girls education, forbidding early marriages, male involvement, and women's empowerment is also needed to stop male preference, which results in higher birth rates. But these programs need more funding and we must push for that funding.

4. Why should people be concerned about overpopulation now, as opposed to waiting until it becomes more apparent?

Slowing population growth takes time unless we resort to drastic, ugly, highly unpopular solutions. We must increase funding for family planning now, because putting babies back in the womb, or even a worse alternative, is not an acceptable solution.

5. Why do you think so many people are ignorant on the topic of overpopulation and it's effects?

a. Resistance to contraception and the belief that sex is only for procreation by certain Christian religions. b. Belief that population stabilization requires 'population control' - the One Child policy in China,for example. Not understanding that there are gentle solutions that will help people live a better life, and that people actually want, and that have been proven to work. c. Inability to connect the dots when 6 billion goes to 7 billion in 12 years and then to 8 billion in 13 years. Belief that 'God will take care of it'. Cornucopian view of the world fostered by decades of technological advances and materialistic success has caused people to think that the world's natural resources are unlimited. Forgetting that fossil fuels have allowed the West to advance technologically and live very comfortably, and therefore not really thinking to look at the dim future of fossil fuels.

6. Do you believe overpopulation, or the way we use resources is more of a problem, and why?

There is no doubt that, if the 2 billion people living very comfortably on this earth made sacrifices, then the 2 billion living on the edge could live more comfortably - IF (a very big if) it was practical to transfer the assets of the rich to the poor, and if the rich would willingly give up their comfortable life. Unfortunately many people use the excuse that consumption is a bigger part of the problem (they believe it is) to avoid dealing with population altogether.

Most frequently we hear about overconsumption in the West measured in terms of carbon emissions. However, we must remember that the critical path for humanity is the supply of food. Arable land is fast disappearing due to urbanization, soil erosion/overuse, and water shortages in both rich and poor countries. Both rich and poor countries will suffer, the poor first, but then the poor in the richer countries. Already the middle class is fast disappearing in the U.S., due to loss of jobs to overseas employees. So the U.S. is not immune to the impacts of food shortages.

Unfortunately, population is growing so fast that, whatever advances we make by providing more food to more people eventually ends up at a point where there is not enough food and starvation is nature's way to equalize supply and demand.

7. When do you think the world's population will stop growing?

At current fertility rates the world's population will only stop growing if people die at a faster rate, which is what will happen when we run out of natural resources. No one has predicted when this will happen. Malthus is reputed to believe it would happen in the 1700s (that wasn't actually what he said); Paul Ehrlich thought it would happen in the 1970s, but both did not see the technological advances that saved the world's growing population. Unfortunately, this time experts say, it will take a miracle for everyone to survive the perfect storm of resource depletion that is coming.

The good news is that fertility rates are coming down, just not fast enough. If they continue to come down at the same rate as they have been, then the worlds population growth rate will level off by 2010 at 10 billion. That is assuming too many people don't die of starvation by then, in which case the population will stop growing sooner.

If fertility rates vary by just one half a child (average), we could reach 15.8 billion by 2100 and continue to grow - on the high side, or we could reach 8.1 billion by 2050 and start a decline. Since we went from 6 billion in 1999 to 7 billion in 2011 (12 years), I find it very difficult to believe we will wait until 2050 to have 8.1 billion. Unless we change our ways and increase funding for family planning programs.

8. What motivated you to become involved with the issue of overpopulation?

In the 1980s I noticed how crowded the roads were and whereas, 20 years before my family could go camping in the woods just about anywhere, we now had to make a reservation to camp. I started to become involved after my trip to China in 1995 where I noticed that the farmland I flew over had a whole village for every 40 - 100 acres, but in the U.S. there would be just one farmhouse for the same amount of land. And there were no vacant lots in cities like Shanghai - every space was taken.

9. What do you think is the main factor/factors contributing to overpopulation?

Lack of education and economic opportunity for women; authoritarian households where women don't have a say about their own lives, their health care or how many children they have; child marriage; lack of maternal health care for women; cultural beliefs in rural areas that say many children are needed to take care of the land, not realizing that too many children will outgrow the land; male preference; contraceptive inaccessability; lack of educational opportunities to learn that smaller families are healthier and more economically feasible.

10. How does overpopulation effect a countries economy?

Overpopulated countries cannot build sufficient infrastructure or provide sufficient services for its population because there is too much competition for natural resources for people to earn enough to support a government. Over 2 billion people earn less than $2 a day.

When a population is growing, however - not yet overpopulated, and there is a high ratio of young people, and opportunities are available for these young people to become educated and have jobs, then an economy will boom. However, when these young people are old, and they will have likely lowered their fertility rate, then there will be more older people than young people, and the economy will suffer. On the other hand, if the country reaches a point where resources in the area are exhausted, and the country cannot buy its resources from other countries, then the country is overpopulated, and poverty will be the result.

11. Why do the most populated countries have their high populations?

High populations result when death rates are brought down while fertility rates remain high. Sanitation, pumping of aquifers, modern medicine, better ways of treating sick infants, and the Green Revolution have brought down mortality. Without a corresponding drop in fertility, population will grow.

12. Are there any solutions to end starvation?

The UN claims that farmers in Africa can be be taught better farm management. Africa is where the highest growth is. It remains to be seen if this will be enough to end starvation.

13. What types of diets have the least environmental impact?

Diets which use plants instead of animals; animals are ok if they feed on land or in water that cannot be used for crops. Some plant diets are better than others, using less resources.

14. Is overpopulation a problem that we need to be worrying about?

Yes, overpopulation is like a runaway train, and the longer we wait to do something about it, the harder it will be to deal with the impacts.

15. Do you feel like it is already a problem or something will happen in the future?

It is already a problem and getting worse. We need to do something about it now.

16. What is the biggest effect of overpopulation?

The most drastic impact so far is food shortages, with one billion people classified as 'undernourished' by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2009, and nearly a billion undernourished in each of 2007, 2008, and 2011. 3 billion people in the world today struggle to survive on US$2/day, and food prices are rising. The second and thirds impacts of overpopulation are Peak Oil and Climate Change. Some will argue that climate change is not man made, but it is indeed happening and causing crop failures. The world is producing less oil today than it did last year, and this trend will continue. Both peak oil and climate change result in less food to feed the world, peak oil because food depends on mechanized farm machinery and transport.

17. In what areas of the world is overpopulation having the biggest effects and how?

China, and India are seeing the biggest effects, mostly because of water shortages and deforestation. Africa will soon follow, particularly northern Africa where there is not enough water.

18. Have you been able to see the effects first hand? If so, what is it like?

I have seen deforestation in Nepal and Ethiopia. People have to walk further and further to find firewood. In Nepal they climb up in trees and chop out branches to feed the leaves to their buffalo and the wood fuels their fires. The trees look all mangled. In Ethiopia, people have to walk 3-4 miles for wood to fuel their stoves.

19. How does overpopulation differ here in the United State compared to other countries?

Overpopulation in the U.S. affects the world because the U.S. population exceeds its carrying capacity, getting many of its resources from other countries, often taking advantage of the poverty in the other countries by paying much less than the resource is worth.

20. Many people do not believe overpopulation is a problem. Do you think they are wrong? If so, why?

Many people do not understand the relationship between our Earth's finite resources and humans existence. They believe that, if we are well-off, everything is OK. They do not see that we have already heavily borrowed against the Earth's resources: water in ancient aquifers are being overpumped, oil that was stored in the ground for thousands of years is not being replenished. Ancient civilizations who became overpopulated did not see it either.

21. When do you feel overpopulation will grow to where it is affecting the lives of people all over the world?

It already is. The current economic crisis is due to our oil-based, debt-based economy having built up a large bubble and now it has burst. In addition, food prices are rising and some people cannot afford to buy sufficient food to feed their family.

22. What do you feel is the best solution for overpopulation?

Voluntary family planning and reproductive health care - programs providing services for voluntary family planning and reproductive health care have existed since the 1960s and they do work, having brought the world's fertility rates down to 2.5. Girls education, forbidding early marriages, and women's empowerment is also needed to stop male preference, which results in higher birth rates.

23. Are you doing things yourself to reduce overpopulation? If so, what are you doing?

I am doing the web page at, promoting other organizations that work on overpopulation, doing slide shows, and supporting a couple of groups of population activists. I have also lobbied my federal representative and senators, and have put together a legislative briefing at the state level. I also do tabling on earth day, and I have been interviewed on internet radio. I donate to my favorite organizations that promote family planning and reproductive health.

24. What can people like me, an eighteen year old, do to help?

You can join an activist group, or do tabling alone if you can't find a group. You can educate yourself on the subject and all the arguments and issues on the subject (I hope my website will help you there), and participate in letter writing and leaving comments on online newspaper articles about population. You can find WOA's Facebook page (World Overpopulation Awareness), and share your activist activities with us there. You can look up Population Connection, and find suggestions of what to do there (one of them is making presentations to school teachers, who take the lesson to their students). You can hook up with the Sierra Club and join population activities there:

You can also help WOA - we have need of volunteers who do online help for WOA.

25. Why don't we hear much about this issue on the news and such? It seems like something that should be dealt with immediately, yet i don't see anyone in power taking action.

I come across over 20 articles a day on population, some of them in important places like the New York Times, the Economist, National Geographic, BBC, Scientific American, and so on. Today food and gas prices are rising, partly due to peak oil, partly due to climate change, partly due to seasonal fluctuation, but mostly due to a shortage of resources per person.

On the other hand, there are conservatives that do not believe in limited resources, overpopulation, "telling people what they should do in their private lives," contraception, and abortion. Some of these people are in places of high influence, like the U.S. Congress, which has recently contemplated removing Title X funding from Planned Parenthood, claiming the money is going for abortions, which it isn't. The money goes for family planning services (not abortion) and reproductive health services. These same conservatives control various media such as Fox News.

The United States and other countries HAVE been taking action on this issue for many years. Programs are in place for voluntary family planning and reproductive health, among others that reduce fertility rates. These programs have been instrumental in bringing down world fertility rates, which are now around 2.5 children per woman. But every year there is a battle over how much funding should be put into these programs by the U.S. doclink

Karen Gaia says: any suggestions for these FAQs are welcome. Send to

Understanding Demography

U.S. Births Dip to 30-year Low; Fertility Rate Sinks Further Below Replacement Level

May 17, 2018, National Public Radio   By: Bill Chappell

According to a recent report by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017 the U.S. saw the fewest newborns since 1987, and the birthrate dropped for almost every group of women. In 2017 the total number of births was down 2% from 2016, and the fertility rate fell to a record low. These new numbers put the U.S. further away from a viable replacement rate, which has not been met since 1971.

Since a sharp decline in the early 1970's, the number of births in the U.S. has gradually risen. That growth however has been inconsistent with spikes and dips caused by the economy, generational size, and other factors. And, despite the rise in births, the birthrate over this time frame has shown a general decline.

The results of the report correspond with predictions the Census Bureau and others have been making for years. After decades of relatively high fertility rates, the U.S. must now depend on immigration for population growth.

In the report, teens (15-19 years) saw the biggest drop at 7% from the year before. And, the only group not to see a decline was women between the ages of 40 and 44. They saw an increase of 2% from 2016. The U.S. also experienced rises in preterm birthrate, low birth weight rate, and cesarean delivery rate in 2017. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Several things to note here: Use and accessibility of effective contraception, especially for teens, are one the rise. Women are postponing having children, and often wait until too late to have them, but some are finally ready and that explains the high birth rate between 40 and 44. Perhaps the increase in preterm birthrate, low birth weight rate, and cesarean delivery rate may be due to the larger number of older (40--44) women having babies when their bodies are not in the optimum shape for having them.

World Population to Hit 8bn in 2023, Says New UN Survey

New findings show more men than women and that there will be 1bn over-60s next year for the first time
June 21, 2017, Guardian

The world's population will break through the 8 billion mark in 2023, according to the latest findings and forecasts from the United Nations annual population survey.

More than half of the global population growth by 2050 will come from sub-Saharan Africa, where fertility rates will persist at levels far higher than in the rest of the world.

Half the growth in numbers of people will come from just nine countries: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, the US, Uganda and Indonesia. By 2050 seven of the world's 20 most populous nations will be African.

All European countries now have fertility rates below replacement level, meaning that populations will decline without large-scale immigration.

Eastern Europe numbers likely to fall more than 15% in Bulgaria, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine.

The UN study also found that there 102 men for every 100 women, and that the number of people over 60 will top 1 billion in 2018 - and 2 billion by 2050. Children under 15 years make up about one quarter of the world's inhabitants.

The median age of the world's population is 30. doclink

Karen Gaia says: More numbers fro the U.N. report: Human population will reach 8.6 by 2030, 9.8 by 2050, and 11.2 billion by 2100. These numbers vary only slightly from the U.N.s 2015 numbers. Roughly 83 million people are added to the world's population every year and the upward trend is expected to continue even with a continuing decline in fertility rates,

Humans Projected to Number Ten Billion by 2050s; Half of Us Will Be Living in Asia

August 27, 2016, National Geographic magazine   By: David Maxwell Braun

World population will increase 33% from 7.4 billion now to 9.9 billion in 2050 and 10 million by 2053, according to the Population Reference Bureau (PRB).

Africa's population will double to reach 2.5 billion by 2050, while the number of people in the Americas will rise by only 223 million to 1.2 billion. Asia will reach 5.3 billion, while Europe will decline from 740 million to 728 million. Oceania (which includes Australia and New Zealand) would rise from 40 million to 66 million.

This year's edition of PRB's Data Sheet provides the latest data on 19 key population, health, and environment indicators for the world, major regions, and more than 200 countries. PRB also added six indicators and analytical graphics that explore the balance between providing for human needs and sustainably managing the natural resources on which people depend.

The population in 29 countries will more than double by 2050. Nearly all of these countries are in Africa. In Niger, the country with the highest birth rate, the population will more than triple.

Forty-two countries in Asia, Latin America, and Europe will see population declines. Romania is expected to have a population of 14 million in 2050, down from 20 million today.

The population of the United States will rise 23% from 324 million today to 398 million in 2050.

Over 25% of the world's population is under 15 years old: 41% in least developed countries and 16% in more developed countries.

Japan has the oldest population with 25% of its citizens older than 65. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have only 1% over 65.

Most Sub-Saharan African countries have fertillity rates above 6 children per woman, and one tops 7. The average fertility rate In Europe 1.6, in the United States it is 1.8.

Thirty-three countries in Europe and Asia have more people over age 65 than under 15.

There has been a 60% increase to 9.8 billion tons in annual carbon emissions between 1992 and 2013. China had the largest increase: from 735 million metric tons to 2.8 billion metric tons. Forty-three countries reduced their carbon emissions over the same period with Ukraine having the lowest reduction.

Eighteen percent of the world's energy comes from renewable sources, which include hydroelectric power.

There is an average of 526 people per square kilometer of arable land. The number is 238 in more developed countries and 697 in less developed countries. doclink

25 Facts in Observance of World Population Day July 11

June 28, 2016, Huffington Post   By: Norm Schriever

World Population Day was established by the UN in 1989. This year's theme of "Investing in teenage girls," is a critical mission for all nations and people around the globe.

[NOTE: Not all of the 25 facts are here in this excerpt:]

1. There are over 7.4 billion people on earth today.

2. An estimated 108 billion people have lived throughout history (as of 2011). 6.5% of all the people that have ever lived are alive right now.

3. The world's population rose from 400 million in 1000 AD, to 800 million in 1750 AD,1 billion in 1804, 2 billion in 1927, and 3 billion by 1960. By 2000 - 40 years later, the population to doubled again to 6 billion.

5. Standing side by side, the entire world's population could fit into 500 square miles - which is less than the size of Los Angeles.

6. People in poor nations live an average of 55.9 years, compared with people in developed countries at 77.1 years.

7. About 1.8 billion people around the world are between the ages of 10 and 24, which is the largest population of young people ever. In fact, about 52% of the total world population is under 30 years old.

10. It's estimated that every second there are 4.3 births and 1.8 deaths , which adds up to a net population gain of 2.5 people per second.

The recent population explosion isn't attributed to increased birth rates but decreases in death rates due to improvements in medicine, agriculture yields, urbanization, technology, education, disease prevention, and fewer war fatalities.

11. Today, our population is growing by 1.18% per year (approximately 83 million additional people annually) compared to a growth rate of 1.24% per year only ten years ago. We are expected to reach 8.5 billion people by 2030 and 9.7 billion by 2050.

12. One-third of population growth in the world is due to accidental or unwanted pregnancies, often because of a lack of basic education, family planning, or healthcare.

13. 27,000 species go extinct per year.

14. The countries with the largest populations are China with 1.38 billion, India a close second with 1.32 billion, and the United States with 324 million. Indonesia and Brazil are next.

16. The wealthiest 20% of people in the world consume 86% of its goods, with the poorest 20% consuming only 1.3%. The wealthiest 20% of our total population consume 45% of all meat and fish (the poorest 20% consume only 5%), 58% of total energy, and the richest 12% of the population use 85% of the world's water.

17. About 20% of the world live on less that $1 per day, while 30% live on less than $2 per day. The ratio of the richest to poorest population was 5 to 1 in 1820, 35 to 1 by the 1950s, and 72 to 1 as of 1992.

36 of the 40 poorest and hungriest countries in the world actually export food to wealthier nations.

18. In 1800 only 3% of the world's population lived in cities. Today about 50% now live in urban centers. A predicted 70% will live in cities by 2050.

21. A child dies every 20 seconds because of poor sanitation. In fact, 1 in 10 people - or 663 million - don't have access to safe drinking water around the world.

22. 2.4 billion people - or 1 in 3 - don't even have access to a toilet. More people on earth today have access to a mobile phone than a toilet.

23. More than 700 million women in the world were married before the age of 18, including around 15 million girls forced into marriage in 2015 alone.

24. Of the 42 million refugees worldwide who have fled their homes because of war, 80% are women, girls, or young children, often the target of systematic rape, violence, and terror.

25. 62 million girls are denied an education every year around the globe, and about 25% of young women in developing nations ages 15-24 never finished primary school. doclink

Leaving Women Out of Development Statistics Just Doesn't Add Up

The information we rely on to make policy fails to reflect the reality of the lives of women and girls
April 7, 2016, Guardian   By: Mayra Buvinic and Ruth Levine

Information we depend on to make social and economic policy, and to monitor progress, is unable to reflect the reality of the lives of women and girls.

In the low-income areas of Lima, Peru, businesswomen attempts to complete training designed to improve their practices and income are hindered bytravel time and childcare demands.

Nigerian women farmers grow less food than male farmers because they have limited access to fertilizers and tractors. The design of programs designed to help farmers and many others are impaired by the absence of data and by bad data on women and girls.

In the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that UN member states have pledged to support, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is fifth on the list of 17 goals. Detailed targets include ending: discrimination, violence and sexual exploitation, early and forced marriage, and genital mutilation.

While these practices rightfully attract the most condemnation, inequality can also be more subtle, and thus harder to account for.

In many issues of the SDGs, information is not disaggregated by sex, obviating any possibility of understanding gender differences. For others, gender bias is ingrained in the measurement process.

For example, the labour force surveys often ask only about a person's primary economic activity, neglecting the fact paid work can often be a secondary occupation (with "housewife" being considered the primary activity). Decision makers who depend on these surveys have little understanding about how women add value to the economy.

Another gap is in measuring unpaid household work. This feeds the myth that women working in the home have free time for training and other development interventions. Projects designed on this false premise have high dropout rates from female participants, as it was for the micro entrepreneurs in Lima.

Having no data is bad enough, but sub-standard data is arguably more insidious, particularly when the data systematically misrepresents reality to make women appear to be more dependent and less productive than they are.

Many surveys of households use the (male) head of household as the anchor for the family roster, undercounting women who fulfill this role. These households are more likely to be overlooked.

Female-headed farm households had less access to fertilizers and other agricultural input, were less likely to have received credit in the last year, and were less likely to have land titles and own agricultural land, according to the World Bank.

Data collected under these surveys can result in figures off by 50% to 100%

High-level political commitment, technical advances and earmarked resources for larger investments than have been made to date will be required to meet the SDGs For every political exhortation about the importance of bettering the lot of women and girls, we need a comparable demand by leaders for gender-specific information about not just health and education, but also work, personal security and freedom, and protection from environmental harms. doclink

Global Land Cover Change From 8000 BP to -50 BP


This animation shows the global pattern of human land use over the last eight thousand years, a time when human populations began expanding following the origins of agriculture. The earliest areas of human land use are in Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent areas of southwest Asia, followed by increasing areas of land use in China, India, and Europe.

Watch for the areas of intensive land use developing in India, especially along the Ganges River plane, and in Northern China along the lower Yellow and Yangtze rivers.

As time goes on, you will see areas of land use developing in South America, along the Andes, and in Africa, especially in the Sahel region.

By classical times, land use in Europe is very intense with up to 60% of the land under human uses, but we start to see fluctuations around this time too, with some areas abandoned corresponding with wars, famine, and other historical events that affected human populations. As time continues through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, land use in Europe and Chine increase greatly following the development of cities and towns.

Now pay careful attention to South America. Following the first contact with Europeans around 1500, nearly 90% of the indigenous people of the Americas were killed, mainly by disease. This collapse in populations led to massive regrowth of natural vegetation, especially forests in the Amazon, Andes, and Mesoamerica.

As we race towards modern times we see the settlement of the Americas and Australia by Europeans spreading across the continents, and the development of the human-dominated world we have today. doclink

Religions and Babies

Gapminder World

Is there a relation between religion, sex and the number of babies per woman? In this TED talk from Doha, Qatar, Hans Rosling discusses this delicate topic and explains the main reason why the world population will increase with another 3 billion people.

It's not religion; it's not income. What is it?

Image from Qatar government website

Image from Gapminder World website at doclink

Action Alerts

My Health, My Life - 6 Reasons Why I Fight for Women's Health

Planned Parenthood

1. We all have the right to plan when and if to have a child.

2. Doctors help decide our medical care -- not politics or religious restrictions.

3. Our access to care shouldn't depend on who we are, where we work, or where we live.

4. We all deserve access to sex education.

5. We will not stand for coercion, harassment or intimidation when accessing health care.

6. Victims of sexual violence deserve compassionate care without delay, judgment or intimidation.

Go to the link in the headline to sign the petition doclink

I Stand with Planned Parenthood! Petition

July 28, 2015, Population Connection Action Fund

Planned Parenthood has been the victim of a vicious smear campaign. An anti-choice group went "undercover" and has released a pair of heavily edited, dishonest videos in an attempt to discredit an organization that has helped literally millions of women gain access to breast exams, birth control and other vital reproductive health services.

Now anti-choice politicians are seizing on these videos as their newest excuse to attack funding for Planned Parenthood. They're already preparing to vote on legislation that would cut off access to care for millions.

We know these attacks are based on lies and deceptions, and that it's really about preventing women from making choices about their lives and futures.

Click on the link to sign the petition. doclink

Petition to the Pope

Global Population Speakout (GPSO)

Pope Francis' environmental papal encyclical ("Praise Be to You", June 18, 2015) called much needed attention to climate change and strongly asserted that we all have an ethical responsibility to care for the Earth.

While we welcome the Pope's concern about consumerism and its impact on the environment and applaud his call to action on climate change, the refusal of His Holiness to address the impacts that population size and growth are having on the planet is a tragic oversight. If we are, indeed, stewards of what the Pope calls, "our Sister, Mother Earth," we have a responsibility to help prevent unintended pregnancies, and the best means of doing that is to ensure that every woman has information about, and unrestricted access to, modern methods of contraception.

In response to this Papal oversight, we are sending Pope Francis a copy of Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot (OVER). Along with the book we are sending a public appeal for the Church to end its religious prohibition on the use of contraceptives. Please join us in sending this important message to the Vatican.


"Your Holiness, we applaud you for your concern about consumerism and your commitment to fighting climate change and caring for the poor, but we implore the Catholic Church to reconsider its opposition to the use of modern contraceptives.

"With 7.3 billion people on the planet and another 2.4 billion anticipated by 2050, our Sister, Mother Earth is, as you so eloquently put it, 'burdened and laid waste' and 'groans with travail.' Inspired by World Population Day 2015, we hereby present you with Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot - a photographic testimony to the tragic impact that the growth in human numbers and consumption is having on the Earth and all the creatures that call it home.

"Curbs on consumption alone will not save and restore Mother Earth; if we are, as you put it, to 'reverse the harm we have inflicted' on her, the Holy Catholic Church must reverse its stance on the use of contraceptives. We must give every woman in the world the ability to determine the number and spacing of her pregnancies. Join with us in preserving and protecting Mother Earth."

Click here to sign the petition. doclink

Stop the War on International Law

June 21, 2014, Global

The Women's Equality Treaty (officially known as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, or CEDAW) has been languishing in the Senate for over 30 years due to a well-funded and coordinated opposition that feels threatened by international law.

This law has been used by over 180 other countries to address female illiteracy, discrimination, female genital mutilation, sex trafficking and income inequality.

But opponents are portraying it as a threat to the "traditional family" and deliberately distorting the truth about it and several other treaties. They are threatening to run against Senators who support international cooperation, leading many to keep silent on their support for ratification.

Our Senate is better than this. Our citizens deserve better. It's time our Senators went on the record about the U.S. standing up for women's equality and ratifying CEDAW.

Opponents of international cooperation are threatening any Senator who supports working with other countries to solve global problems. Help us fight this "war on international law" and recommit American leadership to engaging and shaping global norms that reflect our shared values. doclink

Governor Brown: Support the End of Forced Sterilization of California Prisoners

Ask the California legislature to immediately pass SB 1135, a proposed law that would prohibit sterilization of prisoners for birth control or without their consent.
June 19, 2014,

Ask the California legislature to immediately pass SB 1135, a proposed law that would prohibit sterilization of prisoners for birth control or without their consent.

The State of California cares for its prisoners so badly that in 2005, a judge mandated federal oversight of their prison healthcare system after it was documented that one person dies in California prisons every day from extreme medical malpractice or neglect. But as horrific as these crimes of neglect are, it shocks the conscience anew to hear that the medical care that was provided to prisoners included forced sterilization as recently as 2010.

Eugenics is a word that sounds to too many of us like it belongs only in the history books, but the eugenics programs started in California in the 1920s were found still alive and kicking in its prisons until very recently. While mainstream, and mostly white, women's rights advocates celebrated and defended legal abortion, too little attention has been paid to genocidal medical violence practiced against members of society deemed 'unfit' parents due to poverty, mental health, or non-white ethnicity.

As Loretta Ross, an African American victim of forced sterilization at the age of 23, wrote recently, "After my sterilization, I felt empty, lost, and butchered. I was in shock and felt powerless." There is no justification for an atrocity like this and the State of California must immediately act to ensure that state power is never again abused to deprive people of their right to parent and make their own decisions about their family size.

Tell Governor Brown to ask the California legislature to act immediately to pass SB 1135 and safeguard against forced sterilization of vulnerable populations. doclink

Act Now for Women and Girls

June 18, 2014, Center for Health and Gender Equity

Around the world, women and girls are targeted for rape and sexual violence as a tactic of war, to tear apart and terrorize families and communities. But women and girls are taking a stand for what they need to recover and survive. We can take a stand. And the United States must take the lead. Stand with CHANGE, Global Fund for Women, and tens of thousands of women and girls. Send President Obama a strong message: act now for women and girls raped in conflict and crisis. Join us at doclink

U.S.: SB899 - Take Action: Why is California Telling Women How Many Kids to Have?

June 1, 2014, Act for Women and Girls - California

Repeal the MFG rule. Stop punishing families.

California has a long history of supporting a woman's personal decisions regarding her reproductive choices. We trust women to make decisions about what's best for their families. But there is a state policy - the Maximum Family Grant rule (MFG) - that actually limits women's ability to make reproductive decisions.Tell California's lawmakers and Gov. Brown today: it's time to repeal the MFG rule.

The MFG rule is part of CalWORKs, California's program to help families in poverty. But this rule punishes poor women for their reproductive decisions by withholding aid for a newborn child. It also punishes poor children by denying them financial support and drives families deeper into poverty.

The MFG rule limits reproductive freedom by telling women how many children they should have. The government shouldn't be intruding in families' private lives like this.

For the past 20 years, this failed state policy has made life harder for families. It's time to stop punishing children and start supporting families who are trying hard to make ends meet. It is time to tell the government out of women's decisions about when to have children. It's time to repeal the MFG rule. Take action today.

A strong coalition led by State Senator Holly Mitchell has come together to repeal the MFG rule through a bill, SB 899, and the state budget doclink

Karen Gaia says: this is not what we population folks are all about. We believe that families must be trusted to make the best decision for their families. Voluntary family planning is the essence of our ideals. Fifty percent of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. That tells us that women do not always have the best information about, and access to, affordable effective contraception. This is where we must focus.


We Can Do More This World Contraception Day

September 26, 2012, Pathfinder International

Let us help the 215 million women who lack access to family planning, like Georgette, a mother in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who, before she finally found access to contraception, had already been pregnant 20 times, and lost 7 of her babies to starvation because nursing was cut short by another pregnancy. With the help of the Pathfinder-trained community health worker, Georgette chose a contraceptive method and is now happy and healthy.

Click here to donate.

$25 can provide 4 doctors with infection prevention training manuals.

$50 can give a woman in Peru a year of contraception and counseling.

$100 can train a community health worker in India to provide basic family planning services.

$250 can train 10 midwives to recognize the signs of high risk pregnancies, enabling them to refer a woman to a health facility.

$1,000 can buy one year of injectable contraceptives for 600 women in Ethiopia. doclink

Center for Biological Diversity Overpopulation Public Service Ad in Times Square on a 520-square-foot Screen for One Month

September 8, 2011, Center for Biological Diversity

The Center for Biological Diversity launched a new national campaign, 7 Billion and Counting, to highlight the devastating effects of the world's exploding human population on wildlife around the globe. The PSA in Times Square will reach a million people every day over the next month. Check out the powerful ad by clicking on the headline link above -- now running hourly in one of the most crowded places on the planet.

The 7 Billion and Counting campaign is timed to raise public awareness of the world hitting its 7 billionth human being at the end of October and the impacts of that benchmark on global biodiversity and endangered plant and animal species.

The money for the ad was raised from individual contributions. doclink

Book Signing Set for Redlands Author; Jane Roberts Says Her Grass-roots Fundraising Has Been 'an Incredible Adventure'

November 3, 2005, Press Enterprise (US)

Jane Roberts was mad that the Bush administration had refused to release the funds Congress had approved for UNFPA and she set out to raise the $34 million - she would ask 34 million Americans to send $1 each to UNFPA. Lois Abraham came up with a similar idea, the U.N. agency put the two in contact and they joined forces. Together they gave birth to 34 Million Friends of the Women of the World. By May 1, 2003, the organization had raised $ 1 million and a recent tally puts the total at nearly $ 2.75 million. UNFPA has been using the money for family-planning supplies and the prevention and repair of obstetric fistula. Ted Turner's U.N. Foundation has donated grant funds and support. A first-hand account of her experiences, published by Ladybug Press is titled "34 Million Friends of the Women of the World." After co-founding the organization, Roberts began speaking around the world about the fundraising effort. Roberts and Abraham were nominated, along with 998 other women, for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize. They did not win, but their nomination brought attention to their efforts. For years she believed herself to be the lay person best informed and most passionate about women's reproductive issues and problems. "I am living in a dream world, doing what I want to do most in the latter years of my life." doclink

Peruvian Amazon Conservation

June 26, 2005, Richard Grossman, MD

We can all agree about the importance of providing voluntary family planning to women. Please take a moment to learn about an amazing organization, Peruvian Amazon Conservation, which supplies women who live along a section of the Amazon with an exceptional contraceptive service.

PAC ( is based in a small village where there are no roads'all travel is along the waterways. It was a real eye-opener for me when I visited there a few years ago. The people are universally poor - too poor to afford any medical care in most cases. Although Peru has a family planning program, people would have to go to Iquitos (the nearest city) to participate; this is a journey that few of the people in this area can afford. Although population density seems low, all people live along rivers, and they are making significant changes to the rain forest by cutting down trees and "development". PAC provides basic medical care, health and environmental education as well as family planning.

The PAC family planning program is based on depo-medroxyprogesterone (Depo Provera, or DMPA). Women come to the clinic for their shots every three months. All women receive their shots during the same week so they can "carpool". (Actually, people arrive at the clinic by dugout canoe.) If a woman wants to start contraception at a time different from the shot week, she is given enough birth control pills to last until the next time shots are given.

It has been difficult and expensive to get a reliable supply of DMPA. People from my hometown, Durango, Colorado, gave over a thousand dollars last year to help pay for the medication and to support PAC. (Please note that PAC is not a slick organization with paid staff. You need to mail them a check rather than making a donation by internet). PAC is a nonprofit 501c3 tax-exempt organization, so all donations are tax deductible. The contact information is:

Peruvian Amazon Conservation 1759 Dyson Drive NE Atlanta, GA 30307 Phone: 404-378-9800

The organization is run out of the home of Eleanor Smithwick, the founder and executive director. She is often in Peru, so her husband, Ron, will answer the phone if she is not at home. Note that none of the contributions go to support Eleanor or the other USA staff. doclink

Videos, Presentations

#ClimateFacts: Thirsty World

May 2, 2018, You Tube

If climate change continues unabated, half the global population is expected to suffer from severe water shortage by 2050. Is this the world we want to live in? doclink

Biodiversity Crisis

March 26, 2018, You Tube

Three-quarters of species on earth were wiped out in the fifth mass extinction, including the dinosaurs. 66 M Yrs later, scientists are now warning that we are entering the sixth mass extinction, and it's caused by people. doclink

William Rees: What's Driving the Planet's Accelerating Species Collapse?

November 16, 2017, ValueWalk

At the dawn of agriculture, just ten thousand years ago, human beings accounted for less than 1% of the total mammalian biomass on the planet. Today, human beings account for about 32 - 35%of the total biomass of mammals. So, humans have gone from less than 1% of the total biomass to over 98.5% of an increased biomass. doclink

Extremely Endangered Tiger Losing Habitat -- and Fast

December 10, 2017, National Geographic magazine

Despite successful anti-poaching efforts, the Sumatran tiger population has declined about 17% since 2000, to just 600 animals left in the wild. Between 2000 and 2012, some 17% of prime tiger habitat was torn down, mainly for oil palm plantations, which covers nearly 30 million acres of the country. Sixty years ago Sumatra likely had a dozen of these secure source populations across the island. Today there are just two. doclink

Human Population Through Time

November 4, 2016, American Museum of Natural History

It took 200,000 years for our human population to reach 1 billion-and only 200 years to reach 7 billion. But growth has begun slowing, as women have fewer babies on average. When will our global population peak? And how can we minimize our impact on Earth's resources, even as we approach 11 billion? doclink

The Power of Stories

November 1, 2017, Population Media Center

PMC's TV and radio shows get more than top ratings. This is storytelling that changes lives.

While being entertained, people's day-to-day experiences are changed by these stories. We all learn by watching role models. PMC's shows change ideas, self-perception, and self-confidence for millions of people at a time.


Save the World: Better Than Ed

August 10, 2017, Better Than Ed

A project from the Center of Biological Diversity:

Every day we add 227,000 people to the planet. And every day dozens of wildlife species go extinct. The United Nations predicts that human population will surpass 11 billion by the end of the century. As the world's population grows, so do demands for water, land, trees and fossil fuels - all of which come at a steep price for already endangered plants and animals.

Ed may be a celebrity and environmentalist, but sometimes his sustainability tips can be a bit unorthodox.* The truth is, you don't have to be famous or perform eco-heroics to help save the world from often-overlooked - but serious - issues like food waste, energy waste and population growth. Making sustainable choices every day, and demanding that systems change so that it's easier for everyone to live sustainably, are all you need to help save the world.

*Disclaimer: Ed Begley Jr. is actually totally reasonable! Check out his website for inspiration for a sustainable lifestyle.


Letter and Article Writing

LTE for World Population Day

July 3, 2015   By: Bonnie Tillery, Population Issues Coordinator, New Jersey Chapter Sierra Club

At her trial in 1917, a judge told Margaret Sanger "..if a woman isn't willing to die in childbirth, she shouldn't have sex." Most of us are shocked by these words, yet in 2015 too many women still die in childbirth, often from sexual relations they are powerless to prevent.

According to the United Nations' most recent estimate, 289,000 women around the world die every year from causes related to pregnancy or childbirth. Many of these deaths are in the United States where we have one of the highest rates of maternal mortality among developed countries. We know what to do to save women. Worldwide, 225,000 women want, but do not have access to, contraception.

On July 11th, World Population Day, think of these women and their families. Providing contraceptive education and services allows them to voluntarily choose the size family they want and to space those children for healthier outcomes. These same women generally choose smaller families which puts less stress on the dwindling resources of this planet. By insisting that our legislators fund voluntary family planning, we save women's lives and the environment. doclink

LTE: for Contraception Methods, Long-term Options Work Better

November 27, 2013

Bonnie Tillery, a population issues coordinator for the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club wrote this LTE which she is willing to share with anyone who wants to send it to their local paper.

For contraception methods,long-term options work better

There has been a lot of negative press about the Affordable Care Act, but here is some positive news.

The act mandates that insurance companies provide all forms of female contraception without a co-pay as part of preventive health care. This should bring down the incidence of unplanned pregnancy dramatically, as was shown in a 2007 study at Washington University in St. Louis.

According to an Oct. 23 article in The American Prospect, researchers "provided 10,000 St. Louis women with free contraception, with the goal of decreasing unintended pregnancy.... Few women ended up choosing the pill. Most went with a long-acting contraceptive method, like an IUD or an implant and the results were striking. Women who opted for a shorter-term contraceptive like the pill were 20 times more likely to have an unintended pregnancy."

Currently, about one-half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned - the largest number among countries in the developed world. By reducing dependence on the birth control pill, which is not as effective as other long-term contraceptives, the incidence of unplanned pregnancy should be greatly diminished.

Women who are able to plan their pregnancies and space their children have healthier outcomes for themselves, their families and the environment.. doclink

Talk Point: Have Your Say on Population Growth

July 18, 2011, The Guardian

This month's Global development podcast looks at population growth. What questions would you like us to ask our panel?

Click on the headline link above to participate. doclink

U.S.: How You Can Help Improve News Media Coverage of Population

May 11, 2011, Population Media Center

While it seems the volume of news media coverage of population issues has increased significantly in the last few years, still a lot of inaccurate and biased coverage of population issues, both by the media and by institutions that favor continued population growth.

With food and energy crises, political instability, continuing loss of the biodiversity, and a growing volume of material coming from population activists, awareness has been raised among journalists that we may have overgrown the capacity of the planet to sustain our numbers and lifestyles.

An example of this problem is when the US Census Bureau characterized the US population 9% growth rate in the last decade as, "The percentage growth this last thus the second lowest of the past century," and failed to mention that the total population growth 1990's and the 2000's (60 million) was bigger than the Baby Boom of 1945 to 1965 (54 million), as reported by researcher Mark Powell of Vermonters for Sustainable Population.

Newspapers picked up on the slow growth idea and published inaccurate stories.

Population Media Center is managing a project called the Population News Strategy that seeks to educate the public about population issues both in the United States and abroad, in order to help the public understand the importance of slowing down and eventually halting both domestic and international population growth.

How you can help:

If you see a news-story which explicitly covers a population issue - accurately or inaccurately - and the email of the reporter is available, please send the hyperlink of the story to: . Stories where the reporter's email is not available may be interesting, but will not help us build our database.

If you see a blogger covering population issues, please send the blog url to:

If you personally know and can easily contact a credible and well-credentialed researcher, writer, advocate, politician, scientist, activist, etc., who is interested in sustainable population issues who you think deserves consideration for being placed on-air, please contact Joe Bish at: . In your message please identify the individual and provide back-ground information on them if possible (e.g. bio or url to website).

If you have something to say about population and wish to contribute an Op-Ed to be considered for syndicated publishing, please do not hesitate to send drafts for consideration to:

Please note these general Op-Ed guidelines: Columns should be provocative: identify a problem and identify a specific culprit (e.g. Congress, a specific person, a corporation). Aim for no more than six hundred words. Please indicate if the piece has been run in another publication before you sent it to us. doclink

The Future of the International Family Planning Movement

July 27, 2005, Population Reference Bureau

The availability, use, and funding of family planning worldwide has seen a revolution in the last 50 years, dramatically reducing fertility levels and slowing population growth in developing countries. But contraceptive use is still low and need for it high in some of the world's poorest and most populous places.

In the 1970s and 1980s family planning was in the spotlight, but recently not so much recently as as issues such as HIV/AIDS and poverty alleviation. Perhaps its success has led to its recent loss of visibility.

Recently key informants - developing-country program managers, senior staff members of nongovernmental and donor organizations, and prominent researchers - were surveyed in a study supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute of Population and Reproductive Health at Johns Hopkins University. One key informant in the study said: "When you hesitate to say the words 'family planning,' something is happening. When you say 'reproductive health' and have to be careful, something is happening."

There is a declining sense of urgency about population growth and its consequences; competing health and development priorities; rising political conservatism (especially in the United States); and a lack of international and local leadership. Poverty reduction was cited as the primary focus of current development efforts.

The agenda of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) meeting in Cairo in 1994 emphasized the welfare of individual women, the achievement of their sexual and reproductive health and rights, and gender equity. This redefinition of the social problem of population growth in terms of reproductive health, particularly for women, has caused popular consciousness about the problem to ebb, since reproductive health does not carry the same political vitality as a developmental disaster or disease epidemic.

"When reproductive health becomes too big, family planning gets lost. The trouble is that it's no longer a focused program. It's difficult for donors to see, to manage and implement." In 1995, family planning received 55% of total worldwide population-assistance expenditures, while basic research and reproductive health received 18% each and HIV/STIs received 9%. In 2003, HIV/STIs received 47% of total worldwide population-assistance expenditures, while reproductive health received 25%, basic research 15%, and family planning 13%. Compared to the magnitude of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, preventing unintended pregnancies is now perceived internationally as much less compelling and less urgent.

While there was general agreement that collaboration between family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs was appropriate, there seemed to be distinct lack of collaboration between the fields. Young people who used to be attracted to the family planning field when it was seen as a critical social need are reportedly going into fields that are perceived to be more urgent today, such as HIV/AIDS, safe motherhood, and poverty alleviation, while some older, experienced leaders who formerly worked in family planning have moved on. That and lack of funding for advanced training means that leadership in family planning is aging or lacking.

Strong opposition from abortion opponents is also a disincentive to work in the family planning field. Some respondents felt that the international family planning movement was in it's demise, but others felt that the movement would continue with the locus of action shifiting to the developing world in those countries that have major contraceptive needs, a rapidly growing population, and a policy commitment to slowing growth. Others felt that women's motivation to control fertility is so strong (and the social norm of family planning so well established) that contraceptive use will continue to rise no matter what happens to family planning programs.

Some felt the message of family planning could be recast (1) addressing an unfinished agenda of unmet contraceptive need, unwanted fertility, stalled fertility decline, and shortages of contraceptive supplies; (2) highlighting family planning's benefits for reducing abortion and improving women's status and health; and (3) demonstrating family planning's relevance in reducing social inequity. Many saw the risks of increased poverty, poor health, and higher mortality as a result of high fertility and population growth rates.

"The population theme is both a threat and an opportunity. It needs to be better utilized, not for Malthusian reasons, but in order to rise above poverty," said one respondent. doclink

U.S.: Izaak Walton League: Outdoors Journalists Key to New Education Campaign Linking Impact of Population Growth on Conservation Resources

Izaak Walton League

Human population growth has potentially explosive consequences for natural resources and the Izaak Walton League has released a pair of publications intended to inspire, engage, and assist outdoor journalists to reacquaint themselves with this issue. The first is a collection of essays by five prominent journalists on the effects of population growth on outdoor recreation. The second gives background information and tips on writing stories about population growth and getting them published. Chuck Clayton, national president, said that outdoor recreation enthusiasts will understand more fully the consequences of human population growth on their pursuits when a broader spectrum of journalists start addressing the issue as a matter of course. Jim Baird, director of the League's Sustainability Education Project said "Every major threat to outdoor recreation-from climate change to hunting access, from habitat loss to dying fisheries - is, at its base, an issue about how people can continue to thrive while maintaining a livable world." Outdoor journalists should embrace this topic more aggressively." In 1970 the League's members enacted a policy on carrying capacity - an evaluation of how human needs and numbers affect wildlife, their habitat and all forms of recreation that depend on the outdoors. Follow the headline link to read the two publications. doclink

Local Activites, Ideas

Growth Busters Webinar: Let’s Talk Birds & Bees on Earth Day - April 19

April 9, 2017, Growth Busters   By: Dave Gardner

Back in 1970 when we observed our first Earth Day, human population numbers were part of the conversation. There was growing awareness of the problem and it was not politically incorrect to advocate for smaller families. For a number of reasons, the issue was eventually relegated to the back burner. As a result, 1970's world population of 3.7 billion has doubled. Now, nearly 50 years later, the world is belatedly waking to the urgent need to address the population side of the sustainability equation.

This is the subject of the next free GrowthBusters webinar at 9 pm EDT on Wednesday, April 19, Let's Talk Birds & Bees on Earth Day.

The Center for Biological Diversity is one of the few environmental NGOs promoting action to achieve sustainable population. Population Organizer Leigh Moyer will discuss what the Center is doing to bring population growth back to the environmental conversation. High school junior Lórien Dancer will share how her peers are responding to a school event she helped organize about population and sustainability, and her experience as a volunteer distributing Endangered Species Condoms for the Center. Dave Gardner, director of the documentary GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth, will serve as host.

Register here for the webinar. If you can't attend the live session, registration will get you a replay link so you don't have to miss it. You'll receive the link the day after the webinar. The webinar is co-sponsored by the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere (MAHB). Archived replays of all GrowthBusters webinars can be found here in the members-only section of the GrowthBusters website. Information about joining GrowthBusters can be found here. doclink

Population Education - Making a Dent

August 31, 2015, WOA website   By: Art Elphick

A sense of inevitability sets in as the U.N. declares not only that world population will reach 9.6 billion by 2050 but also that the U.N. has twice had to up its estimates to conform with actual counts. Most people do not list overconsumption and/or over-population on their top-ten list of political issues, and neither the Republican nor Democrat party lists these issues in their fliers. We know these issues are critically important; yet public awareness is sorely lacking. Perhaps the answer is to teach basic facts about overconsumption and over-population in our nation's schools.

Surprise! They already are part of the curriculum used by thousands of teachers. This is true because Population Connection's program called Population Education ( has developed and refined a set of curricula that apply to most public school subjects at every grade level. What's more, these curricula meet the requirements and standards relating to math, science, English and other major subjects, and they use effective student participation methods designed to maximize student involvement. Teachers learn to use these curricula by attending the standard workshops teachers are encouraged to take to keep up to date and enhance their credentials. Colleges that offer majors in education periodically offer such workshops, and Population Education routinely participates in workshops conducted by most major universities throughout the U.S.

Since Population Education recruits and certifies its workshop trainers from teachers and university faculty members who volunteer for training, almost all workshop leaders have expertise in using the latest teaching methodologies. Teachers attending the workshops not only learn about population curricula, they also get to experience model class activities, using quality lesson plans and other resources provided by the Population Education resource service. Follow-up studies indicate that 90% of teachers who attend the workshops do, in fact, use the curriculum for their subject specialty. That can continue year after year with each teacher reaching hundreds of students.

Are the U.N. population forecasts inevitable? Not if masses of young people understand the basic facts and issues that have been so long overlooked. Change begins with awareness, and classroom teachers are ideally suited to bring about that awareness. Population Education curricula do not moralize, preach, or engage in anything controversial - unless you consider providing factual information controversial. Students solving math or social studies problems can calculate for themselves the impacts that ever-expanding populations will have in shaping our future. And once they know the basic facts, they have the tools needed to make informed choices and call for appropriate actions.

This program could become a model for teacher training workshops in places like Nigeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, and other nations that are driving the greatest increases in world population. Let's call for foundation or public grants to encourage the replication of programs like this one. doclink

Endangered Species Condoms Project

June 19, 2014, Center for Biological Diversity

Whether you've received Endangered Species Condoms, signed up for a chance to get them in the future, or just want to know more about how you can engage people in the conversation about human population growth and the wildlife extinction crisis, we've put together downloadable resources and helpful links to help you make the most of your outreach experience (follow the link in the headline). doclink

Earth, the Apple of Our Eye

October 17, 2013, Population Connection

A visual demonstration (using an apple to represent the earth) of the limited sources of food available from Earth's land, followed by discussion of how to feed a growing population.

Only about three percent of the Earth's surface is capable of growing food. Over the past century, farming technology has made it possible to produce more food from the world's limited cropland to feed the growing world's population. However, much of this arable (farmable) land has been taken out of production for urban/suburban development and livestock grazing, or has been mismanaged leading to irreparable soil erosion. By 2030, we will need to produce 30 percent more grain to feed the expected population of 8.2 billion. Protecting our arable land resources is becoming more important than ever. doclink

Follow the link in the headline to see the entire lesson.

Understanding Exponential Growth

September 8, 2013, World Population Balance

Click on the link to see a slide show showing how quickly exponential growth takes over. doclink

What is Missing? - Interactive Site

August 24, 2012, What is Missing Website

An interesting interactive global map on species loss and environmental destruction. The viewer is invited to supply his or her own 'memory' of the way things were and no longer are - i.e., what is missing. doclink

Do it for the Planet - How Safer Sex Can Save the Earth

April 18, 2012, Eugene Weekly

If we don't have this little "birds and bees" conversation, there won't be too many birds or bees left. The human species has a way of life that destructively encroaches upon the habitats and prosperity of other creatures, and we just keep coming.

"Wrap with care, save a polar bear" and "In the sack, save a leatherback" are just two of the environmentally savvy messages printed on the Center for Biological Diversity's (CBD) latest series of endangered species condoms, set to be distributed on Earth Day.

"We got to a point in our work where we realized there was one link between the (environmental) issues we are seeing today, and that's overpopulation" explains Amy Harwood, human overpopulation organizer at CBD, who says the endangered species condoms are a form of direct action.

"We're hoping that these condoms go out into the community and help start conversations about population growth," Harwood says, "they're great tools for that."

On the condom packaging endangered animals such as Florida panthers, spotted owls and hellbender salamanders are colorfully depicts alongside catchy conservation slogans.

Harwood says the main problem presented by human overpopulation is the amount of resources we consume. The more of us there are, the more we need to survive. The Earth's population has nearly doubled since the inaugural Earth Day in 1970. The group says that overpopulation and overconsumption are the root causes of environmental destruction, and that human overpopulation has led to the extinction of the woodland bison of West Virginia, Arizona's Merriam's elk and the Rocky Mountain grasshopper.

CBD isn't advocating that people cease reproducing; rather, they want folks to have the resources and information needed to make responsible decisions. Harwood says that having a kid is everyone's right, but half of the pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended.

Condoms aren't the only means of safe sex. If you are a man who is not a fan of condoms, and is not stoked on getting a vasectomy you might check out RISUG (reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance), a 15-minute procedure (done under very localized anesthesia) involves a doctor injecting your vas deferens with a polymer gel that deactivates sperm on the way out. doclink

Karen Gaia says: I believe RISUG is still in trial stage, seeking FDA approval in the US.

Literature, Parables, Poems


"What becomes of the surplus of human life? It is either, first, destroyed by infanticide, as among the Chinese and Lacedaemonians; or, second, it is stifled or starved, as among other nations whose population is commensurate to its food; or, third, it is consumed by wars and endemic diseases; or fourth, it overflows, by emigration, to places where a surplus of food is attainable." - James Madison (1751 - 1836) doclink

Eve and the Fall

  By: Roger Martin, Chair of Population Matters

In ancient Africa, the Lord of Earth,
The Gaia, keeper of the sacred flame
Of life upon this favoured speck of dust,
Spoke to the ape-girl, Lucy, in a dream.

"You have done well. That brain is growing fast.
Time to become a human. Listen hard,
And tell the others, and the ones to come.

Throughout this Eden I have given you
You shall be matriarch of beasts undreamt.
They'll live a life of eagles, always fed,
And see all things, and roam the earth and sky,
And read the seas and stars, and want for nought,
Provided that they follow this command.
Already you can feed of plants and flesh,
And only two fruits grow beyond your reach.
Both now I give you. But remember this:
You must eat both together, or else none.
The tree of Knowledge has the sweetest fruit;
The fruit of Wisdom's bitter, green and hard.
But if you gorge upon the first alone,
Without the second fruit to balance it,
Your offspring shall be locusts in the spring.
They'll breed, and swarm, and feed, till, numberless,
They've stripped the land of everything that grows,
And, Earth once made a desert, die in heaps.
That brain will free you from my disciplines
Of claw and dearth and sickness for a time.
Control your numbers only, now you can,
And Earth shall always be your Paradise."

And Lucy, awe-struck, grunted in her sleep;
And half-awoke, and jabbered to her mate,
And told him all that lingered from the dream.
"We'll eat the fruit of Knowledge, and we'll live
Like eagles, and like locusts numberless.
The Earth is ours."

And so the legend passed.
And so the Fall of Man, a few years on,
Took place exactly as the Lord had said. doclink

OVER: Overpopulation, Overdevelopment, Overshoot: View this entire amazing 316-pg coffee table photo book online!

April 5, 2015, Global Population Speakout (GPSO)

Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot (OVER) contains powerful and evocative images showing the ecological and social tragedies of humanity's ballooning numbers and consumption. It retails for $50, but as part of Speak Out you can request free books to use raising awareness about these important and urgent issues. doclink

Man Swarm

Taking an Ecological Stand on Solving Overpopulation:
Newly Released Man Swarm: How Overpopulation is Killing the Wild World

Go here to see the book on Amazon doclink

Book Review: Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future

by Ben J. Wattenberg (2004)
March 19, 2014   By: Reviewed by Art Elphick

With a title including the word "depopulation," I expected to find many points of disagreement with Wattenberg's book, but Wattenberg actually says very little that I haven't read and said myself. However, the one thing Wattenberg fails to mention could lead the reader to a false sense that all is well. Wattenberg never says that we have a serious population problem now or that, if demographic forecasts are correct, overpopulation and over-consumption will continue to worsen.

Wattenberg says that Total Fertility Rates (TFRs) have been falling in most nations around the world (true). In most prosperous nations TFRs have been falling for more than forty years (true). The TFRs for most prosperous nations are currently below replacement levels (true). The TFRs for most lesser-developed nations are currently falling (true). The world-wide TFR is 2.5 - 2.7 births per woman, the lowest it has been (true). Most demographers estimate that the world population will exceed nine billion by 2050, but estimates differ (true). At that point, if TFRs continue falling at current rates, the population will peak (true, and hopefully they will). Nations with low TFRs and long life expectancies will need to import workers or will face higher costs per worker to care for the aged (true). Many nations dislike taking immigrants, so they will face a dilemma (true).

What about species extinctions, world-wide fish stock depletions, over-forestation, desertification, over-tapped aquifers, river mouth dead zones, dying reefs, toxic air, ocean acidification, climate change? These are serious problems now, so even a world population of 7.17 billion is unsustainable. And if Wattenberg and his demographer sources have it right, the population will increase by 28% and per-capita consumption rates will increase possibly more than that for a combined consumption increase of more than 50% by 2050. Wattenberg predicts that population growth will reverse automatically after 2050 - decades after most of the horses have left the barn. All told, Mr. Wattenberg told only half of the story, but documented that part very well. doclink

State of the World 2013 Electronic Version for Only US$3.99, for a Limited Time

April 18, 2013

Earlier this week, Worldwatch launched State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? to a crowded room of friends and supporters. If you were unable to participate in the event, we will have videos of the symposium available shortly.

To commemorate the launch, the e-book versions of the report are now available for only US$3.99, for a limited time only - . And you can still purchase hard copies of the report from our bookstore ($22) doclink

Have You Had Enough? a Plan for a Sustainable Economy

January 18, 2013,   By: Suzanne York,

Suzanne York, of describes a new book, Enough is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources, which constructs a realistic and actionable plan that should guide all of us as we confront increasingly dire and critical issues facing the planet. The book describes how we can transition from a global economic system dependent upon unsustainable and endless growth to a steady-state, prosperous, yet non-growing economy, where there are "stable or mildly fluctuating levels in population and consumption of energy and material."

Solutions include: establishing more worker-owned companies, prohibiting banks from issuing money as debt, local currencies, and work-time reduction.

Proposed policies include: limit the use of materials and energy to sustainable levels; stabilize population through compassionate and non-coercive means; achieve a fair distribution of income and wealth; reform monetary and financial systems for stability; change the way we measure progress.

The authors recognize that "hidden in population numbers are real people." Unless compassionate, non-coercive policies are devised, any population policy will ultimately not work. Successful policies include actions such as educating girls, empowering women, and providing family planning services.

As for admitting foreign workers with specific skills to fill jobs, the authors suggest that "Instead of recruiting educated and entrepreneurial people from abroad, wealthy nations should cultivate talent at home and encourage nations abroad to retain their most capable workers." doclink

Karen Gaia says: I am interested to hear your comments on this book. Send to

Infographics, Images

We Blew It: a Time Line of Human Impact on the Planet

May 6, 2015, Vice   By: Haisam Hussein


Women + Climate Disruption (Infographic)

Sierra Club Global Population and Environment Program

Click on the link in the headline to see this image doclink

Too Much Protein: Are We Eating Too Much Meat? (infographic)

August 13, 2013, Huffington Post

The grocery delivery program Door To Door Organics, report that Americans eat at least 12 ounces of meat per day, almost 50% more than the recommend daily amount. One 2011 study found eating less meat could double the world's food supply. A March study published by the Archives of Internal Medicine through Harvard University found eating too much red meat can shorten one's lifespan. Also eating too much meat can lead to kidney stones, dehydration and calcium loss. Dieticians of Canada recommend 75 g or 2 1/2 ounces of meat every day, along with a meat alternative to make up the recommended daily intake of five ounces of protein.

Do You Eat Too Much Protein?

Learn about infographics software.


The Economics of Birth Control

November 14, 2013, Population Action International

Spending $1 and getting $4 back sounds like a good deal, doesn't it? Well for every $1 we invest in family planning, we save $4 in other areas like education, public health, and water and sanitation.

It's time to cash in on this deal, and invest in family planning worldwide. When women are able to plan their pregnancies, they live longer, they have smaller families, and they're better able to participate in the workforce. In fact, women who have access to contraception typically make 40% more than those without access - and that economic success is good for the whole country.



Center for Biological Diversity Makes the Population Connection "Through the empowerment of women, education of all people, universal access to birth control, and a societal commitment to ensuring that all species are given a chance to live and thrive, we can reduce our own population to an ecologically sustainable level. This will decrease human poverty and crowding, increase our standard of living, and sustain the lives of plants, animals, and ecosystems everywhere." .... Follow the link to a beautiful presentation on Overpopulation. doclink
Facing the Future A very comprehensive website, including educational materials and religion analysis. doclink
Measure Communication Assesses information needs and helps plan and implement dissemination and data use doclink
Measure Communication Assesses information needs and helps plan and implement dissemination and data use doclink
National Council for Science and the Environment - Population and Environmental Linkages doclink
National Council for Science and the Environment - Population and Environmental Linkages doclink
National Wildlife Federation: a very comprehensive program, including impacts on the environment. Urges the U.S. to undertake a vigorous effort to stop illegal immigration into this

Forums, News Services

Forums, Newsletters

Super World Population Clock Click on the link in the headline to see this super set of clocks showing population globally as well as by region and also many other statistic odometers. doclink
The Economics of Birth Control Spending $1 and getting $4 back sounds like a good deal, doesn't it? Well for every $1 we invest in family planning, we save $4 in other areas like education, public health, and water and sanitation.

It's time to cash in on this deal, and invest in family planning worldwide. When women are able to plan their pregnancies, they live longer, they have smaller families, and they're better able to participate in the workforce. In fact, women who have access to contraception typically make 40% more than those without access - and that economic success is good for the whole country.


Beyond Malthus: Sixteen Dimensions of the Population Problem Worldwatch Paper 143 by Lester R. Brown, Gary Gardner, Brian Halweil. The
unprecedented surge in population,
combined with rising individual consumption, is pushing our claims on
the planet beyond its natural limits. doclink
Are You in the Know About Contraception, Pregnancy, Abortion and Teens? The Guttmacher Institute has launched "Are you IN THE KNOW?", a new set of resources designed to inform a broad range of audiences to increase public awareness about sexual and reproductive health issues in a simple, compelling and fun format.

Are you IN THE KNOW? comprises a Web site, a mobile-friendly quiz, a vibrant set of flash cards and a booklet that lay out the top questions and answers on contraception, pregnancy, abortion and teens. Visit the Web site - - to browse the set of 110 questions and answers that provide you with the most up-to-date and accurate research available.

With your smart phone, check out the Are you IN THE KNOW? mobile-friendly Web site - - the first of its kind for the Institute: By visiting the mobile site, you can take a fun quiz or browse the top 40 questions and answers by subject and access references for each answer, all from wherever you may be.

In addition to these helpful online resources, we have also created a new set of flash cards containing the 20 most frequently asked questions and answers - The flashcards utilize infographics and visual aids to better elucidate and enhance the science-based answers behind them. doclink

Vallentyne was Right: Part 2 - History of the Population Movement by William N. Ryerson, Population Institute and Population Media Center

The failure of political leaders to address population and consumption issues over the last half century has generally not been the result of lack of access to information about the problem. Indeed, there have been a series of high-level warnings to global leaders that many have heard but have chosen to ignore, hoping to duck the controversy or extend the profits of population growth realized by a few business leaders who were contributors to their political campaigns. Here is a sampling of the warnings given to American leaders and to the world.

(1) The work of Paul and Anne Ehrlich, including The Population Bomb

In 1968, the Sierra Club and Ballantine Books published The Population Bomb, which was a joint effort of Stanford biologists Paul and Anne Ehrlich (Ehrlich 1968). It became an instant bestseller. Combined with speeches given by Paul Ehrlich all over the USA and extensive media interviews (including more than 20 interviews on the Tonight Show with Johnny Car- son), the 'Bomb' was responsible for launching the modern population movement and for making population a central focus of the first Earth Day in 1970.

Ehrlich, Yale biologist Charles Remington, and Connecticut attorney Dick Bowers founded Zero Population Growth (ZPG) following a talk Ehrlich gave at Yale in 1968. The organization (now called Population Connection) grew at its height to 60000 members and 600 chapters. In the mid-1980s the national board of ZPG decided it did not want to advocate for lower immigration levels and so gave up advocacy for US population stabilization. The board of the California chapter dissented, however, and split off to form Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), for which Stuart Hurlbert has served as board secretary since 2001.

The Ehrlichs' book was attacked when it was published and has regularly been ridiculed since that time. However, the warnings it contained were all couched in hedged terms common to scientific authors, indicating that the possible outcomes of overpopulation were not so much firm predictions as they were likely to occur if population growth remained at 1968 levels. The alarm raised helped to move the US government and other donor countries to invest large sums in making family planning services available around the world, which led to reductions in fertility rates and slowed the growth of world population. At the same time, the Green Revolution of the 1970s led to dramatic increases in grain production in countries like India and China, averting the immediate threat of massive starvation. However, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug stated clearly that the Green Revolution he led would only buy the world community 30 yr in which to stop the 'population monster' or the developing world would face even greater famines than the one he had helped to avert.

In retrospect, the Ehrlichs believe The Population Bomb was too optimistic (Ehrlich & Ehrlich 2009, Turner 2009). For while the Green Revolution averted a global catastrophe at the time, about 300 million people have died of malnutrition since then. The Green Revolution crops, depending as they do on petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers and large quantities of fresh water, face an uncertain future as all 3 of these resources become less available.

(2) Publication of The Limits to Growth

Many corporate leaders and politicians scoffed when The Limits to Growth was published (Meadows et al. 1972). A careful analysis of the trends in utilization of resources, the Club of Rome-sponsored publication gave clear evidence that humanity was on a collision course with resource exhaustion. In 2009, Dennis Meadows, one of the co-authors of the report, said that human civilization is following the projections the authors forecast in 1972 (also see Turner 2008). However, except for the scientific community, the report generated no discernable action by world leaders.

(3) President's Commission on Population Growth and the American Future In July 1969, President Nixon proposed the creation of a Commission on Population Growth and the American Future (CPGAF). At the time, he stated, 'One of the most serious challenges to human destiny in the last third of this century will be the growth of the population. Whether man's response to that challenge will be a cause for pride or for despair in the year 2000 will depend very much on what we do today' (CPGAF 1972, p. 3)

In 1972, the Commission released its final report urging the country to move quickly toward population stabilization (CPGAF 1972). Headed by John D. Rockefeller III, the 'Rockefeller Commission' strongly urged that America give up its addiction to growth. While many Americans heeded the message and the fertility rate fell to replacement level within a year of the report's presentation, policy makers did not pay much attention. The President had other things on his mind, and 2 yr later, he resigned from office because of the Watergate scandal. Since that time, the US population has grown by over 100 million people, in significant part because of immigration.

The CPGAF recommended, among other things, that America act to end illegal immigration and to set legal immigration at 400000 people per year. The CPGAF determined that 'the health of our country does not depend on [population growth], nor does the vitality of business, nor the welfare of the average person.' (J. D. Rockefeller, letter to President Nixon, available at 001_population_growth_and_the_american_future. htm) Since the report was issued, annual legal immigration has quadrupled, and illegal immigration has mushroomed.

In the opening paragraph of its first chapter, the CPGAF (1972) report said, In the brief history of this nation, we have always assumed that progress and 'the good life' are connected with population growth. In fact, population growth has frequently been regarded as a measure of our progress. If that were ever the case, it is not now. There is hardly any social problem confronting this nation whose solution would be easier if our population were larger. Even now, the dreams of too many Americans are not being realized; others are being fulfilled at too high a cost. Accordingly, this Commission has concluded that our country can no longer afford the uncritical acceptance of the popul tion growth ethic that 'more is better.' And beyond that, after two years of concentrated effort, we have concluded that no substantial benefits would result from continued growth of the nation's population.

Perhaps the CPAFG most widely cited recommendation read, 'Recognizing that our population cannot grow indefinitely, and appreciating the advantages of moving now toward the stabilization of population, the Commission recommends that the nation welcome and plan for a stabilized population.' The CPAFG report goes on to state, 'In short, we find no convincing economic argument for continued national population growth.'

(4) The 'Warning to Humanity' If we don't halt population growth with justice and compassion, it will be done for us by nature, brutally and without pity - and we will leave a ravaged world. ...Henry Kendall

In 1992, 1700 of the world's scientists, including the majority of Nobel Laureates in the sciences, signed a 'Warning to Humanity' written by the late Henry Kendall, chair of the Union of Concerned Scientists (Kendall 1992). For the full text, see www.ucsusa. org/about/1992-world-scientists.html.

The 'Warning to Humanity' stated clearly the need to stabilize population numbers and change the course of human civilization. The 'Warning' identifies a range of critical stresses on the environment, including the atmosphere, water resources, oceans, soil, forests, living species, and population. Following are the highlights of the statement on population and the conclusion:


The earth is finite. Its ability to absorb wastes and destructive effluent is finite. Its ability to provide food and energy is finite. Its ability to provide for growing numbers of people is finite. And we are fast approaching many of the earth's limits. Current economic practices which damage the environment, in both developed and underdeveloped nations, cannot be continued without the risk that vital global systems will be damaged beyond repair.

Pressures resulting from unrestrained population growth put demands on the natural world that can over- whelm any efforts to achieve a sustainable future. If we are to halt the destruction of our environment, we must accept limits to that growth.

No more than one or a few decades remain before the chance to avert the threats we now confront will be lost and the prospects for humanity immeasurably diminished.


We the undersigned, senior members of the world's scientific community, hereby warn all humanity of what lies ahead. A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.

(5) Statement by the National Academies of Sciences of 58 nations

In 1994 the scientific academies of 58 nations came together to warn that humankind must stop looking to science alone to solve problems caused by over population (Science Summit on World Population 1994). The full statement can be found at http:// Highlights of the academies' statement follow: Population growth, resource consumption, and the environment As human numbers further increase, the potential for irreversible changes of far reaching magnitude also increases. Indicators of severe environmental stress include the growing loss of biodiversity, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing deforestation worldwide, stratospheric ozone depletion, acid rain, loss of topsoil, and shortages of water, food, and fuel-wood in many parts of the world.

The earth is finite

The growth of population over the last half century was for a time matched by similar world-wide increases in utilizable resources. However, in the last decade food production from both land and sea has declined relative to population growth. The area of agricultural land has shrunk, both through soil erosion and reduced possibilities of irrigation. The availability of water is already a constraint in some countries. These are warnings that the earth is finite, and that natural systems are being pushed ever closer to their limits.

But time is short and appropriate policy decisions are urgently needed. In our judgment, humanity's ability to deal successfully with its social, economic, and environmental problems will require the achievement of zero population growth within the lifetime of our children.

Reducing fertility rates, however, cannot be achieved merely by providing more contraceptives. The demand for these services has to be addressed. Even when family planning and other reproductive health services are widely available, the social and economic status of women affects individual decisions to use them. The ability of women to make decisions about family size is greatly affected by gender roles within society and in sexual relationships. Ensuring equal opportunity for women in all aspects of society is crucial.

Action is needed now

Humanity is approaching a crisis point with respect to the interlocking issues of population, environment, and development. Scientists today have the opportunity and responsibility to mount a concerted effort to confront our human predicament. But science and technology can only provide tools and blueprints for action and social change. It is the governments and international decision-makers ... who hold the key to our future. We urge them to take incisive action now and to adopt an integrated policy on population and sustainable development on a global scale. With each year's delay the problems become more acute. Let 1994 be remembered as the year when the people of the world decided to act together for the benefit of future generations.

(6) The President's Council on Sustainable Development

In 1993, President Clinton established the President's Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD) to advise him on sustainable development and create 'bold, new approaches to achieve our economic, environmental, and equity goals'. The Council served from 1993 to 1999. Among the recommendations of the PCSD was a move toward the stabiliza- tion of the US population (PCSD 1999).

In the 1990s, the USA was the only major industrialized country experiencing significant population growth. The PCSD (1999, Ch. 1, p. 3) report stated:

Annual growth figures of ... 1.0 percent may seem small, but they are not. Persistent 1.0 percent growth translates into a doubling time - the time it takes a population to double in size - of 70 years. This is an enormous increase when the population that is doubling is the United States, the third largest country in the world. Also, given the numeric size of the country, even apparently small percentage increases produce large increases in numbers.

The PCSD's recommendations about immigration policy included the development of comprehensive and responsible immigration and foreign policies that reduce illegal immigration and mitigate the factors that encourage immigration. The report stated (PCSD 1999 Ch. 1, p. 4):

Continued population growth in the United States, particularly on the scale envisioned by the medium and high projections, has enormous implications. Coupled with the technologies and resource consumption patterns that underlie the U.S. standard of living, population growth in America produces an environmental impact unparalleled by any other country at this time.

Continued population growth also has the potential to overwhelm efficiency and productivity gains, negating technology-based efforts to reduce U.S. environmental impact. Population growth also challenges industry's best efforts to provide new, higher quality jobs for all Americans and to improve real wages for American workers - which have been stagnant for 22 years. It similarly adds to the nation's needs to reduce poverty, improve education, and provide health care for all Americans. In short, the United States is already severely challenged by the need to provide better opportunities for millions of disadvantaged citizens, and continued population growth will exacerbate those challenges.

The PCSD's final report to the President in May 1999 added a paragraph on the desires of the American public with regard to population (PCSD 1999, Ch. 1, p. 5):

For decades, Americans have not had a desire for an ever-larger population. This is suggested by polls over the years. In 1974, 87 percent of respondents to a Roper poll said they did not wish the country had more people. A 1971 poll by the US Commission on Population Growth and the American Future found that 22 percent felt US population should be smaller than it was then, which was close to 200 million. As long ago as 1947, when U.S. population was 140 million, Gallup found that 55 percent of Americans believed the country would be 'worse off' with more people.

The PCSD (1999, Ch 1, p. 20) report concluded with a series of recommendations, the first of which read, Stabilize U.S. population as early as possible in the next century as part of similar worldwide efforts, by providing universal access to a broad range of information, services, and opportunities so that individuals may plan responsibly and voluntarily the number and spacing of their children. These include: high-quality family planning and other basic and reproductive health services; equitable educational, economic, social, and political opportunities, particularly for women; reduction of infant mortality; and the increase of male responsibility for family planning and childrearing. This goal also entails targeted actions to eradicate poverty. While fertility is the largest contributor to U.S. population growth, responsible immigration policies that respect American traditions of fairness, freedom, and asylum will also contribute to voluntary population stabilization in the United States.

Of course, looking forward to 2050, immigration and births to immigrants are expected to exceed natural increase by 4-fold as a driver of US population growth, as projected by the Pew Hispanic Center (Passel & Cohn 2008). doclink

Vallentyne was Right: Achieving Sustainability Requires Accounting for All Relevant Factors by William N. Ryerson, Population Institute and Population Media Center

(Editor's note: I have broken this article into three parts. Parts 2 (History of the Population Movement) and 3 (Things are Getting Worse) will be done at a later time.

Population has waxed and waned as an issue of public consciousness and action by policymakers. The issue is on the ascendancy again in part because of climate change and food crises caused by escalating food prices, the energy crisis and growing shortages of fresh water. In the face of these problems, attempts of some governments to stimulate higher birth rates, over concern with aging populations, are misplaced and counterproductive. Vallentyne's long-neglected 'demotechnic index' holds new promise for considering both population numbers and consumption rates when evaluating the impact of humans on the environment. Its appearance in publication now is all the more important because of the failure of political leaders to act on the numerous expert warnings issued over several decades regarding the impact of human population growth and expanding utilization of resources. Thus, the world community needs to act urgently to utilize the demotechnic index of Jack Vallentyne to look holistically at ways to achieve a sustainable society.

(Editor's note: The demotechnic index is simply the ratio of technological energy consumption to the energy required for physiological subsistence alone, which is estimated to be 3.57 gigajoules per capita year. Canadians and Americans have huge demothechnic indices, 118 and 91 respectively, meaninng that each North American uses about one hundred times more energy than required for subsistence alone.)

Jack Vallentyne originally presented his demotechnic index at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. It is an important contribution to the cause of achieving global sustainability.

Indeed, achieving global sustainability has been a central concern of many ecologists and other scientists during the last 50 years. The pillars of sustainability - population, consumption, waste patterns, and technology - have waxed and waned in the public consciousness. In the 1970s, population was often seen as the central issue, but Jack Vallentyne also called on scientists to recognize the importance of consumption. His work today calls on the global community not to forget the population factor and to take a balanced approach in looking at all relevant factors that will ultimately determine whether human civilization is sustainable over many more millennia or is a short-term experiment gone awry.

Indeed, the number of people on the planet would not matter if we were ethereal beings. Our economic activity, i.e. our consumption of resources and our production of wastes, makes our numbers matter.

In the 1970s, population was a visible issue. The concern with the number of humans focused on developing countries in part because of the evidence that large family size was a leading cause of poverty and thus that rapid population growth would prevent economic development. Environmental concerns centered on deforestation and loss of the biodiversity found in many developing countries.

Because developed countries had the resources to address pollution problems and since most had undertaken significant pollution abatement efforts starting in the 1960s, there was relatively little concern in the 1970s about population growth in developed countries. In part, this was the case because many developed countries had achieved very low fertility rates. Migration from developing to developed countries was relatively small as a contributor to population growth of the latter and was seen by many as having zero net environmental impact. In addition, since the goal of most societies was, first and foremost, economic growth, migration was often viewed as an unmitigated positive because of the impact it had on the economic status of migrants and, more broadly, on corporate profits.

Along the way, population became taboo. President Reagan declared that population was, at worst, a neutral factor. That position, plus the backlash against legalized abortion in the United States, made concern with population issues politically incorrect. By the time of the second world population conference in Mexico City in 1994, discussion of population had all but disappeared from consideration by those working in the environmental sustainability arena.

More recently, concern about climate change, combined with the prospect of peak oil and fresh water shortages, has led some environmentalists to conclude that the only environmental concern of merit was high (read 'excessive') consumption and waste by developed countries. Reducing the ecological footprint of individuals in developed countries, but not the number of footprints, became a new mantra that still dominates the materials produced by many environmental organizations. This concern was expressed in ways that steered clear of two important sustainability factors: population growth and economic growth. The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo reinforced the belief that concern with population per se could lead to loss of a rights-based approach to women's reproductive health.

In the last few years, the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE), the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont, the Institute for Sustainable Solutions at Portland State University, and other groups have attempted to draw the public's attention to the fact that resource limitations must lead to a state of non-growth of the global economy, even as developing countries struggle to increase per capita incomes. Selling the idea of global economic stagnation is certainly an uphill battle, but these organizations are trying to force those who lament 'overconsumption' to look at the drivers of such consumption found within economic systems.

At the same time, the food crises of 2008 and 2011 have helped to spark a resurgence of interest in the population factor. The IPAT (impact = population × affluence × technology) formula (Ehrlich & Holdren 1972) and the ecological footprint concept have continued to point to the fact that population, consumption (or affluence), and technology are all factors in environmental impact and that omitting any one from consideration is a recipe for failing to take the steps necessary to achieve national or global sustainability.

Even so, despite growing evidence of global overshoot, many developed countries have acted as if there were no limits to growth of numbers or economic activity, offering financial incentives to people to have babies and increasing flows of immigration while simultaneously rationing use of water or other resources because of growing shortages, urging employers to stagger working hours because of worsening traffic jams, and taking extraordinary steps to obtain increasingly scarce, risky, and expensive energy resources.

Indeed, many economists try to scare the public in developed countries into thinking that aging populations are a problem. They describe how aging will make a nation's populace less innovative and vibrant. They wring their collective hands over the impact on the working population of having to care for so many retirees. Ultimately, they urge incentives for population growth, both to increase the birth rate and net immigration. These arguments are based on a view of the future that is, in reality, a Ponzi scheme. Endless growth of the population is impossible, and additional young people and working age immigrants will grow older and need support.

In fact, incentive programs like those in Australia, France, and Germany that rely on ever-increasing numbers of people to support the elderly or to maintain economic welfare, if they are successful, will only make the 'dependency ratio' worse by adding babies (who are 100% dependent) to the burden on the working population. Many of the elderly in most developed countries have savings that make them able to live independently for many years of retirement. More important, raising retirement ages to reflect greater longevity and working capability of the elderly and making adjustments to pension program formulas are a much faster fix for the pension burden than trying to add more children, who likely won't become productive economically for a couple of decades.

In short, we need to plan for non-growing and probably shrinking populations and not try to postpone the day when those goals are achieved. Otherwise, we face serious environmental and social problems. Indeed, if we have a climate crisis, a biodiversity crisis, a water crisis, an energy crisis, and a food crisis, no country should be trying to stimulate higher birth rates.

Vallentyne to the rescue

The demotechnic index of Vallentyne is a useful contribution to the field of sustainability because it helps one to focus on the fact that both numbers of people and their economic activities are important factors in determining whether a society can achieve sustainability. It allows quantification via energy use rather than the less easily quantified concepts of affluence, technology, and consumption. His D-index is a useful improvement on the IPAT formula.

By the 1990 D-index values presented by Mata et al. (2012), we find that the USA is the most planet-damaging country and Canada is close behind India as the sixth and fifth most damaging, respectively, when population numbers are adjusted by energy consumption.

The need to act on Vallentyne's D-index for policy purposes

The scientific evidence is clear. Humanity has a serious and complex problem. It is not just a problem of population, nor of consumption, nor of climate change, nor of peak oil, nor of fresh water scarcity, nor of food insecurity, nor of loss of biodiversity in the oceans and on land. It is all of these. Indeed, mankind's problem is that human activity has out- grown the capacity of the planet to provide the necessary resources in a sustainable way. We are drawing down capital instead of living on the interest generated by renewable resources, and we have built much of modern civilization on the basis of non- renewable resources. We now need to take steps to reduce human demands on the biosphere to sustainable levels. Vallentyne's D-index is a key tool to demonstrate the extent to which each nation must take immediate action to achieve national and global sustainability.

Because of his untimely death, Vallentyne's work is not widely known. Through this series of papers, the authors hope to change that situation.

For the complete paper, see doclink