Human population grows, Earth doesn’t. A certain environmental impact is needed to satisfy basic human needs. When multiplied by a huge population, even a small average individual impact can become high, overshooting planetary boundaries. Achieving both environmental sustainability and high human development is hence a challenge. Can we win this challenge without considering the population … Continue reading Reconciling human demands with planetary boundaries: a new approach to quantifying sustainability at the national and global levels
Climate change is now unequivocally an emergency according to the latest report from the IPCC. Our only hope lies in extremely rapid abandonment of fossil fuels and reversal of forest loss. But these lifeline scenarios also assume birth rates plummet in high-fertility regions. Jane O’Sullivan offers a reality check. By Jane O'Sullivan The Intergovernmental Panel … Continue reading The demographic fantasies of the IPCC
In their curriculum, university students in biology and environmental sciences rarely learn how human population growth affects the environment, or discuss its role relative to other factors. Human activities are often dealt with in courses, but not population increase. One exception, described below, comes from a Swedish ecology class that learned about and discussed how … Continue reading Students view human population growth as a threat to biodiversity
Sometime this decade, India is set to overtake China as the most populous nation on Earth. Below, a reader from India reflects on what these immense numbers mean for his country’s future. Despite being in the position of being able to have a family of his own, he chooses not to in protest. For him … Continue reading Past, present, and future population: a personal account of India
What impact does US immigration policy have on greenhouse gas emissions, habitat preservation, or water and air pollution? Episode six of The Population Factor on Earthx TV addresses these questions, while episode seven, the final episode of season one, discusses how declining human populations open up new opportunities for ecological restoration. by The Overpopulation Project … Continue reading An Environmental Impact Statement on US Immigration Policy
by Larry D. Barnett The presence of too many people on planet Earth is a problem that generally receives just lip service. The lack of interest in the problem should not, however, be surprising. Hominids have been on Earth for millions of years, and modern Homo sapiens has been around for millennia - by one … Continue reading Population Dynamics, the Concept of a “System,” and the Law of Unintended Consequences
Political leaders often bray about the need for continued population growth to benefit “the Economy.” In Australia, Covid-19 has provided a real-world test of the impacts of reduced migration and decreased population growth. So far, those impacts appear largely positive. by Kelvin Thomson Population activists concerned about the damage that rapid growth is doing to … Continue reading Pandemic reduces migration, sky does not fall in
Increasing economic inequality and accelerating ecological decline are the two great political challenges facing nations today. In recent decades, many complicated efforts to address these problems have been proposed or tried, but the problems have continued to worsen. Perhaps it is time to address them more directly. by Philip Cafaro I came of age politically … Continue reading Two radical ideas whose time has come
With the world’s population growing by more than 80 million annually, the environmental case for addressing population growth seems clear. But is Earth overpopulated already? And what might be a sustainable human population? Recent episodes of EarthX TV’s The Population Factor address these questions and explore solutions to humanity’s continued demographic expansion. by The Overpopulation … Continue reading Are we overpopulated already?
A recently published article asked European demographers about their attitudes towards climate change and population growth. It shows that while most demographers are in agreement on the need to act on climate change, the effect of population growth is largely not understood. By The Overpopulation Project An article published in March this year in the … Continue reading Demographers fail to acknowledge the effect of population growth on climate change
Efforts to specify the optimal human population on Earth are as complex as they are controversial. A recent book from Cambridge University economist Sir Partha Dasgupta develops a theoretically rigorous approach to this perennial question, finding that an optimal human population might range from 500 million to 5 billion. by Phil Cafaro It is gratifying … Continue reading What is the optimal human population? An eminent economist weighs in
A new survey from the Global Challenges Foundation shows wide concern about population growth and overpopulation in many parts of the world. by Pernilla Hansson In an attempt to assess the general public’s understanding of global catastrophic risks, the Global Challenges Foundation (GCF) recently carried out a large survey among people in 10 countries: Australia, … Continue reading Survey shows the general public is ready for discussions about population
After months in the works, a new television program devoted to exploring all aspects of the population / environment connection is now streaming free on demand. Dallas-based EarthX TV hosts The Population Factor, whose first episode features an interview with environmental legend Paul Ehrlich. Two other episodes follow: one about the challenges of limiting climate … Continue reading New television show dedicated to population debuts
According to the IPCC, economic growth and increasing human populations are the two main drivers of global climate disruption. However, to date only efficiency improvements and technological changes have been seriously considered to meet the goals of the UNFCC’s Paris Agreement. In a new study, we examine how the parties to the agreement dealt with … Continue reading Do countries consider population growth in their national plans to tackle climate change under the Paris Agreement? A new working paper from TOP
The population crisis lies at the core of the first full-length novel by British author N. R. Baker, an eco-thriller called 10:59. Through a well-developed storyline, it details the destruction caused by our ever-growing population, following a compelling main character as he joins an organisation intent on saving the planet. Ms. Baker manages to balance … Continue reading 10:59 – time to address population?
Doctors have played a vital role in lowering mortality and increasing human life span and well-being. While representing a humanitarian success, this achievement has also contributed to a rapid increase in human numbers. In 1972, 52 physicians took responsibility for their role in this success and signed a call for action against overpopulation, through education, … Continue reading Pay Attention, Healthcare Workers!
The current economic system in Australia is a Ponzi scheme based on maintaining positive GDP through migration. Populations of native species are plummeting and people are faced with increased job insecurity and housing costs, all of which are side effects of the Australian government's ongoing drive for an ever increasing population. by Kelvin Thomson In … Continue reading Australia’s Population Ponzi Scheme
by N.R. Baker According to the well-known metaphor, if you were to put a live frog into boiling water, it would – very wisely – leap straight out again. However, if you put the frog into tepid water that was then brought slowly to the boil, the hapless creature would be cooked before it even … Continue reading Boiling Frogs
The Overpopulation Project is pleased to announce its most recent publication, “Population growth and climate change: Addressing the overlooked threat multiplier” published in Science of the Total Environment. Through a review of national and global studies, the paper describes the emission reduction and vulnerability reduction benefits of slowing population growth, and outlines policies that can … Continue reading Population growth and climate change: environmental threat multipliers – a new publication from TOP
With ten years left to go, the international community must break its silence and tackle population growth directly if the UN’s SDGs are ever to be realised. Creating a better world, with security and opportunity for all, cannot occur in a context of continued rapid population growth. by Robin Maynard To celebrate World Population Day the environmental … Continue reading Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals depends on reducing birth rates faster
Too many people consuming too many resources and generating too much waste: that’s why humanity keeps pushing deeper into ecological overshoot. On Earth Overshoot Day, let's not forget the P factor. by Lucia Tamburino & Philip Cafaro Every year on Earth Overshoot Day, a table like the one below makes the rounds, showing the number … Continue reading Earth overshoot day and population
So perhaps it’s time to take a more comprehensive look at how government policies impact black lives. In this piece, a long-time MP explores connections between Australia’s rapid population growth and its poor treatment of minority citizens. by Kelvin Thomson Black lives matter. It’s true, and in Australia it’s not as if we haven’t had … Continue reading Black Lives Matter
A major media storm has erupted about a new scientific paper published in the Lancet claiming that global population will soon peak and decline. The prospect is met with doom and gloom, rather than jubilation. But Jane O’Sullivan finds many reasons to challenge both the claim and its assumed economic threat. By escalating unfounded fears … Continue reading Will global population peak below 10 billion?
In his new book A Planet of 3 Billion, Christopher Tucker presents a vision of a future world inhabited by 3 billion people, compared to 7.8 billion today. Inspired by Joel Cohen’s 1995 book How Many People Can the Earth Support? Tucker sets out to answer exactly this question. The ecological destruction caused by humanity … Continue reading New book argues for a sustainable world with 3 billion people
By Jane O'Sullivan Hats off to Paul Hawken, the environmentalist behind Project Drawdown. Three years ago, he published a best-selling book, ‘Drawdown: the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming’. The concept was brilliantly simple. It stripped away the complexity of how to respond to climate change, by cataloguing the hundred most impactful … Continue reading Drawdown: a review of the Review
This week, we reprint a valuable article by Professor Alon Tal, published in The Times of Israel on 25 March, on the connection between overpopulation and the coronavirus pandemic. Professor Tal explains the relationships between population density, human encroachment on natural areas, and disease transmission, and also the situation in Israel, a densely populated country. … Continue reading The disconcerting association between overpopulation and the COVID-19 crisis
Fifty years ago, in his 1970 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Norman Borlaug said: “There can be no permanent progress in the battle against hunger until the agencies that fight for increased food production and those that fight for population control unite in a common effort.” Borlaug was insightful, but also a genuinely humble man. … Continue reading From Population to Production: Scientists’ Changing Views on How to Feed the World
Many readers of our blog probably see no problem with “overpopulation,” but we sometimes get negative responses when we use the word, even from colleagues who largely share our views. Why is this so? How should overpopulation best be defined? By Frank Götmark, Jane O’Sullivan and Phil Cafaro In contrast to other organisations dealing with … Continue reading Is overpopulation a dirty word?
Greenwashing typically means conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about the environmental soundness of a company’s products. But governments, too, can be tempted to greenwash, as this week’s blog illustrates. Gary Wockner describes how the city council of Boulder, Colorado has declared a climate emergency, while hiding the increased emissions caused by growth through “creative” … Continue reading Greenwashing growth: Boulder’s climate problem
Last year, TOP researchers published new policy-based population projections for the European Union. In a new companion piece, we explore the impacts of alternative immigration policies on two important EU environmental goals: reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and improved biodiversity conservation. We find that in both cases, less immigration, leading to smaller populations, will make … Continue reading TOP publishes new paper on the potential environmental impacts of EU immigration policy
By Jane O’Sullivan, Francesco Ricciardi, Susann Roth For sustainable development, universal wellbeing should be the goal, rather than endless growth. Minimizing further growth in human populations is only part of the solution, but an essential part. Climate change has been described as one of the greatest challenges of our time. But for many Asian countries, … Continue reading Five myths about population, aging and environmental sustainability
Too often, it seems, matters of population are overlooked in discussions of global sustainability. And this is true, despite some rather obvious points: A world of, say, 5 billion people is more likely to be sustainable than one of 10 billion; and a world of 1 billion is likely more sustainable still. All things being … Continue reading The population question: Toward a plan for global sustainability
Promoting contraceptives in fun ways achieved tremendous success towards breaking taboos and clarifying misconceptions. Together with creative community development programs, family planning programs increased the wellbeing of all Thais.
Two years ago, over 15 thousand scientists signed the “World Scientists' Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice,” about our interlocking global ecological crises. This year, 11 thousand scientists endorsed the new “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency”, published November 5th in Bioscience magazine. Will world leaders and citizens take notice, come together, and act … Continue reading World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency – take it seriously!
On the 25th of September, two core members of The Overpopulation Project attended the “Ethical perspectives on population and the sustainable development goals” workshop organized by the Institute for Future Studies in Stockholm, Sweden. At the one-day workshop, we gained valuable insight into how philosophers and political scientists frame the relationship between human population growth … Continue reading Ethical perspectives on population and the Sustainable Development Goals
Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline claims that (a) life on earth is stressed but coping with the present level of human impact; (b) global population will peak in 2050; (c) subsequent population decline will alleviate ecological problems; and (d) countries with populations that are only slowly growing should act now to boost … Continue reading Part 2 Review of “Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline”
This past week, a widely reported article in Science found that since 1970, North American wild bird populations have declined by 30%. In response, conservation organizations banded together to advocate that concerned citizens keep their cats indoors, put tape on their windows, and drink “bird friendly coffee.” This—the massive and continuing decline of wild nature … Continue reading Empty skies, empty words
The commentary, “The World and the UN Must Reduce Population Growth,” published two weeks before the 2019 Summit on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, urges global leaders and the UN to acknowledge increasing global population as a serious issue and take action to reduce population growth. By The Overpopulation Project A commentary by TOP project … Continue reading Goal to limit population growth can help achieve SDGs
In a new review article published in the journal Environment, Development and Sustainability, Elias Ganivet reminds us that we need to address both excessive human consumption and population growth, to curb humanity’s environmental impact. Written from a very balanced perspective, Ganivet reviews the impacts of human population growth on global biodiversity and climate change, perceptions … Continue reading An ecologically sustainable future requires addressing both population and consumption
That was the front-page headline in the New York Times last Thursday, August 8th, announcing a new report from the IPCC, “Climate Change and Land.” I’m kidding, of course. The actual headline read “Climate Change Threatens the World’s Food Supply, United Nations Warns,” and the article did not mention population once. By Philip Cafaro The … Continue reading “Overpopulation threatens the world’s food supply, United Nations warns”