Population aging and smaller populations have many socioeconomic and environmental benefits

By The Overpopulation Project Team

The Overpopulation Project announces its new publication that appeared on-line October 16 in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution (TREE): “Aging Human Populations: Good for Us, Good for the Earth

Frank Götmark, Philip Cafaro and Jane O’Sullivan from The Overpopulation Project explain that societies should embrace population aging and smaller populations. We reviewed multiple reports describing the socioeconomic and environmental benefits of population aging, population decrease and shrinking workforces. We maintain that, contrary to some economic analyses, the costs associated with aging societies are manageable, while smaller populations make for more ecologically sustainable societies. The article shows the many environmental benefits of smaller populations, concluding that reversing population growth would abate species extinctions, avoid water overconsumption and mitigate climate change by lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Happy old

In many countries, stable or declining populations due to demographic aging are often reported by the media as a problem or crisis, but the alternative – endless population growth – is not ecologically possible. Overpopulation leads to serious problems, including excessive consumption, deadly conflicts over scarce resources, and habitat loss leading to species endangerment. According to the IPCC, population growth and economic growth are the leading drivers of increased greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting global climate disruption.

Countries often fear the social and economic challenges that come with population aging, but the research suggests that these fears are overstated. We found no evidence to support the popular belief that population aging leads to worker shortages. We do acknowledge that healthcare spending does increase in aging populations, citing work from the National Bureau of Economic Research. But we also suggest that this increase is manageable, and argue that societies should invest more in preventative care to reduce future age-related health care spending.

Surprisingly, increasing population numbers through policy measures, such as increasing immigration rates or providing bonuses for having many children, have only a small and temporary effect on the aging “problem” (the proportion of people 65 and older). The following video explains why:

Rather than fighting aging, we assert that societies should allow their population numbers to drop naturally and enjoy the environmental, economic and social benefits. If we don’t reverse overpopulation, what happens next will be a sad story. We have to recognize that continued population growth is a global threat. Short-term economic concerns, while to some extent valid, cannot be prioritized over the long-term health of our societies and the environment. Indeed, living longer lives and achieving aging societies are successes, and should be celebrated as such.

See the opinion article to learn how and why aging and shrinking human populations are good for us and for the earth, and also a popular article in ScienceNordic on our publication!

See the original press release about the new article here!

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8 thoughts on “Population aging and smaller populations have many socioeconomic and environmental benefits

  1. I like the video’s graphics and animations. The visual difference in how far the arrow of age ratio moves for change in longevity or fertility or immigration, is very helpful in explaining. Thanks.

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